A Travellerspoint blog

October 2016

RHINOS... Skydiving, and the Namib Desert


View World Tour 2016 on Glichez's travel map.

Wednesday, 19 October

Today… today the trip changed. Today the glorious group of nine was invaded by nine more people who joined the tour. None of us were excited by this change as we’d gotten quite used to our small group. The entire atmosphere on the truck changed; gone were the music jams and dancing around; gone were the jokes being tossed back and forth; the truck was quiet… and it was depressing.

I decided to introduce myself as Wilhelm to the new people. Chris and Svenja helped me develop a persona: Wilhelm Gerhard Neuer from the tiny country of Biergarten, situated at the very top of an Alp in-between Deutschland and Liechtenstein, right next to the Wiesen (Biergarten is only the top of the Alp; the rest of the mountain is part of Deutschland… it’s a very tiny, secluded and secretive country).

Max… being Max, decided to try and tell everyone that my name is Bryan, knowing that I hate when people mistake my name for Bryan. Now it has become his thing; he always refers to me as Bryan now!

One guy, from England, asked me if I was from the States; when I said yes, he asked who the other American on the tour was. I responded that there was just one and he then asked who Ryan was, upon which I had to explain the story. He and his wife thought it funny and understood my desire to be called Wilhelm.

Our drive today took us to Etosha National Park to do two days of game driving in our Nomad truck. Those of us who did the Serengeti tour in the smaller safari trucks were disappointed that we would be in the Nomad truck; it isn’t built to give everyone the best views for game driving; we all wished that we could use the same types of trucks that we had on our other game drives.

Heading into our campsite in Etosha, we made a brief stop at a souvenir market so people could do some shopping. No one bought anything, but we did spot a giant rhino statue!

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We spotted some animals on the road into camp: giraffes, zebras and – oh yes! – impalas!

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We stopped by the campsite for a quick bathroom break and then Norman took us out for a quick loop nearby. I jokingly asked him if we’d see a rhino; he just smiled and said that we’d have to see… I secretly hoped that someone at the camp had told him of a rhino sighting. We drove to a nearby water hole and saw… lions. Just some lazy lions lying by the water with some other lions eating a zebra carcass.

Everyone was excited to see the lions, which were rather close. Max, Rafa, Joana and me… couldn’t have cared less. Can you see the utter excitement from these photos??

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All we want to see is a god damned rhino!
Lions? Seen plenty
Giraffes? Boring
Elephants? Fat asses
Impala? Fuck them

We headed back into camp to get our tents setup. Max and I grabbed a large beer and walked over to the camp’s water hole lookout. We sat there chatting, enjoying our beer for about an hour before it was time to head back for dinner. We didn’t see any animals at the water hole, but it was very nice to just hang out together.

During dinner I developed an impression of an impala: big eyes staring out with no brain or intelligence behind them; mouth stupidly chewing on grass; ridiculous jerking head movements at the slightest noise; body locks up and falls over when it dies. I started just doing the facial impression for Svenja, but then got down on the ground to do the full impression for her (and the rest of the group who was there to watch). Svenja laughed hysterically!

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After dinner, Chris, Svenja, Max and I went to the bar to watch the football (soccer) game between FC Bayern Munich and Eindhoven. It was rather fun getting to watch the game in the middle of Africa with two Bayern fans (my favorite team as well, though I’ve had little time to actually follow much at all due to school). Bayern easily won the game, 4-1.

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Thursday, 20 October

Another full day of game driving… joy…

Our first sighting was… more lions back at the same water hole from the night before. They were closer this time and up walking around. An elephant then walked up to get a drink of water; it didn’t see the lions right nearby. I wished that the lions would just attack, as foolish as that idea is, but I just wanted to see something exciting.

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Our next sighting though was… a RHINO! Yes, we finally saw a rhino! It was walking around behind a bunch of bushes (“too much bush!”), so it was quite difficult to see. I was eagerly looking out the window, hoping to get a good picture of the rhino, but he wouldn’t cooperate. Chris managed to get a few great photos of the rhino (they’re the photos below, which he was nice enough to share).

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Up next, we saw a giraffe sitting down by a tree, which is quite a rare sight to see. Most giraffes that people see are up and walking around; to see one sitting down is quite unique.

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We saw several other animals as we drove through the park. Rafa, Joana and Max all fell asleep at different parts of the drive; we had quite a bit of fun taking some funny pictures with one another asleep – it helped to pass the time and relieve the boredom of the game drive.

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The next animals that we saw were some white elephants grouped together around a water hole, along with several other animals. Rafa and Joana were rather bored with the elephants, and I took a picture that accurately sums up our collective feelings about going on yet another game drive.

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We stopped for lunch at a campsite in the park, where we had several hours to relax by the pool. The pool was quite large and very cold, which we desperately needed on this very hot day. I spent some time at the pool and then some time at the bar, with a beer, working on my blog.

After lunch we passed by several more animals: kudu, Oryx, etc. We drove out to the desert proper for a few minutes to take photos; thousands of years ago this area had been a massive lake, but now all that’s left is the desert.

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And then – finally – we saw another RHINO! This one was lying next to a water hole and was in plain view for us to see. The first view we got was, typically, of its ass (how many animal asses have we seen on this trip…). I was giddy when I saw the rhino – like a kid on Christmas morning. I reached over and put my arm around Max, excitedly saying that we'd finally seen a rhino!! I kept looking over at him with a huge grin as we sat there watching the rhino. This seemed like such a great achievement, the culmination of something that began at the start of the trip. I was very, very happy that he and I got to see a rhino together.

We needed to move the truck around to get a better view of the rhino, so Max leaned through the small window into the front cabin to ask Norman and Fadz to drive forward. Rafa grabbed me and pointed to where Max was leaning forward: “Look, another ass sighting! Quick, take a picture!” she said and sure enough, we got a view of Max’s ass along with the rhino ass.

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We sat there for quite some time watching the rhino and he eventually stood up and gave us a great profile view. It was an amazing few minutes getting to sit and watch this beautiful animal in the wild.

En route to our new campsite, we spotted some lions sleeping in the grass, along with some hyenas. The hyenas are such ugly creatures!

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After arriving at camp, Max, Chris, Svenja, and I walked over to this camp’s water hole to see if there were any animals there. We brought some Savannah Dry Ciders with us to drink. We spotted three giraffes drinking, which was rather interesting to see because they stand awkwardly when they bend down to drink.

Then we spotted it: a rhino walking up from the left to get a drink. Chris started snapping some photos (all pictures from this evening posted on here were taken by him). As he was taking pictures we were shocked to discover that there were two more rhinos sitting by the water – and they had been there the entire time that we’d been sitting there! Then a fourth rhino came walking up from the right side! I couldn’t believe our luck – four rhinos were mere feet away from us!!

We sat there for about an hour and then several lions came out of the grass to get a drink of water; the first hint that something else was coming was when the giraffe ran away at high speed. The rhinos stood very still and just watched the lions as they came for a drink.

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By this point we were slightly late for dinner, so we left to grab a quick bite to eat before heading back to watch more animals. We told everyone at dinner about everything that we’d seen and almost everyone joined us when we returned to the water hole.

When we got back, only three of the rhinos were still there, but we were able to see them quite well. They eventually walked around to our side of the water and then waded into the middle of the water.

About 10m away from where we were sitting was a large tree with a huge python sitting in it. Despite the fact that I hate snakes, I had to go over and see it. Thankfully the camp guards were keeping a close eye on the snake.

As we resumed watching the rhinos, the power at the camp went out, killing the floodlights that illuminated the water hole. Plunged into total darkness, Chris turned to taking photos of the night sky; this was the first night in weeks in which we’d been able to see the Milky Way in the night sky.

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Today also marked the one-month anniversary for the five original tour members: we started our tour on 20 September and seeing our first rhinos was truly the best way to celebrate!

Friday, 21 October

Today marked our last game drive of the tour – huzzah!! We drove out from the camp to see what wildlife we could as we made our way out of the park. Happily, we spotted two more rhinos: a mother and a young rhino walking through some bushes nearby.

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We made a brief stop back in camp for a bathroom break. Rafa ran up to me saying that she had found another “Rhino Max” bracelet in the gift shop, this one much longer. We went to the store and, happily, the new bracelet fit around my wrist! I bought the new one and gave Rafa my old one that didn’t fit (she had lost her bracelet at the rock quarry). It was a great find by her!

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I fell asleep for the rest of the game drive; I honestly couldn’t care less about seeing another giraffe or elephant; I’d seen so many during the other game drives that I was bored of the whole experience. The game drive ended in mid-morning and we drove the 100km to our campsite for the night, in Outjo.

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We had the entire afternoon to relax, so I spent the time getting some work done and posting a blog (finally!). After dinner we all made our way back to the bar (except for Max, who went to bed early; he’d been quite tired for the past few days and hadn’t been feeling well, so he needed to get some rest). At the bar, I joined Chris, Svenja, Rafa, Joana, and the Swiss couple who joined us in Windhoek (Fabian and Tara). They taught us a new card game called Wizard in which one states how many sets (also called ‘stitches’) they hope to get each round; points are awarded based on how close one comes to that number. It was great fun and we had some drinks while we played.

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The owner of the bar, a very nice man in a wheelchair, came by to say hello and then he sent over some drinks to us: it was called a Springbok and was part Amarillo and something with mint. It was delicious! We sat around playing cards until around 22:00 and then called it a night.

By this point, Rafa and Joana had left the card table and joined the bar owner at his table to chat and have some drinks. Chris, Svenja and I joined them for a little while. The owner provided us with several (free) drinks as we sat around chatting; the group drank three bottles of wine, various shots of alcohol, and beer. We then started to play a drinking game:
- One person rolls two dice under a cup and states the value of the dice (5 and 1 is 51)
- You can lie about the value of the dice as only you get to see them
- The next person can call your bluff and look: if they are right, you drink; if they are wrong, they drink
- The next person then rolls and their score must be higher than the score before them

I saw between Svenja and Chris and decided to stop drinking by this point. I always believe what Svenja said and Chris never challenged the score that I stated, which saved me from drinking. The game was a lot of fun to play though. Joana particularly enjoyed it and drank quite a bit; she is hysterical when she drinks (she’s hysterical sober as well).

Finally, around 01:00 we decided it was time for bed. Rafa stayed behind, but Chris, Svenja and I helped Joana get back to her tent. I unzipped the tent door for her and she literally fell into the tent, laughing. By this point she was also calling out loudly for Norman in a playful, joking way. “Norman!” “Nooorman!” “NORMAN!” The three of us were laughing hysterically each time Joana called out his name. All of our tents were right next to one another, huddled under a tree, so Joana’s calls could easily have woken the others.

I crawled into my tent, trying not to wake Max up; as I was about to fall asleep several minutes later, I heard Joana call out “Norman!” She called out his name several more times and it was all I could do to stifle my laughs so I didn’t wake Max.

To sum up Joana’s evening, here’s how it happened:

21:00
Rafa: Joana, do you want to come to the bar and just talk with us?
Joana: No, I want to go to bed. I’m tired.
……….
01:00
Joana: Norman? Norman? Norman!

01:15
Joana: Norman?

It was actually an amazing evening. We got to bond with two of the new people and then enjoy some drinks with locals at the bar. We all had a great time.

Saturday, 22 October

Today we had a late start, thankfully: breakfast was at 08:36 and we left about 45 minutes later. Our schedule for the day was just a visit to a local Hiba tribe. I’ll be quite honest and say that I wasn’t looking forward to this visit; the Massai visit in the Serengeti had been such a disappointment and I was worried that this would be the same thing.

We met our guide and he took us into the village. We were able to interact with the villagers and wander about on our own. The kids loved to come up and visit with us; they were interested in the water bottles that several people brought with them and even took the bottles (they thought that there must be something special about such water).

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Max took to the kids right away, talking to them and playing games with them. He and I picked up several kids and swung them around; they each had such big smiles on their faces.

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Chris was the true center of the kids’ attention though. They crowded around him and wouldn’t let him go the entire time that we were visiting with the tribe. He would pick them up, swing them around, carry them; the kids all loved it and one could easily see the joy that Chris got out of it as well (though he was exhausted by the end).

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We were able to go inside one of the village huts and one of the women showed us how the women ‘bathe’ in smoke and use smoke to clean their clothes; only the men are allowed to clean with water. The smoke smelled rather good as it was mixed with things to make it smell good.

After we finished with the village visit we drove on to our campsite for the night in the town of Khorixas. I slept throughout the drive, which gave me some energy when we reached the camp. Max and I walked over to a local grocery store to grab some drinks (sadly they didn’t have Fanta Passion – I’ve only found it in Malawi!). We then came back to camp and joined the others by the pool, which was frigidly cold. I took a quick dip in the pool before retiring to the bar area to continue working on the blog (which I am now – finally – caught up on!).

Before dinner we filmed my fantastic impala impression and had Max and Rafa play lions hunting me. Svenja filmed it using her GoPro while Chris took several photos of the hunt. I crawled around, ‘eating’ the grass while Max and Rafa stalked me. I thought I’d heard them when they pounced, but it happened quite suddenly, which was awesome! Max grabbed me from the side and Rafa from behind; Max bit at my neck and Rafa just grabbed on and pulled me down. It was actually a ton of fun. As this was being filmed, the rest of the group saw us and wandered over to watch as well.

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Sunday, 23 October

We had quite a full day today, with a lot of driving and also some activities.

After leaving camp, we made a brief stop at some local stands for souvenir shopping. One or two people bought a few things, but most of us just wandered around. Norman picked up a baby who belong to one of the women working one of the stands; the baby was adorable and had the greatest smile; when I went to say hello, she wanted to reach out and feel my beard.

We drove further south and made a longer stop at the Spittskoppe, where we spent about two hours walking and hiking around. The rock formations were quite impressive. We met up with another Nomad group (their guide was Nyika’s sister!) and we all walked over to one of the rocky hills, where we had time to hike around and explore. The hill was rather steep, but the rock gave us a lot of traction so we could walk up and down. The view was spectacular.

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We then made our way under a ledge where we could see some old paintings done by the bushman people; the paintings were 2,000 to 4,000 years old. Many of the figures depicted the animals of the region – including a rhino!

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Lunch was served when we returned to our truck. To our amazement, the other Nomad truck was camping at this location for the evening, despite it only being around 14:00 (they were driving the opposite direction from us, but following the same route); we couldn’t see any bathrooms or showers for them to use, let alone a bar for them to enjoy. We couldn’t understand why they would be camping there and not at the same place that we had left earlier that morning (especially since it was in the desert and blistering hot).

During lunch, Max managed to get a hold of my camera without my knowing… these pictures are the result. :-)

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Our route then took us to Swakopmund, where we are spending the next two nights – in a hotel too! The town is very Western and feels like a beach resort in Florida or North Carolina (I’m reminded of Wilmington, actually). The town is located right on the beach, on the west coast of Africa. The weather was considerably colder on the coast; we all had to put on pants and jackets! We stopped off at company to book some option excursion for tomorrow, as it was an entirely free day to do whatever we wanted. Several people signed up to do quad biking, sand boarding, or a dolphin cruise. Not me… oh no, not me…

Back in Zanzibar (yes, on THAT horrible drunken day), Joana and I had talked about doing skydiving; we had promised each other that we’d do it together when we go to Namibia. Well, the day is finally here and Joana still wanted to do it… and, to be honest, so do I, though I’m terrified of the whole idea. I asked the women working there a million questions about skydiving. And… then Joana and I booked it. I handed over my credit card, saying that if it was rejected, the event wasn’t meant to be… and I’ll be damned if the charge didn’t go through just fine – my last method of backing out was gone! So… at 10:00 tomorrow morning I’ll be leaping from an airplane…

Max took great delight in telling me that I’d be dying tomorrow, playing on my fears of skydiving. It was actually pretty funny and he meant it all in a fun, joking manner. He said he’d have a sign on the ground waiting for me: “Welcome back Bryan!” I joked back that skydiving would be a great way to have an impact on Namibia!

Max and I checked into our room and proceeded to do some laundry before we rejoined the group for our dinner out. The entire group went out to a local restaurant that served Italian, burgers, and game meat. I ordered an Oryx burger with “secret sky-diver’s sauce” on it; Chris ordered the same thing and Svenja ordered a pizza. We were all amazed at how delicious the food was! Chris and I LOVED our burgers; I’m not sure what all was on it, but it was amazing. Svenja shared a bite of her pizza, which was also quite tasty.

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After dinner we all came back to the hotel to head to bed early; we’d had a long day and most of us had fun activities planned for tomorrow.

Monday, 24 October

Today… I face my fear and go skydiving!

I woke up early, around 07:00 and I was immediately hit by the reality of what I had planned for the morning. I was struck with fear and nervousness, but then dread set in when I looked outside: the sky was full of clouds, which meant that we wouldn’t be able to do the skydiving unless the clouds cleared up. I had psyched myself up so much for this that I didn’t want to miss the chance.

I met with Joana at breakfast and she was equally nervous. We ate a small breakfast (mainly so we wouldn’t puke it up later) and then hung around the reception area until it was time to go. We listened to music to help pass the time – and to calm our nerves. Joana likes Celine Dion, so we played a lot of her music.

Our driver collected us at 10:00 and drove us out to the airfield. The two guys in the car were very friendly and talkative, telling us that we had nothing to worry about. Joana and I were the only two booked to do skydiving for the entire day. Thankfully the sky had cleared up mere minutes before we were picked up – it was a good sign!

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Upon arrival at the small airfield, we had to fill out some forms and then decide on which photo or video package we wanted. We couldn’t both have the same package because they didn’t have enough equipment for it; I went with the GoPro on my partner’s wrist, giving me a good video of the jump; Joana did the photo and video package, which has another person jump and film her.

Up next we met our partners: Derek was going with me, while Ramon was going with Joana. Derek has done over 11,000 jumps, so he was quite relaxed about the whole thing. He gave me my jumpsuit and put on my harness, but then went off to chat with some friends. Ramon was more thorough with Joana and he appeared very nervous; we later found out that this was to be his first jump in Africa! He was from Spain and had been doing skydiving for five years, but he just arrived in Swakopmund yesterday!

Derek then gave us a briefing on how we would be jumping from the airplane: Derek and I would be going first… He showed us how to tuck our feet under the plane when we started to exit, how to hold our arms and head, etc. It actually helped put me at some ease to talk about what we would be doing… though that all changed as we then walked outside to board the airplane.

The airplane was very tiny, with only one seat for the pilot. Ramon and Joana climbed in first, with Joana sitting in between Ramon’s legs right up next to the pilot. Derek and I sat the same way, but just behind the pilot. The other two jumpers, one of whom was Joana’s cameraman, climbed aboard and sat to my side and in front of me. We were all sitting quite close to one another. The door to the plan simply slid shut like a garage door and then we were off!

The plane made quite a steep climb, but we had such an amazing view of the area! To one side was the Atlantic Ocean and the miles of beautiful beaches; we could see all the way to Walvis Bay to the south. To the east was the Namib Desert, with dunes stretching out to the horizon. While we were flying, Ramon and Derek attached their harnesses to ours and the pilot would announce how far we were from the jump zone.

5 miles… we start to get harnessed together
2 miles… we get our goggles ready to put on
1 mile… goggles go on and the door opens up

Suddenly one of the jumpers goes… and then it’s my turn! By this point I was terrified. During the flight up, I kept turning to Joana and grabbing her hand for support. We sang the “Fuck It All” version of “Let It Go” as inspiration.

There’s no warning or countdown; Derek just scoots us forward to the door and I realize that this is actually going to happen. There is no turning back. Suddenly, my entire body is hanging outside of the airplane! I don’t have time to think and Derek tells me to tuck my feet under, which I quickly do. He rocks forward a few times and then… we’re out!

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The first second, right after leaving the airplane, was the only really scary part – and the only time that I could feel like I was falling. I looked down during the first few seconds and was thankfully not that terrified. I thought to myself “Well, you’re falling now. Nothing you can do but enjoy it!” Once we were in position, Derek tapped me on the shoulder to indicate that I could now open my arms up. I stretched my arms out and relaxed, taking in the entire experience.

The feeling of freefall is spectacular! The wind is rushing by and I couldn’t hear a thing. I looked down at the ground for a bit and then all around me to take in the view. To my surprise, I didn’t swear as much as I had anticipated. I said “Oh fuck!” once (which is clearly on the video), but it was in awe of the view that I had while falling. I smiled and laughed with joy for most of the time. Derek was using the GoPro to film the entire time; he kept prompting me to do a thumbs up or the “hang ten” sign with my hands, which I did.

The freefall time seemed to last only a few seconds, but in reality it was somewhere between 30 and 40 seconds. Derek release the parachute and the freefall ended; it wasn’t a sharp jerking movement either; it was very smooth and soon we were drifting through the sky. Derek removed my goggles so I could see better. The breeze was very light and refreshing.

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As we drifted down, I could see Joana and the other guys falling and releasing their parachutes. Joana and me had our parachutes deployed at 5,000 feet, while the professionals went down to around 2,500 feet. Joana and Ramon ended up almost directly above us, so Derek had to maneuver us out of their way. This was the scariest part of the entire experience: we sped up and made some very sharp turns. We quickly settled down and continued to glide down towards the airfield.

As we came in to land, Derek instructed me to simply stick my feet straight out in front of me. As we landed, I did as I was told and then we were on the ground. Derek quickly told me to stand up, which caught me by surprise; I did my best, but we fell forward, laughing. A couple guys came up to help grab the parachute and unhook us. By this point, Joana was nearing her landing and I saw that she too fell when they landed – it must be a common occurrence.

After snapping a few photos and celebrating that we’d just gone skydiving, we changed out of our jumpsuits and then headed back to our hotel. Joana needed to grab her purse to pay for the videos and photos; the guys were happy to do a quick trip to the hotel and back – it gave them time to edit together our videos. While Joana was grabbing her purse, the driver talked to me about his skydiving experiences; he’s done just over 100 solo jumps. To celebrate the 100th jump, their group jumps complete naked!

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When we got back to the airfield, we celebrated by having a Windhoek beer and some Simba chips. The TV was playing some great music videos from the 1980s and we sang along to them. Ramon eventually came up to chat as we waited for the videos to finish. Finally, we got to watch both of our videos on their big TV; we laughed at ourselves the entire time. The videos are amazing!

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Back in town, Joana and I grabbed some lunch at Spar and then met up with everyone at the hotel. After eating and watching our videos again, a group of us (Chris, Svenja, Rafa, Joana, and me) headed out to explore the town; Max stayed behind so he could exercise. We walked down to the beach, which was breathtaking. There were so many rocks around and the waves were intense.

Chris decided to go swimming for a few minutes, so the rest of us went to a nearby bar to grab some drinks. The beers were the first truly good beers that we’ve had in Africa (the African beers are good, but somewhat watery); these beers were craft beers and they had a variety of styles. Chris and Svenja met up with us for some drinks after a while. It was great getting to just relax and chat with everyone.

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We made a brief stop back at the hotel to change clothes and grab Max so we could all go to dinner; we’d made reservations at the Swakopmund Brauhaus at 20:00. Before going to the restaurant, we made a stop at a hostel to pick-up the DVDs for the people who went sand-boarding (Rafa, Chris and Svenja). We got to watch the video as well and it was quite clear that they’d had an equally amazing time during their excursion.

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We had ample time before our reservation, so we walked back down to the beach to watch the sunset. It wasn’t the most stunning sunset that we’ve seen, but I found it fun to see the sun set over the Atlantic, rather than rise over it like we get in the States.

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The restaurant wasn’t quite as German as I had hoped or as their brochure made it appear; there were German flags on the walls and some imported German beers (Paulaner!), along with a small selection of German food. I went with a dish of smoked meat, potatoes and asparagus with Hollandaise sauce. The meat was thinly sliced Oryx and perfectly seasoned; it was a delicious meal! For dessert, Svenja and I split a panna cotta.

Tuesday, 25 October

We had a somewhat early start today, leaving shortly after 07:15 and heading further south. We made a brief stop in Walvis Bay to see the flamingos, which were gathered together along the beach. Further on, we made a stop on the side of the road at the point where we crossed the Tropic of Capricorn! There was a large sign on either side of the road, so we stopped for a quick photo.

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After lunch we went on a drive around the Namib Desert with a local guide named Frans. Frans was the best guide that we’ve had this entire trip; he was funny and told some amazing stories. He turned what would normally have been a boring drive into something amusing and entertaining; we were all gripped every time he would talk. The drive took us around some rock formations and up to the top of a hill, where we could see some mountain zebras.

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Camp for the night was rather nice, which a small pool and a decent bar. We all took a dip in the pool to cool off and many of the new group members joined us at the pool. I was able to spend some time chatting with them, getting to know them better. Today was Fabian’s birthday and Norman brought out a cake to celebrate; we all sang “Happy Birthday” to him and then everyone sang to him in their native languages. After dinner I played a few rounds of 5,000 with Max, Chris, Svenja and Rafa. Everyone seems to really enjoy the game, which is still amazing to me (I’m glad they like it so much!).

Max and I stayed up playing Carbo after everyone had gone to bed. It was nice spending time one-on-one with him, relaxing and chatting. We talked about the trip, the differences between our two tour groups, and tons of different subjects. I truly enjoy getting to chat with Max; he’s a very smart guy and it is easy to have an intelligent conversation with him. He can get very passionate about certain subjects, stubbornly defending his opinions; it can be somewhat irritating, but amusing as the same time.

Wednesday, 26 October

I woke up in a panic this morning – I left my camera at the bar area when Max and I went to bed after Carbo. I frantically got dressed and ran up to the outdoor seating area where we had sat, but the camera was gone. Thankfully the woman from the bar last night was starting to unlock the doors and open the reception for the morning; she saw me and smiled. I went to the reception and she happily gave me my camera. I was so relieved!

We set off early this morning, skipping breakfast so we could drive to the Sossusvlei Dunes before the sun was too high (and the heat unbearable). The dunes were a gorgeous shade of red and the landscape was spectacular. The national park set aside one dune, Dune 45, for tourists to climb. Upon arrival, we all set off up the dune while Norman and Fadz prepared breakfast.

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Dune 45 is rather high and we walked up the path along the ridge. I was one of the first of the group to set off up the dune and I was soon amazed at how steep the slope of the dune was on either side, especially as the path began to narrow. People were coming down along the same path and I was always afraid that I would fall when they passed.

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Eventually I reached a point where I could go no further; the slope and height were too much for me. I sat down on the dune so I could relax before turning around to head back down. Rafa and Joana soon met up with me; Rafa could clearly see that I was not doing alright – I was on the verge of a panic attack. She kindly walked me down back down the dune, talking and guiding me the entire way. We would stop and let people pass by us, each time Rafa would help calm me down. I tried to control my breathing so I didn’t panic. Thankfully I reached the bottom safe and sound; Rafa then climbed back up the dune to join Joana.

I spent the rest of the time back at the truck, recovering and drinking water. Breakfast was delicious: bacon and fried eggs (a wonderful change from the usual toast and cereal). While eating breakfast, Svenja and I noticed a group of attractive guys in another truck… a truck full of definite Fs.

Once breakfast was done, we drove to the next sight, which was at the dead tree area of the dunes. We rode out to the trees in a wagon pulled by a very slow tractor, while other tourists took 4x4 trucks. We spotted the truck of attractive guys again on the way. When we arrived, we had to walk one kilometer to reach the trees. During the walk, I spotted the group of guys, so I sped up my pace (I’d been rambling along in the sand, worn down by the heat. It was worth the effort…

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The trees themselves were nice, but not as impressive as I had expected. The trees have been dead for hundreds of years, preserved by being in the desert. We spent some time walking around, taking pictures. Rafa and Joana played the song “Gangnam Style” and danced around with the Korean couple, who laughed and got into the dance.

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Our last sight for the day was the Sesriem Canyon, which was a small canyon that no longer has water in it. Norman led us on a short walk through the canyon and then left us time to wander around. We could see the layers of rocks along the walls: large rocks indicated periods of heavy water flow, while small ones or sand indicated little to no water.

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We then made our way to our next camp, where we spent some time by the pool. The campsite itself was total shit: far from everything, including the truck; the ground was covered with animal poop as well. We talked to the manager and were able to move to a different location, but he warned us that we needed to be quiet for the accommodated guests (we promptly began to communicate by shouting).

Before dinner I joined Max, Tamara, and Fabian to play Wizard. We had started a game on the truck while driving to camp, so we resumed where we left off. Tamara easily beat the rest of us – I had a streak of bad luck that never seemed to end. After dinner, we started a new game; this time I had some great hands and was leading in the scores until the final round, when Tamara and Fabian pulled ahead (and tied).

Tamara and Fabian went to bed around 21:00, but Max and I stayed up playing Carbo again. We only played for about 30 minutes before heading to bed; again, it was wonderful spending more time with him. We sit next to one another on the truck every day, but most days we sleep, read or listen to music; this time in the evenings is really special to me.

Thursday, 27 October

We had a very long day of driving before us today, driving around 500km. We had one stop for sightseeing today at the Fish River Canyon, which we reached late in the afternoon. During the morning dive, I alternated between sleeping and reading more of “Atlas Shrugged” – I reached the chapter of John Galt’s political statement, so I wanted to be able to really focus on what I was reading.

Fish River Canyon was nice to stop and visit; it is the second biggest canyon in the world (after the Grand Canyon). We could only walk around the rim of the canyon, not descend into it; we still had some amazing views though. We started out at one lookout point and were then given time to walk along the rim over to a second lookout point, where we were picked up. I walked along with Chris and Svenja since I didn't want to walk along the edge alone (my fear of heights rearing it's ugly head once again).

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Camp for the night was pretty nice (except for the showers, which had mold all around!). There were three pools, all part of a hot springs complex. The bar was large and well stocked; I spent some time having a beer and relaxing.

After dinner a large group of us returned to the bar to play cards. Max, Tamara, Fabian and I played Wizard, which the others played 5,000 (we didn’t have enough cards for the entire group to play either game). I’ve really taken a liking to Wizard and I think that I’ll buy a set of the cards when I get home; it is a fun and easy game to play with people. Almost everyone went to bed around 22:30, but Max, Chris and I stayed up a little longer and played Carbo together.

Friday, 28 October

I was woken up early this morning by the sounds of baboons getting into the campsite’s trash bins, as well as stealing any food that was left out in the kitchen. They created a massive mess; there were about ten baboons that I could see and one of them even came up and knocked on our tent!

We had a late start from camp (leaving at 09:30) and I spent the time doing a little reading before playing a couple rounds of 5,000 with Svenja and Max. Out drive today took us across the border into South Africa; the border crossing was uneventful and we soon reached our camp.

Camp is located along the river that borders Namibia and South Africa, so we didn’t drive all that far today (around 200km). The camp is… very disappointing. There is nothing to do in the camp; we’re in the middle of nowhere. There is a small pool and a bar area, but Norman didn’t stop for us to do any currency exchange, so I’m not sure how we’re supposed to buy anything at the bar. The only activity today is canoeing on the river, which doesn’t interest me in the least; we’ve got nearly the entire day to sit around this camp… doing nothing.

Fabian, Tamara, Max, and me played a game of Wizard to help pass the time, which was actually quite fun. I also did some work and blogging before we had dinner. After dinner we all went back to the bar area and played cards: some of us played Wizard, while others played 5,000. I played 5,000 and had a kick-ass round that night: I kept getting tons of aces and wild cards, racking up well over 4,000 points (and taking a commanding lead). Max kept telling everyone that I *always* have all of the aces (just like I *always* have the red kings when playing Carbo).

Saturday, 29 October

Today’s agenda was quite brief: drive around 500km to our next campsite where we would have a dinner provided (no more Norman dinners!). The drive was smooth; we spent it talking, reading, listening to music… all of the usual activities. We didn’t play cards today as we were all rather tired and it was still hot on the truck (though nowhere near as bad as it was in the Namib desert!).

Camp for the night was one of the nicest campsites that we’ve had; it had really nice (and clean!) bathrooms, a large dining area with a bar, a decent sized pool. It was rather crowded, but that didn’t interfere with us at all. Best of all: the camp had wifi!! We’d been through such a wifi drought over the past couple of weeks; everyone hopped on their phones as soon as we got access.

We pulled a table from the dining room outside and sat around having some drinks together. The afternoon was getting rather cool, so we soon returned back inside, where a nice fire was going. We soon saw the staff start to cook our dinner (chicken) over the fire and it smelled delicious! Svenja, Rafa, Joana, Max and I sat around the table, chatting and hanging out until it was time for dinner.

Dinner was delicious: chicken, mashed potatoes, homemade bread, and even ice cream for dessert! The family who owned the place made the food and they were all so incredibly nice and friendly! They would chat with us, helped us take the table outside in the afternoon, and did everything they could to make our stay wonderful. They even offered to play the videos of our skydiving on their projector, but we forgot about it until it was too late.

After dinner several of us hung out at the bar and played a couple rounds of 5,000 before we left to head to bed. We would have played longer, but they wanted to close up the bar at 22:00. This was to be our last night in the tents – and our last night together. Max and I stayed up for a little while chatting in our tent; it was very nice to just chill and chat with him. He continued to tease me that a spider would come crawling into our tent, using his fingers to make noises and then running them up my arm or back to make me think it was a spider.

I went to bed feeling rather sad that this would be the last night Max and I would spend in our tent. We’d been sharing a tent together for nearly 40 nights and it would be strange to not have that anymore. I’ve come to consider Max a very, very good friend.

Posted by Glichez 19:04 Archived in South Africa Comments (0)

Journey of the German Nine Through Africa


View World Tour 2016 on Glichez's travel map.

Wednesday, 12 October

The second half of the African adventure officially began today!

We were all quite happy that there were just nine of us on the first leg of this tour, thus giving each of us our own row of seats on the truck! We have another nine people joining us later on, a fact which none of us are particularly excited about. We started early, around 08:00 to make the short drive (100km) to Kasane, in Botswana. The border crossing into Botswana was quick and easy, particularly since no one needed to get visas. Our driver, Captain Fadz, was amazing and we all took a liking to him right away. Norman, our guide, started off on the wrong foot and tried too hard to assert his authority (an obvious hangover from his days in the military).

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We had a full day of activities planned just outside of Kasana, in the Chobe National Park. In the afternoon we had (yet another) game drive and then a boat cruise on the river in the evening. The five of us left over from the first tour were not excited in the least about going on another game drive, but for the new people in the group, it was exciting.

Can you guess what animals we saw? Yep – impala! Followed by giraffes, zebras, and dozens of elephants. We saw a massive herd of elephants in Chobe, which was actually rather interesting to see. At one point we spotted a small family of lions under a tree, but they were behind some bushes and we couldn’t get to a good spot to take any pictures without having to go off the path (which is forbidden). The (sad) highlight that we saw was a buffalo that had gotten stuck in the mud, sinking down to the point where it couldn’t get out. The poor animal had been there for two or three days and was nearly dead (we saw some slight movements).

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We ran into the other Nomad group, with Jane, Emma, and Marca, at several points during the game drive. Mmatsie and I got rather bored of the game drive, particularly because of how insanely hot it was (in the 40s C), so we started playing a game: Fuck, Marry, Kill (FMK). We looked at the men in the various trucks that we passed, deciding if we would F, M or K them; nearly every one of them was an immediate K, though there were a few Ms and Fs.

The boat cruise was the more interesting event of the day, allowing us to get out on the water and cool off. Both Nomad groups were on the same boat, so Jane was able to join Max and me for the cruise. She was smart and brought some beer, which she shared with us; the cool refreshment was desperately needed. The temperatures in Southern Africa were considerably higher than what we’d had in East Africa.

We saw many of the same animals that we’d seen earlier in the day, but the best part was getting to see the hippos in the water and several crocodiles. I was amazed at how many crocs we were able to see during the cruise. Finally, we stopped in the middle of the river to watch the beautiful sunset, which was stunning.

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And then this random, candid photo was taken of Max - quite possibly my favorite photo of him. I've no idea how this was even taken; I think it was an accident when I was putting my camera away.

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Arriving back at camp, we had some time to kill before dinner, so we either went to the pool or the bar (which did not have working wifi). The urinals in the men’s bathroom were… interesting: they were shaped like hippo mouths. We all eventually met at the bar to chat and have a few drinks. Jane taught Max a new game involving moving coins around to arrange the by size; he seemed quite stumped by the game, much to our amusement.

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Thursday, 13 October

Today we left camp by 08:00 and set off to cross the border into Namibia, driving through the Caprivi Strip, a stretch of road that was incredibly dangerous to travel on during the 1990s due to the wars. We entered Namibia to take advantage of a shortcut to the Okavango Delta, which is back in Botswana; had we stayed in Botswana, the route by road there would have been an extra several hundred kilometers.

During the 430km drive, Max, Svenja, Christian, and me went to the front of the truck to play Uno. After playing a round of two, Rafa came up to join us as well. Finally, Siri and Jasmine joined the game, while Joana came and watched. It was a great bit of group bonding!

Camp was descent and thankfully the other group was staying in the same camp again, so we joined them at the bar after dinner. Chris and Svenja joined us at the bar as well; they joined our old Nomad group and really fit in quite well; we are all really happy that they are on this leg of the tour with us.

Friday, 14 October

Back to Botswana today! We drove to a meeting point, called the Big Tree, which was just that: a large tree on the side of the road; once there, both Nomad groups transferred to a single large truck for the drive to camp. The two-day excursion to the Okavango Delta was handled by a third party service provided, so we said goodbye to our Nomad guides.

Max, Jane and I sat next to one another on the truck and we decided to play a game with Max: we challenged him to not speak for the duration of the drive (about 40 minutes); if he succeeded, Jane and I would each buy him a drink; if he failed, he owed us each a drink. He accepted and throughout the drive we did our best to get him to talk, but, to our amazement, he succeeded! He even continued not talking to us for a few minutes once we reached camp, speaking to everyone but Jane and me!

The campsite was descent; the best part was that we didn’t have to put up or take down our tents – there were permanent tents with camp beds inside each one of them. They weren’t as nice as the permanent tents that we had in South Luangwa, but they were a step up from our regular tents.

We had a boar cruise in the lagoon later in the afternoon, so we all went to the bar to have some drinks and play cards. There was a group of French people also staying in the camp and they had taken all of the seats, but once they left for lunch we were able to take over. We decided to play 5,000 and we had to teach several new people how to play: Svenja, Christian, Jasmin, Siri, Rafa, and Stephanie (an American from Jane’s Nomad group). I was amazed by how many people wanted to join in and play the game; who knew that the simple card game I learned from Caleb all those years ago would become the favorite game here in Africa! Jasmin was dealt an amazing first hand – getting several aces and wild cards; she easily won the round with nearly 800 points!

While we were playing, a pilot came in to the bar to have his lunch. He was a young guy and very attractive (we all agreed that he was an F and an M). Stephanie called over to him and invited him to join us for cards; he said that he was curious to learn the game and moved to our table. His name was Chris (Christopher), he was from Cape Town, but had recently moved to Botswana to fly tourist flights around the region for Mack Airlines. The girls and I were all ogling him, but thankfully he sat right next to me and I explained the game to him. Chris quickly picked up the rules of the game and we played several rounds together, before he had to leave to go fly some people to the town of Maun. I joked that he should just stay with us, citing “mechanical issues” with the airplane. Before he left, he asked over the rules of the game again so that he could then teach his friends how to play – I’ve now passed the game on to even more people!

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During the game, I chatted and shamelessly flirted with him (what did I have to lose?!). Once Chris left, Jane called me out on it and I just laughed. We began to refer to him as Captain Chris and as my Captain, to which I replied “Oh Captain, my Captain!” Sadly, he was scheduled to fly to Victoria Falls the next day and thus we wouldn’t be able to see him again. Every time we heard an airplane go by, we’d look to the sky and shout after my Captain…

The afternoon boat cruise was relaxing, if nothing else. Being out on the water was cooling and we saw several different birds. It quickly became evident that birds were going to be the highlight of the boat cruise; the lagoon and its tributaries were surrounded by dense reeds and papyrus plants, making it near impossible to see anything besides the birds. I did think several times how much Poppop would have enjoyed getting to see these birds – and I wondered if he’d seen any of the species that we saw.

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Jane and I constantly made “That’s what she/he said” jokes during the entire time we were together. Max would join in and made some of the best comments to things that either Jane or I said. It helped to pass the time and make us laugh. My particular favorite was when we saw a Swallow fly across our boat path…

Again, we stopped to watch the sunset, which was the most amazing one we’ve seen yet on the tour. As the sun was going down, several small clouds appeared in front of it, which looked really amazing.

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Arriving back at camp, we had a delicious dinner and then settled in to play more 5,000 before heading to bed.

Saturday, 15 October

This morning we had quite a busy schedule planned out. After breakfast we headed back out on the lagoon to drive over to a small island where we transferred to smaller boats for a trek through the smaller channels of the Delta. The small channels were actually hippo paths: as the hippos walk through the Delta, they create paths that are then filled in by the water. This makes the hippo one of the three essential animals for the Delta. The other two are the elephants (they bring new plant seeds to areas through their dung) and the termites (they create termite mounds, which are the starting points for all of the islands in the Delta).

I was nervous about taking the small boats because Norman had mentioned that spiders can sometimes fall from the reeds into the boats; I had Max ride in the boat with me to fed off any evil spiders who came into the boat. Max found great amusement in teasing me about the spiders: making me think that several we nearby or using his fingers to create the feeling of something crawling on me. Thankfully we saw no spiders at all during the day!

The boats were small and canoe-like, allowing only two people plus the man who piloted the boat. The captain used a pole to propel and guide the boat; the boat seemed quite wobbly at first, but we got used to it quite quickly. Sailing through the narrow channels was really interesting, especially being so low in the water. Max and I spent the ride discussing politics, especially Austrian politics, which I found fascinating.

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Our destination was a small island where we disembarked from our boats and prepared for a walking tour through the bush. The descent into hell began… The next 90 minutes were, by far, the worst part of the entire tour thus far (and everyone in the group agreed). We walked through the reeds, passing an incredibly amount of elephant poo along the way. We were shown several different trees and a termite mound; at each stop our local guide would talk for what seemed like ages, killing us with information. The best part of the walk was when we were just walking along in a single-file line.

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After the walk ended we sat around the water to have our picnic lunch. Max, Jane and I sat together to eat our lunch; Max and I kept whistling the song “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life” from Monty Python. I also taught him the true Southern saying “Bless your heart” and how it truly means “Fuck you!” in the South (ah, the Southern hypocrites!). During the lunch, Max reached around and put his arm around me and we sat that way for a few minutes. Marca looked over and noted how we were sitting, telling me that “This is love!” We were also dubbed WilhelMax due to our bro-mance. Ever since the second half of the tour began I found myself being more and more attracted to Max; he became much sweeter and more caring; gone was the sarcastic and antagonistic Max from earlier in the trip.

After we ate, it was time to return to our small boats for the trip back. En route, Christian decided to give poling a try, so Svenja switched boats and left him to it. He did a pretty good job, especially for a first timer. He managed to steer the boat around for a few minutes before we all resumed the trip back to camp.

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When we got back to camp, Max and I went back to our tent to relax and get out of the heat. He took a nap while I spent some time reading Atlas Shrugged. I also decided to take a nice, cool shower, which was refreshing. After showering, we headed back over to the bar area and met up with Jane. Jane and I started to play a game of chess using the board they had (each piece was African-themed); she had to leave to take a helicopter flight over the Delta before we finished the game, so Max took her place. The game ended in a draw, but it was still fun. We then started to play 5,000 with Svenja, Christian, and Rafa. Max went to get us some drinks and heard that there was an elephant nearby; he called out to us to see if anyone wanted to go see it… and we all collectively sighed and shrugged it off. We just couldn’t be bothered.

Christian and I left the card game after a while so he could go fly his drone; I joined him because I wanted to check out how good the drone was. We went behind the camp and he flew the drone up about 50m, which provided a decent view. When he sent it higher, to around 80m, the wireless signal got lost and the drone was drifting around. When Chris regained control, he started to bring it down and, about 10m from the ground, it died and dropped like a rock – thankfully it wasn’t broken.

We rejoined the group and continued to play cards until it was time for dinner; we continued playing cards for a little while after dinner as well. Sitting on the outside deck was the best way to cool off, though it wasn’t much relief from the heat and humidity.

Sunday, 16 October

The stay at Okavango Delta finally comes to an end!!

None of us were very sad to say goodbye to the Delta; it wasn’t the most interesting excursion of the trip and almost everyone agreed that it could easily have been skipped. I think the main problem was that we came at the wrong time of the year; the water levels were quite low during the dry season and there weren’t that many animals around.

On the way out of the Delta, Jane and I were challenged by Max to not speak in exchange for beers. Max did his best to get us to speak, but we won out in the end. On the drive back we saw several elephants, which turned out to be the only game that we actually saw in the Delta.

When we reached the Nomad trucks and were splitting up into our respective groups, we asked Jane’s guide, Loius, and her cook, Tara, if it would be possible for the two groups to have dinner together in the evening. This evening would be the last that we would be sharing together; Jane’s group would split and head off toward Jo-burg, while our group would head to Windhoek; both groups were to stay in the town of Maun tonight though. We were shocked to find out that, while we would both be in Maun, we wouldn’t be at the same campsite; we would actually be around 20km away from one another! We thus had to say our rushed and rather unprepared goodbyes to one another, which was quite difficult to do.

As we were driving toward Maun, everyone on our truck was rather sad and depressed at the rushed goodbyes that we had; we had all been counting on having one final evening together. Rafa came by to ask if I would be interested in taking a taxi over to the other camp for the afternoon and evening, to which I happily agreed. Max, Joana, Rafa, Chris, Svenja and I all agreed that we’d talk to Norman about getting the taxi arranged.

Our camp was on the outskirts of the town, more in the desert than in the town. When we asked Norman about our idea, he said that it would be fine; the truck drove us all into town after lunch so we could grab some water and snacks; it was there that we were able to grab a taxi to the other campsite. We had to take two taxis and the drivers were very nice. When we arrived at the other camp, we arranged with the drivers to have them come back at 21:30 to pick us up again.

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The other campsite was more of a hotel than a true campsite; it had a huge pool and bar area. When we entered the reception area, we ran into Tara and asked her if it was ok for us to join them for dinner. She happily agreed, but said they might not have enough food for us; Norman had let us make sandwiches before we left, so we told Tara that she needn’t worry about feeding us.

We spotted Jane and the others by the pool and made our way out to them. Joana and Rafa queued up “Everybody (Backstreet’s Back)” on the speaker as well. When we were all out by the pool I shouted “Jane Marr!” to get her attention; she looked up and was so shocked to see us. She came up and gave me a big hug and I told her that we just couldn’t let what happened in the morning be our final goodbye. Emma and Marca were in the pool and were equally surprised to see us at their camp. We all dropped our stuff off by the pool and went for a swim.

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Max tried several times to dunk me under the water, but I was able to get away from him. The few times I tried to dunk him, he too got away. Jane wasn’t so lucky… However, I finally relented and let Max and Jane dunk me under the water.

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Max, Jane and I each had a milkshake from the bar, which was the perfect treat on yet another hot day. We got out the various snacks we brought with us and sat around chatting, drinking and eating. Emma, Marca, Joana and Rafa bought some wine and sat together, chatting and drinking. It was a fantastic afternoon together with some truly great friends.

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During the afternoon I managed to find Captain Chris (from Okavango) on Facebook and, at everyone’s urging, sent him a friend request. To my surprise, he accepted! Since he lived in Maun, I sent him a message, inviting him over to play cards with us. Unfortunately, he didn’t get the message until the next morning, so he couldn’t come join us.

We joined their group for dinner and found that Louis had built up a campfire for them as well. They had schnitzel for dinner and we happily ate our snacks and sandwiches. It turned out that they did have some extra food at dinner, which we were invited to eat; the schnitzel was quite good. As we were eating, the moon began to rise and it was amazingly huge and quite orange.

After dinner we went back to the bar area to have some more drinks and hang out for a little while longer. When 21:30 rolled around we began to say our proper goodbyes. It still wasn’t easy to say goodbye to any of them, but this time we felt that we’d been able to have a proper goodbye party of sorts. I was particularly sad to say bye to Marca, whom I truly enjoyed spending time with; she and I had some wonderful conversations throughout the trip (and she was one of the first people to notice that I’d become… smitten with Max). Saying by to Emma, Steph, and especially Jane was equally difficult and sad, but they all walked us out to the taxis when it was time to leave. Driving back to our camp I felt good about the day and incredibly happy that we’d made the decision to go and make the surprise visit.

Monday, 17 October

Today the nine of us set off for the town of Ghanzi, which is still in Botswana (our last day in Botswana). The drive was good, we played cards at the front, did some reading and listened to music.

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Our camp for the night was pretty nice, but there wasn’t much in the way of entertainment, aside from some option activities which no one signed up for. Norman suggested that we drive over to an old quarry that is now used as a swimming pool; we all eagerly agreed and so we set off after having our lunch.

The quarry was beautiful and the swimming pool was huge! There was a wooden dock tied up at one end with several body boards for us to use. The owners of our campsite also owned this property and were in the process of developing it into another campsite. We changed into our swimsuits and spent a couple hours enjoying the refreshing coolness of the water.

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After swimming, we headed back to our camp for dinner before our tribal dance show in the evening. The bushmen came to our camp to do some traditional healing and entertaining dances around a bonfire. To be quite honest, all of the songs sounded exactly the same: the women clapped and chanted while the men danced around the fire. It was interesting to see though.

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Tuesday, 18 October

The nine of us were rather sad that today marked the last day before the rest of the group joined the tour. We had gotten used to having the truck all to ourselves; having a small group also allowed us to bond quite well. Alas, all good things must come to an end.

During our drives, Norman and Captain Fadz would put music on over the speakers for us; we would dance around on the truck, sing along, having a fantastic time relaxing with everyone. We’d even play pranks on one another if we happened to fall asleep. Rafa tried to write on Max’s back using a Sharpie, but he woke up before she could finish. We’re all awaiting his revenge for that one…

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Today took us back across the border to Namibia as we drove to the town of Windhoek. Driving into Windhoek, we were all amazed at how urban and Western it felt. I couldn’t help but think that the former German colonies are rather well established, with order and infrastructure, while the former British colonies are… well, not.

We were given 90 minutes to explore the city; after changing some money into the local currency we visited several souvenir shops, but I found nothing that I wanted to buy. The city still retains a lot of German heritage, with people still speaking German and many signs still in German. Needless to say, I was in heaven being around so many German things!

We walked by an outdoor display of several meteorites that were found in Namibia, which was somewhat interesting. We then made our way over to the history museum, which was free. The museum itself wasn’t terribly interesting: there were tons of photographs on display, but no explanations for what happened during the history or what was going on, so it was near impossible to put anything into context. We did get some amazing views of the city from the top floor of the museum.

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Our lodging was outside of town, in the middle of the desert, which we were all rather disappointed in, but tonight we were all in hotel rooms – huzzah! We had about two hours before we drove to dinner, which we all spent showering and checking emails (this was the first wifi that we’d had since Victoria Falls).

Dinner was at a local restaurant, Joe’s Beerhouse. It was a wonderful restaurant, with many German-theme dishes and tons of knick-knacks around the place, including a random outhouse setup (not functional).

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The highlight of the restaurant was the variety of game meats that they had available. I settled on the Bushman Sosatie: a kabob with Springbok, Oryx, Zebra, Crocodile, and Kudu. Every bite was delicious, especially the zebra (easily my favorite game meat – it just melted in my mouth!).

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Max had a game knuckle, which turned out to be kudu. We were all shocked by how huge the piece of meat turned out to be.

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Svenja was only going to order chicken, but Chris and I nagged her into ordering game meat (kudu). Chris ordered the same dish as me, but he was hesitant to eat the crocodile; he promised not to eat any animal that could, in turn, eat him. I reminded him that the crocodile on his plate was already dead, so the other crocs would already have reason to eat him. We eventually got him to try a bite of the crocodile.

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The night ended with DJ Norman and DJ Fadz playing some romantic music over the speakers. When Celine Dion came on (the song “Because You Loved Me”), Joana gave a scream of joy and got up to dance at the front of the truck. She and Rafa had both danced to the song “No Matter What” earlier in the evening as well. It was priceless entertainment!

Posted by Glichez 05:37 Archived in Namibia Comments (0)

Zambia and Victoria Falls


View World Tour 2016 on Glichez's travel map.

Thursday, 6 October

Today we left Malawi and crossed the border into Zambia. This border crossing was smooth and easy: we got our exit and entry stamps without any problems and quickly drove on to our campsite for the next two nights.

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The campsite was on a river overlook; the river is known for its high population of hippos and crocodiles. The manager of the site greeted us and showed us all around the grounds, which were quite nice. We were warned that animals frequently came through the camp at night, especially elephants and hippos. The elephants would routinely break into the rooms looking for food. The hippos would always walk through the camp, past the bathrooms and tents (their regular path). Thankfully the camp had guards that patrolled throughout the night to scare the animals away and to escort us around.

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To our surprise, they had permanent tents (enough to accommodate six people) and a dormitory (enough for eight people). Max, Jane and I decided to take the tents and gave the dorm to the rest of the camping group.

Larry threw a bitch fit when we told him to take the last available dorm bed. I wasn’t having any of his attitude (he always liked to have things his way; no one could tell him otherwise; everything had to be his very particular and picky way). I snipped at him that we’ll do whatever he wanted, which ended up being exactly what Max and I said: that he should stay in the dorm so he could use his oxygen mask while sleeping.

The tent that Max and I shared was AMAZING! Being a permanent tent, it was outfitted with actual beds with sheets and a bedside table. They were right next to the river overlook as well, giving us an amazing view. Max and I left the front flap open each night so we could look out through the netting to see if any animals came by.

The afternoon was spent hanging out in a small bungalow near the tents and also by the pool. I did quite a bit of reading before rejoining the regular card group for another night of 5,000. This time Larry decided to join us. The game was all over the place throughout the evening, with everyone staying near one another. Max and I struggled the most, which was frustrating, but it was still a lot of fun. We wrapped up the game shortly before 22:00 so we could head to bed.

Linda: 1850
Larry: 1430
Max: 1075
Jane: 1755
Me: 1635

Before we could leave the bar area, the guards told us that there were several elephants around and we had to wait. To our surprise, the five elephants were right next to the restaurant, walking around the huts; I was really surprised by how quickly they walked through the camp. We didn’t have to wait for too long before we were escorted to the tents.

As we were settling in to bed, we could hear the noises of the hippos, which were amazingly loud! They were still quite far away, but the sound echoed all around us. It didn’t take too long to drift off to sleep; the bed in the tent was the best bed I’ve slept in on my entire trip.

Friday, 7 October

To my surprise, I woke up around 07:15 – I actually got to sleep in! We had nothing planned until the late afternoon; it was amazing to get to rest us. I had the best night of sleep of my entire trip; I sincerely wish that I could take the bed with me! There was something relaxing, exciting and fun about camping like that.

Breakfast was very simple: just cereal, coffee and tea. Several people went on an optional morning game drive in the South Luangwa National Park; we had a late morning brunch planned for when they got back. I opted to skip the game drive for a few reasons: (1) we’d seen all of the same animals already in there Serengeti (that park spoiled all future game drives for us!); and, (2) we were going on a late afternoon and evening game drive in the park (this was included with the tour).

I spent the morning back in the bungalow-gazebo, reading quite a bit in “Atlas Shrugged” (I read about 10% of the book – Who is John Galt?).

Brunch was served around 11:00 and it was truly spectacular! We had sausage with onions, pasta salad, and BACON! Yes, we had delicious bacon; Nyka made enough for us to have a second round and I took full advantage of the bacon. One of the monkeys brazenly jumped onto a table and took two apples: he shoved one in his mouth, stared at us and quickly grabbed the second before running off! The guards chased him off and shot rocks at him in the trees using a sling-shot.

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I spent much of the afternoon reading, but the heat began to set in. I was sweating profusely just sitting in the shade (and without a shirt on!). I eventually took a quick dip in the pool to cool off, which was quite refreshing. After roasting in the sun for a while, I headed over to the bar area to continue the game of 5,000 from the night before.

The luck of the game changed dramatically that afternoon: Max and I began to fall further and further behind (especially me – I had five rounds of negative points!). We had quite a few good laughs throughout the game though; I loved getting to play cards with them (we’ve become known as the card playing group among the others on the tour!). We ate all of the snacks that we had bought as we played as dinner wasn’t until around 21:00.

Linda: 4640
Larry: 5005
Max: 3460
Jane: 4235
Me: 2675

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At 16:00 we set off on our afternoon game drive in the South Luangwa National Park. Once again, Team Rhino Max grouped up and Emma joined us. The tour jeep had no roof, which actually made viewing the animals easier. Since there was no roof, we couldn’t stand up though: standing up would allow the animals to differentiate between the truck and a human; while we were sitting, we appeared as one giant animal with the truck.

We didn’t see many animals during the afternoon game drive, but the drivers did their best to find some for us. We saw lots of impalas and zebras, as well as some giraffes.

We made a stop at a beautiful river overlook for the sunset, which was truly stunning. We were given a refreshment drink while we hung out and took pictures. Larry went around taking pictures with everyone, including several with all of the girls (he gave Joana a hug after taking some Titanic-esque pictures that seemed to last too long…).

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After the sun went down, we started the second half of the game drive – in the dark! We had a guy at the front of the car with the light that he would use to scan for animals. It was really peaceful and exciting to be driving through the park in the dark. We saw a few interesting animals, including a hyena who walked right next to the jeep; a honey badger; a vulture perched on a tree; and zebras.

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The greatest sight was two lions crossing the road right in front of the truck. The male lion stopped in the road and looked right over at us, quite alert, before moving on around some trees. We followed them around and watched the male lion lay down, while the lioness walked into a field to lay down.

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The rest of the game drive was uneventful and we didn’t see very much. Several areas smelled terribly and the driver mentioned that the smells were dead animals that were nearby. We made it back to camp around 20:30 and soon after had dinner.

We didn’t play cards after dinner as we were all exhausted, so we sat around to chat for a little bit. Max, Jane and I called it an early night and went to bed in the tents. We found out the next morning that several hippos came through the camp around 23:00 and one of them was literally right next to my tent – maybe one or two feet away! Those who remained in the bar saw it all, but I saw nothing. I had woken up in the night and heard the hippos making noise; the noise was very loud, but I didn’t think that there was anything nearby. Reflecting back, I did hear some noise of something moving around and it is highly possible that I heard the hippo walking around.

Saturday, 8 October

We left our campsite today, but thankfully the start wasn’t until 08:30, giving us time to sleep in once again. Max got up around 05:00 to check for animals down near the river, but he came back to bed not long after, having not seen anything. We woke shortly after 07:00 and I again felt very rested. The bed and the tent was truly amazing!

We drove for about 45 minutes to a local textile factory, where we were given a short tour. They make all of the textiles by hand, painting all of the designs and mixing the colors by hand. The process was really remarkable to see; the talent and skills of the workers was amazing. We were given some time to shop around after the tour. I didn’t expect to buy anything, but they had a kid’s section and I found two wall hangings that I bought: one for my nephew Jack and one for my niece Jane. Each one had four panels with cartoon animals on them.

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We then drove on towards out campsite for the night in Petauke. I read quite a bit on the drive and listened to music as well. The campsite is rather nice, with great showers and bathrooms. My first priority, after getting the tents setup, was to take a nice, warm shower (perhaps I should have taken a cold shower since it was so hot, but the warm water felt so good). Sadly, the campsite didn’t have wifi, extending our wifi drought to over a week now; everyone is craving wifi access!

Sunday, 9 October

Today was another one of the long drives, nearly 500km, as we drove to the capital of Zambia, Lusaka. We made excellent time on the road and reached Lusaka by lunchtime. We made a quick stop at a local mall to get some shopping done at the supermarket. Jane, Linda and I grabbed a few candy bars and drinks before heading to a coffee shop to relax. I had a “Frappuccino” which turned out to be a coffee and chocolate milkshake, which was delicious!! Jane noticed the sign out front of the store and we both got quite a laugh out of it.

Jane is a really fun and great person. She’s from Hong Kong, but has British citizenship and currently lives in the UK. She is the same age as me (and Max as well) and she had a similar sense of humor as me. We’d constantly make “That’s what she/he said” comments, which went right over the heads of the others (much to our amusement). Sadly, Jane is splitting from our group in Victoria Falls and not continuing all the way to Cape Town.

We reached the final campsite for the tour around 13:00 and hurriedly setup our tents so that we could have lunch. After lunch I went to the bar to access the wifi, post a blog entry and get some work done. The bar sold internet access by the megabyte and I bought 200MB, which ran out after about an hour or two. After that I joined Max, Jane, Linda and Larry for a few minutes before the entire group gathered to take a final group photo.

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Once the group photo was finished, we all pulled out our sleeping mats and sat on the grass, chatting, taking photos, and relaxing. This was our last official night together and we wanted to spend some quality time together as a group. It was really amazing and I am so glad that we were able to do that.

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While we were all sitting around chatting, several zebras wandered into our campsite. Jane, Max and I walked over to where they were to take some pictures. To our surprise, they didn't run away as we got closer; we were able to get quite close to them as they grazed and ate their own dinner.

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Dinner was one of Nyika’s best of the trip and consisted of several main dishes and, best of all, ice cream for dessert! After dinner we presented Nyika and TK with the tips we’d gathered as a group. I bought some envelopes at the supermarket and organized the effort to gather the tip on the bus, but we had Mika present the tip to them and give the “thank you” speech.

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After dinner we all went back to the bar to have some drinks. Dennis, Jane, Tim and I played a game of pool; Jane and I were on one team, with Dennis and Tim on another. They barely beat us, which was surprising because Jane and I weren’t that good (she was far better than me!).

Joana took over the role of DJ and played music from her iPhone over the speakers while she sat on the bar. She played several songs by the Backstreet Boys, including “I Want It That Way” and “Everybody (Backstreet’s Back)” and we all (Jane, Max, Linda and me… along with the other girls) sang along to them.

After playing pool we played a game called Heads Up, which is an app that Jane had on her iPhone. One person holds the phone up to their forehead and different words are displayed; the other players must describe the word and get the player to say it. There are several categories, including animals, movies, songs, and “act it out”. Finally, we all played one final game of 5,000 to finish out the evening. We played just five quick rounds and didn’t bother keeping score.

I went to bed around 22:30, but several people stayed up until well after midnight.

Monday, 10 October

We were up around 04:00 this morning so we could hit the road early; we had a drive of around 400km to reach Victoria Falls and we wanted to get there as early as possible. Hana only had the afternoon to see the falls, so we all wanted to make sure that she had enough time to really explore the falls.

We all said goodbye to Larry and set off down the road. We opted to skip breakfast before leaving, choosing to stop along the side of the road around 08:00 for a quick breakfast of coffee, tea and cereal. The border crossing into Zimbabwe was quick and easy. This was the one country that I needed to buy a visa at the border as I wasn’t able to get one in advance; thankfully the visa only cost $30 and was quite simple.

We made a quick stop in town at the Shearwater Tour office so we could book any option activities we wanted to do the following day. Several people opted to visit the Devil’s Pool (an area right on the edge of the Falls where one can swim); the price was rather high ($150), so I decided to just do the sunset booze cruise the following evening. The entire group (except for Dennis, Cynthia, and Hana) signed up for the booze cruise as well, making it the final group event that we would have.

Our arrival at the hotel in Victoria Falls was rather chaotic though. The truck arrived and we all piled out, grabbing our luggage, and rushing to check in. The first half of the tour officially ended when we arrived at the hotel, so we were now on our own. To my dismay, they did not have me registered to stay at the hotel that evening – despite the night being listed on the official voucher that I received from Nomad! They needed some time to sort things out, so Max let me take my bags to his room while I waited. I got to shave, cut my hair, and shower in his room as well, which was really nice and refreshing.

Finally, Nomad called the hotel to speak with me. The hotel was fully booked, so they booked me in a different hotel on the other side of town (about a 10-15 minute walk from the current hotel). They also arranged for a shuttle to come take me to the new hotel. I wasn’t too happy about the arrangement, but there was nothing else to be done. Max, Jane and Linda accompanied me over to the new hotel as we were planning to explore the town before dinner.

The new hotel turned out to be truly amazing! It was the Ilala Lodge and it was a palace compared to the Rainbow Lodge where I was supposed to stay. The lobby was incredibly nice with a huge restaurant/bar area overlooking the Falls. My room was on the ground floor, with a massive bed and an even bigger bathroom; I even had French doors opening onto the back lawn of the hotel. When we arrived, we were served complimentary juices while waiting to check in.

After basking in the luxury of the hotel, we headed out into the town to do some exploring (and to get a cold drink – the heat was insane!). We passed by a few souvenir shops and even found a restaurant that advertised zebra burgers and giraffe ribs for dinner (I wanted to go eat there for dinner, but TK told us that they would be ripping us off; since we wouldn’t know the difference between the meats, they’d really serve us something cheaper and claim it was zebra). We finally made our way to the Shearwater Café, where we had some iced coffees and cold beers while playing a few rounds of Uno – the perfect way to relax on a hot day!

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The group had planned to have dinner at the Rainbow Lodge restaurant; they prepared a buffet dinner, but I decided to skip eating because it was quite expensive ($30 per person!). I relaxed with a few beers and chatted with people during the meal. TK and Nyika joined us for dinner, which was really great; I was glad to get to see them one more time before setting off on the second half of the tour.

Nyika and TK truly made the first half of this African trip amazing. They were always smiling, friendly, and fun to be around. They would joke around with us and put up with our ridiculousness all the time. We were all truly sad to have to say goodbye to them; I wish they were able to continue on to Cape Town with us!

After dinner, Max, Jane, and Linda all walked me back to my hotel, which I really appreciated. The town wasn’t dangerous or anything; it was just nice to have the company during the walk. I settled into my room and turned on CNN to catch up on the news and get some work done – I finally had a good wifi connection and I had a lot to catch up on! I finally went to bed shortly after midnight.

Tuesday, 11 October

I wasn’t able to sleep in at the hotel as the shuttle taking me back to the Rainbow Lodge was due to arrive around 07:00. Thankfully I was able to get some breakfast before heading out. The cold spread was buffet style and there was a full menu of hot dishes to choose from; I grabbed some pastries and ordered pancakes as well. The pancakes were served with fresh cream and berries – delicious!!

I met up with Max back at the Rainbow Lodge and sat with him while he had breakfast. At 08:00 we met up with our new tour guide, Norman, and driver, Captain Fadz. They both seem like good guys; not quite as relaxed and fun-loving as Nyika and TK, but still very nice. Some of the group was at the Devil’s Pool in the morning and so we didn’t get a full briefing, but we did get to meet a German couple who was on our tour (Christian/Chris and Svenja); they were very friendly. Included with the second tour was an entrance ticket to Victoria Falls; Max and I opted to do the Falls without our group as we’d planned to visit the falls with people from our first tour group (we weren’t aware that our new group would be going together when we made the original plans). Thankfully Norman said that we just needed to give him our ticket receipts and he’d reimburse us.

Max and I met up with Jane after her new tour briefing; she was starting a 9-day tour that mirrors our tour as well for the first few days, before heading to Johannesburg. Linda met us in the lobby, along with Fritz and Mika. Together we all walked through town and over to the Victoria Falls park entrance, which only took us about 20 minutes. By the time we reached the Falls, we were all quite hot and sweaty from the heat and humidity.

We made our way through the park, following the path around to the various lookout points. The first one was the Devil’s Cataract, which I found to be stunning and the best part of the Falls. The force of the water was incredible.

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As we were walking along we met up with Chris and Svenja, who joined us as we walked along the path. It was fun getting to chat, getting to know them better. Max wasted no time in showing them the tattoo of Germany on my left arm – such a good first impression to make! Thankfully they weren’t put off by my inexplicable love and devotion to Germany! LOL

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One area of the path let us through an area that seemed like it was raining – the mist from the falls was so intense that it got us quite wet. There were about 17 lookout points for us to stop along and take some pictures.

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The final lookout point was called Danger Point and it was aptly named: it was a series of rocks right on the edge of the canyon without any guard rail to stop one from falling over. This area of the falls was quite dry and there were only a few tiny falls coming down, but this also made the Point safer as the rocks weren’t wet from the mist. I didn’t get too close to the edge, but I got close enough that I could look over and see down.

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We then retraced our steps and made our way to the final lookout point near the entrance, which also had a statue of David Livingstone, the first European to see the Falls and who named them.

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We met up with the rest of our first tour group at the café near the entrance; I had a milkshake to help cool down with. Then we all took our new Nomad truck back to the Rainbow Lodge so we could pick up our tour t-shirts. The day before a man came to our truck to sell us some custom t-shirts for our tour; we could pick from a variety of prints on the front and sleeves, as well as put the map of our tour on the back of the shirt. I ordered a green shirt, with a map of Africa on the front that was made up of different animals, the flags of the countries we visited on the right sleeve, the map of the full tour on the back, and a rhino on the left sleeve with “Rhino Max” written beneath it.

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After collecting our shirts, which were amazing, Max, Linda and I headed back into town to meet up with Jane at the Shearwater Café for lunch. I had my heart set on pizza, so Jane and I split a pizza. I ordered another iced coffee and then a beer with my meal. After eating we headed out to do some shopping at the local shops. There were tons of tiny shops around and everyone kept approaching us to have us buy something; they were rather pushy and quite annoying. I found a wooden rhino that I liked and I managed to haggle the guy down 50% from the price he stated. Max bought an amazing tablecloth that was hand-made.

We went back to the Rainbow Hotel so we could all catch the sunset cruise at 16:10. The cruise had a few people besides our group, but we went to the top floor of the boat to party and relax. I grabbed a Fanta and water to start the night off, but quickly graduated to beer (though I only had three beers throughout the 3-hour tour). Everyone else went with a gin and tonic, which became the staple drink for the evening (the bar ran out of tonic by the end of the night). Snack food was also served during the cruise, which was quite nice.

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During the cruise we saw several hippos in the water, quite a few crocodiles, and some elephants. Throughout the entire cruise we were busy taking tons of photographs with everyone. I’ll let the photos speak for themselves and show how much fun we all had on the boat. It was an amazing final night with everyone – the best way to say goodbye to everyone.

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ME, JANE, MAX, LINDA

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MAITE, JOANA, RAFA, EMMA

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ME AND "MI AMORS" - MAITE, JOANA, RAFA

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When we got back from the cruise, we headed over to the Shearwater Café again, this time for our first group dinner with the new tour group. Rafa and Joana stayed at the hotel, but Max and I went to the dinner. Norman told us that it would just be nine of us for the first week or so of the tour (Joana, Rafa, Max, Chris, Svenja, Maitsie, plus two German girls, Siri and Jamine), which was fantastic – plus our new tour truck, Miles, has USB charging stations at every seat! This is going to be a luxury tour in comparison to East Africa!

We spent dinner getting to know one another and spent some time after dinner was over chatting. I immediately felt at ease with everyone and knew that we’d all have a great time together. Jane was at her new tour group’s dinner at the same café, but headed back to the hotel for their briefing. Max and I went back to the hotel to get our things together for departure the next day. As we were leaving, everyone from our first group arrived at the café to have dinner. Mika came by to say goodbye to us, which was really touching. She gave me a big hug and mentioned how much she enjoyed getting to spend time with me on the tour. I truly enjoyed getting to know her and Fritz; being in their 70s, I hadn’t expected them to keep up with everyone, but they were always right there with us. I hope I’m like them when I reach their age.

We didn’t stay, but said that we would come back. We went back to the hotel to get ready to depart in the morning. While packing we turned on the TV and watched “Spectre” for a little while. Around 21:30 we decided to head back to the café so we could say goodbye to everyone.

It was great to see Tim and Linda one last time. We arrived just as they were paying their bill and we all walked over to a nearby hostel bar, but we didn’t end up staying with everyone. Max, Linda and I said goodbye to everyone before walking back to the hotel. Max and I said goodbye to Linda at her room, which was rather sad. I really felt that we’d made a good connection and I consider Linda to be a good friend; I wish that she was able to come with us on the rest of the tour.

Posted by Glichez 07:50 Archived in Zimbabwe Comments (0)

Road to Zanzibar and Malawi


View World Tour 2016 on Glichez's travel map.

Another long blog update, covering over a week. The wifi here hasn't been cooperative enough for me to post more frequently.

Sunday, 25 September

Today was uneventful: a full day of driving lay before us. We had to drive around 550km, from Arusha to Bagomoyo.

We had returned to the same campsite in Arusha, which was nice. The drive to Bagomoyo was quite long. Since there wasn’t much going on during the day, I’ll illustrate a typical day spent driving on the truck.

We’re usually up early to take down our tents and pack up the truck before heading in to have breakfast. Our amazing driver, TK, and guide, Nyka, have been making us some truly amazing food thus far on the trip. Breakfast has been hearty and filling, with toast, coffee or tea, fruit, and occasionally something hot (like French Toast). We have a short time to eat the breakfast before we need to wash up our dishes and board the truck to leave.

We while away the time on the truck talking with one another, reading, sleeping, or playing cards (there is an area at the front of the truck where four people can sit and play games on a small freezer). I’ve done a considerable amount of time reading and listening to music (I’ve been finishing my history of the Crimean War).

Around midday we find a nice place to pull over on the side of the road for lunch. We all help get the tables and chairs setup outside the truck and occasionally help TK and Nyka with the lunch (for example, washing or cutting up veggies; wiping off the plates; organizing the silverware). Lunches are sometimes quick affairs where we just have a sandwich (which is still quite filling); other days they can make more elaborate meals (ie. hamburgers).

The afternoon is spent driving and entertaining ourselves. Once we arrive at our campsite late in the afternoon, we have to scramble out to get our tents put up. The tents are quite easily to put up and down, thankfully. After the first day we got the hang of it and have become experts at it. The tents themselves leave something to be desired; they smell rather musty, but are large enough to fit two people. Max and I have been taking turns sharing a tent with Larry, who prefers to share a tent with someone rather than have one to himself.

Dinner is typically around 19:00 or 19:30, which gives us some time to shower and relax before eating. We usually check email (if the wifi is working), have drinks, and play cards (either Carbo or Uno).

The campsite in Bagomoyo was decent and went spent a quiet evening there.

Monday, 26 September

Today was the start of our excursion to Zanzibar – and some much needed relaxation on the beach!

We drove a short distance (70km) to Dar es Salaam, where we boarded the ferry to Zanzibar. Prior to boarding the ferry, we walked over to a small supermarket to stock up on some snacks. The ferry ride itself took just around two hours. We cornered two rows at the front of the boat; I spent the time on the boat reading and listening to music.

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Upon arrival in Zanzibar we had to go through passport control (strange, given the fact that Zanzibar is part of Tanzania…). The arrivals hall was pure chaos as everyone from the boat was scrambling to collect their luggage and clear passport control. We had all packed a small day bag for our excursion and left our large bags locked away on the truck in Dar es Salaam, so we weren’t part of the mad rush. Nyka stayed behind with the truck, while TK journeyed to Zanzibar with his wife for holiday.

The excursion was handled through a third party provider, Sun Tours, who met us outside the ferry terminal. Our guide, JJ, took us to our lodgings for the night and left us to relax and explore for the rest of the day. We reached the hotel around 15:00; we were all in hotel/bungalow rooms during the stay in Zanzibar, which was amazing!

The hotel was right on the beach, so we all unpacked and them headed out to the beach to relax. The beach was quite pretty and clean. We lounged around on the beach, chatting and soaking in the sun while drinking beers. I also spent a little bit reading more of my book. We had nothing to worry about, no plans; nothing to do but kick back until dinner.

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Dinner was served buffet-style in the hotel restaurant overlooking the ocean. We spent some time hanging out, playing cards again after dinner before retiring for the night.

Tuesday, 27 September

Larry and I decided to wake up at 04:00 this morning so we could watch the first presidential debate on the BBC. Surprisingly we stayed awake for the entire debate too! I rather enjoyed watching Hillary take on Trump, though I wanted to scream at some of the ridiculous things that he would say. Once the debate ended, we went back to sleep. I hadn’t planned to monitor anything election-related during this trip, but I am quite glad that I was able to watch the debate.

Today we had a few guided tours arranged before we got to relax on the beach again in the afternoon.

After breakfast at the hotel, we met back up with JJ for a guided walking tour of Stonetown, the city where we first arrived. The town was rather interesting to get to explore. We first got to see the so-called “House of Wonder”… which is anything but nowadays. It is a massive, old colonial-style building with a clock tower on the top. The part that made this house so wondrous was the fact that it had a lift in it! The city planned to use it as a museum, but abandoned those plans as it continued to deteriorate.

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We walked on through a small square near the port before heading into the city’s fort, which was built by the Portuguese. Inside the fort there was a large amphitheater and then several stalls where we did some souvenir shopping. I bought myself a necklace and an artsy picture of a rhino (the mascot for this tour!). All of the vendors swarmed to Larry for some reason, pushing their wares on him; I said that I think it is because he’s always got a smile on his face and he seems approachable.

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We left the fort behind and started going through the city proper, stopping outside of the house where Freddy Mercury was born (yes – the lead singer from Queen was born in Zanzibar). There were several signs outside the house to commemorate his birth there.

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Afterwards we spent a little while walking around a shopping street, buying more souvenirs. Some shops had some truly amazing paintings for sale displayed along the street. I bought my sister a postcard, but otherwise refrained from buying anything else. Rafa stopped in a so-called dollar store (though nothing actually cost a dollar); she found a collection of friendship bracelets there and called me over. She had the idea of buying seven of them, one for each member of Team Rhinomax. We tried to negotiate with the vendor, but he wouldn’t come down in price (we offered $1 each, but he wanted $10 for the seven), so we left. As we were preparing to leave the area, the vendor ran up to us and agreed to the price of $1 each.

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The next stop of the walking tour was rather somber and sad: the museum of slavery. The slave trade had been a major part of business in Zanzibar, with slaves being brought to Stonetown and being sold there. We went inside a church that had been built on the site where the slaves were sold. The slaves were brought to the town, kept in chains in a small room for two days, then whipped with a stingray tail while tied to a post to test their strength, and then sold. Inside the church was a small circular tile near the altar where the whipping post was located.

Outside of the church was a memorial to the slaves: several statues of slaves in chains, and the chains were some of the chains that were used by slaves! It was haunting.

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Nearby was a very nice museum that we explored, detailing out the history of the African slave trade in Zanzibar (which was only abolished late in the 1800s). In the basement were two of the original rooms where the slaves were kept for two days, without food or water. The rooms were very small and there were usually 50 to 75 people in each room. This experience really hammered home the cruelty and brutality of slavery; I kept thinking that half of the United States had fought a war to maintain those horrors.

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The final stop in Stonetown was the fish market, which smelled awful! Joana and I were reluctant to go inside, but we hurried through the place. There were a lot of stalls with squids on display, as well as on with some massive stingrays. We found our way to the vegetable vendors and the smell instantly cleared up.

We boarded the bus and headed off to our second event of the day: a tour of a spice farm. Upon arrival we were met by two guys who worked there; they weaved frond necklaces for everyone (ties for the men, frogs for the women). We were shown around the various spice plants, where we could smell and taste several of them. Later on we saw a guy climb a palm tree to retrieve coconuts, during which we was singing and dancing around. Once he was done we were all treated to our own coconut.

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Lunch was at the spice farm and was ok, nothing spectacular. We all sat on the ground around a communal tablecloth (I was reminded of meals from Iran). The spice farm was just so-so; it was interesting to see the different plants, but they kept bombarding us to buy products and to tip everyone, which got quite annoying.

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Once we were done eating, we headed out to the town of Nungwi, where our next lodging was located. This was another hotel and we stayed here for two days; I was lucky to get the single room during this stay. Previous travelers had mentioned in their reviews that many of them had been robbed at the hotel (the hotel staff would steal things from their rooms), so I was very careful with my valuables.

Several of us headed out to the beach to relax, but it was not nearly as nice a beach as our previous hotel.

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Next to us on the beach was a very attractive guy who we surmised must be a gymnast as he was doing various gymnastic moves on the beach: stretching, handstands, leg lifts, etc. I... may have "accidentally" turned me camera his way and he... may have ended up in some of my photos. How that happened is beyond me...

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Thankfully the hotel was located on the beach and had a wonderful outdoor bar/restaurant where we went to relax during happy hour. The drink service was extremely slow, taking nearly an hour to get our first drinks (the drinks themselves were quite weak).

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During the buffet dinner I sat next to Dennis; he kept playing some amazingly hilarious videos; I was laughing so hard that I was crying.

Wednesday, 28 September

Today was a day for relaxation for me and several of the girls. There were two optional activities (snorkeling or diving) that several people opted to go on, but I decided to spend the day at the hotel. Sadly the weather was not very good and it rained most of the day.

After breakfast, Rafa and Joana walked out to the beach; Maite and I stayed behind and had a shot to start the day off.

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Rafa, Joana, Maite and I walked into the small village to find some snacks and alcohol. Our plans for the day revolved around relaxing and drinking. We wandered across the main square to a small shop, but it was an Islamic shop and thus didn’t sell alcohol; we were directed to a different store. After visiting two different shops that sold alcohol, we settled on some vodka and mango juice.

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Back at the hotel Rafa and Joana mixed up our drinks using some empty water bottles. We had planned to walk out along the beach, but the rain began to pick up, so we returned to the hotel restaurant. Oddly, we came across several cows on the beach and then some dogs ran up and began barking at them.

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We ran into TK and his wife at the hotel restaurant; they kindly agreed to look after our bags while we went swimming in the pool. It was raining quite a bit, but it was quite wonderful getting to swim around. We brought our drinks over to the pool to enjoy while we relaxed there. As a thank you to TK, I bought him and his wife each a beer.

We continued drinking throughout the afternoon. When those who went snorkeling returned, we all hung out around the pool. I took a break to head back to my room so I could trim my hair and work on my blog update (this was the update for the Serengeti, not this one… I was behind in my writing).

When I rejoined the group we were all playing cards and drinking before dinner. Dinner was rather good and filling. Two of the people from our group were leaving us the following day and we were getting two new people upon our return to Dar es Salaam; we joked that we should all go by different names when meeting the new people. I decided to be Yuri from Estonia (I’d vowed to be “Estonian” during the trip).

After dinner… it was a rough night. Continued drinking by all. Much debauchery. I eventually passed out. And puked. Klassy, with a capital K. This pictures... speak for themselves. Good times were had by all!

I’m now called Yuri by one and all – including Nyka and TK.

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Thursday, 29 September

Ugh… this morning. I was surprisingly only lightly hung over; more exhausted than anything. I was the first person out to breakfast, where I forced myself to eat something. It was a rough morning… I napped on the bus back to Stonetown, hoping that I could just sleep until we got to Dar es Salaam, where I would just crawl into bed (we had another night with a hotel room).

The ferry back to Dar es Salaam was pure hell. The crossing was rough, with the boat pitching around quite a bit. The crew handed out sick bags to everyone and a vast majority of the people onboard did get sick during the crossing. I sat in my seat and tried to sleep, but spent the entire ride with my eyes closed hoping to not get sick. Thankfully I made it… barely.

Back in Dar es Salaam we had to take the BRT bus from the terminal to our hotel. The bus was packed and at each successive stop more people would cram onto the bus. The ride lasted about 15 minutes and then we were able to check in to the hotel. Larry opted to have the single room, so Max and I had to share. When we reached the room, we discovered that there was only one bed (and the door would barely open). The staff moved Max into his own room at no additional cost.

Larry and I walked a short way down the road outside the hotel before deciding against further exploration. Upon returning to the hotel I went back to my room to finish my Serengeti blog while watching the BBC.

The hotel left a lot to be desired: keys wouldn’t work for many of the rooms; lights didn’t work; the water for the showers ran out (I thankfully got a nice warm shower in before that happened). Dinner was alright; I ate a lot of the fried rice, which helped to settle my stomach. After the events of the previous night I vowed to refrain from drinking during the rest of the trip, so I had a Coke instead. Two new people joined our group at dinner, replacing the German couple who left in Zanzibar: Jane from the UK and Linda from the Netherlands.

After dinner we played cards again before I finally went to bed around 22:00.

Friday, 30 September

Today was spent on a long drive: around 300km from Dar es Salaam to Mikumi. There was nothing exciting about the drive.

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The campsite was rather dodgy and unpleasant. Prior tours had been robbed at this location, so we were all hyper-aware of our belongings. There were random animal statues throughout the site that were quite strange. There was also a small pool that looked questionable; none of us went swimming. There was even an empty “Snake House” building in the complex; I was very glad that there were no snakes. The place had ants everywhere!

We spent the evening playing cards before and after dinner.

Saturday, 1 October

Today we started with an early morning game drive through the Mikumi National Park. Team Rhino Max reunited for this game drive. Sadly, the game drive was not very exciting (we were spoiled by our excursion to the Serengeti!). The drive lasted roughly four hours.

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We saw several giraffes, zebras, and buffalo on our way into the park. The first giraffe was right next to the road and quickly started to walk away. Rafa yelled after it “Come back bitch! I paid for you bitch!” The giraffe just ignored her though!

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The true highlight of the game drive was watching some lionesses preparing to hunt a giraffe! We drove up to the lone giraffe and saw two lionesses slowly stalking it, each one coming from a different direction. Sadly, they decided not to go for the kill and walked away after a little while. We waited around for a few more minutes to see if they would change their minds or go for a different kill, but no luck. Had we been able to follow them around the park all morning, we were sure that we would have seen a kill; the lions were hungry and clearly on the hunt for something. As we were leaving that area, Maite yelled at the giraffe “You’re supposed to die today, bitch!”

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The next highlight was seeing a crocodile on the side of the road, right next to a watering hole. The trucks pulled up and we were able to get out to walk around. The crocodile was perhaps 10 feet from where we were standing; just lying there soaking up the sun. We cautiously took several photos, the girls deciding to take some selfies with the sleeping crocodile.

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The last thing we saw was a small herd of elephants, including a mother elephant with her baby. We got to sit around and watch them for a few minutes before it was time to return to our campsite.

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Upon arriving back at camp, we broke down our tents and had lunch before setting out on our drive for the day. It was a short drive, around 200km, to reach our next campsite in Iringa. Camp for the night was in a very charming complex with small huts and bungalows dotted around it. We gathered outside of our tents to play some cards before having dinner.

Dinner was prepared by the staff at the site inside their restaurant and was served by candlelight. After dinner a few of us went to the bar in the next room over to have a brownie; it was the first true dessert that we’d had on the trip and tasted so damn good! I decided to head to be around 21:00 as we had to be up at 04:30 the next morning for a very early start to the day. On the way back to the tents I met Dennis and Cynthia; they were taking some pictures of the night sky. Once again we were able to see an incredible amount of start, including the band of the Milky Way. No matter how many times I see a night sky like that, it will always be breathtaking. Dennis tried to take some pictures with me included, but I ended up looking like a strange space alien: my face was a bright spot among the darkness, which was hilarious.

Sunday, 2 October

Today was the longest day that we’ve yet had on the trip, but it wasn’t as terrible as it may sound. We were up at 04:30 to break down the tents, pack, and have breakfast. We hit the road around 05:30 so we could make the 465km drive to northern Lake Malawi. The distance may not sound too bad, but this is Africa and roads are awful. The road heading out of Tanzania was particularly bad as the main road was under construction, so we were forced to used several detours that were littered with potholes. The truck (and us inside of it) were bounced all over the place for quite a long time.

Passport control leaving Tanzania was a breeze: we simply walked up to the window, the female officer was incredibly friendly as she quickly stamped our passports and we left.

The border crossing into Malawi was the… “highlight” of the day. Nyka had warned us that the Malawi border guards were very corrupt and would often try to exert a bribe from people. The typical procedure revolved around claiming that one needed an invitation letter to receive a visa; this is bogus as no letter is required and the visa can be obtained at the border. However, buying this “letter” effectively means the money goes into the pocket of the border guard. This problem only affected those who had to actually get a visa at the border; thankfully I had obtained mine before leaving the United States (along with the other visas I needed for this trip). Nevertheless, I was still apprehensive when we arrived.

I filled out the entry card and handed it over to the guard with my passport open to my Malawi visa. He studied it all for a minute and then started asking me a question; it was hard to hear him and I was worried that he was going to make me pay something extra. All he wanted to know was whether my visa was single-entry or multiple-entry (mine was multi-entry). He stamped my passport and I was done.

Those who had to get a visa did so without any issues and no one needed to buy the mysterious invitation letter. However, we ran into a major problem when their processing system went down before they could process our truck through. The system was down from 13:00 to 16:00, effectively stranding us at the border. Nyka and TK were highly annoyed and it quickly became clear that this wasn’t a form of corruption that money could solve. We simply had to wait since they had to manual process in place for this eventuality.

After about an hour, Nyka and TK managed to arrange for the truck to go through the border gate and pull over so they could make us lunch (by this point it was 15:00 and we hadn’t eaten since 05:30!). While lunch was being made, the rest of the visas were issued and the system came back up. As we were leaving after lunch we discovered the real reason for what happened: the border control office was without electricity!

We drove on for roughly two more hours before finally arriving at our campsite right on the beach of Lake Malawi. We were rather disappointed with the site as it seemed run down. Those with actual accommodations had rooms that were extremely hot without any air flow. Those of us in tents pitched them in spots on the sandy hill heading down to the beach. Larry, Max and I setup our tents closest to the beach.

Jane and I explored the campsite for a little bit and found a charming little bar area overlooking the beach. The more we explored, the better the campsite appeared. We hung out at the bar area after dinner, chatting before taking a night stroll along the beach. We also met the manager of the facility, who is an American from St Louis; she is here in Malawi for a year doing volunteer work. The campsite belongs to the charity organization and helps the locals.

Monday, 3 October

Despite not having to be up for breakfast until 08:30, many of us were up around 05:00. The sun had already risen and so I decided to do some reading. I finished my Crimean War book and was now starting to read “Atlas Shrugged” (my second time reading this amazing book). I found a seat under a tree overlooking the beach and settled in to read for a while. It was the most relaxing and enjoyable morning of the trip yet!

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After breakfast we headed out for a two-hour walking tour of the village, guided by three locals. They were involved with the charity organization, which focuses on education for the locals, especially helping them to get into university; the three guides were awaiting their entrance exam results to see if they were accepted into university.

We walked by the elementary school, where the children rushed to greet us. Most of them were eating their breakfast of porridge, which is provide free by the school (this food is often the incentive to send a kid to school). We took several pictures with the kids and were shown around their classroom; there were around 120 kids at the school, split into two classrooms where they were taught spelling, math, morals, etc.

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Later we visited the primary school and got to interact with the children some more. They were all so happy and energetic. They loved to see the pictures that we took of them; they would gather around the cameras and get huge smiles as they looked at themselves in the pictures.

Our next stop was the local health clinic, where we were shown around by one of the attendants. We were shown the maternity ward, where mothers would recover after giving birth, as well as the room where the babies were born. They had an extensive family planning program, including providing condoms free to locals and contraception options. We got to meet the head doctor of the clinic, as well as see the female and male ward rooms for those people needing to stay for longer periods of time. The attendant told us that the number of people with AIDS had been declining in recent years, which is really promising to hear. Sadly the beds and equipment they had to use were old and run down, but they made the most of what they had and what they received (which was very little).

The last stop was a goat house, which is part of a woman empowerment effort; the women take care of the goats and other animals, learning farming and other essential skills to help make them self-sufficient so they can make good livings on their own (ie. without being beholden to a man).

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The charity organization supports all of these areas of the village, helping to improve the lives of the locals. Their main problem is a lack of money; they have tons of kids wanted to attend school, but not enough money to pay for them all. The village tour was a really moving experience and was really enjoyable (despite the fact that it was insanely hot!). It really emphasized the struggles that millions in Africa go through on a daily basis; hammering home the incredible differences between the luxuries of the Western World with the poverty of Africa, especially here in Malawi (the poorest country in Africa). It was encouraging to hear how many young people are eager to get a higher education though; more education will help the process of improvement.

I spent the afternoon back at the bar, doing some work. A soccer game with the locals was held on the beach; Max, Tim and Larry went down to participate. Today was Maite’s 30th birthday, so she and the girls (Rafa, Joana, Hana, and Emma) spent the day relaxing at the beach before starting in on the drinks they brought from Tanzania (vodka). Larry joined them after the game; by dinner time they were all rather tipsy and having a good time.

There was a store next to the campsite that sold a lot of local handicrafts, including hand carved keychains. The guy who owned the shop would carve them within 20 minutes or so: an animal on one side and words on the other side. Max and I headed over to negotiate with him to order seven keychains for Team Rhino Max. We got him to agree to a price of $3.50 each, which was a discount from the original price of $5 each. Several people had ordered similar items from the guy, so it took him a long time to get them all done. He brought them around to us after dinner while we were at the bar and they were truly amazing.

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I eventually met up with Jane, Max and Linda to play some cards. This time I taught them how to play “5,000” - the card game that I had learned in Seattle when I lived with Caleb; we’d played the game for hours on the weekends with some of his friends, while drinking (often mimosas). Here in Malawi, I drank Fanta (orange, passionfruit, or pineapple) instead of alcohol. They all caught on to the game really quickly and we played for hours before dinner. Linda started out kicking our asses, before taking a break to shower; we continued playing and by the time Linda rejoined us, Jane had FINALLY caught up to Linda’s score! We took a break for dinner before resuming the card game afterwards. By this point the luck was with Jane, who clobbered the three of us.

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After dinner, Nyka and TK surprised Maite by presenting her with a cake they baked for her birthday! We had jokingly asked them about it on the first night and I was surprised that they’d been able to pull it off (there is no oven with the truck, so I didn’t think baking a cake would be possible). It was a great treat and we all sang “Happy Birthday” to Maite.

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Another Nomad Tours truck had arrived in the afternoon and they were gathered eating dinner next to us; they must have thought that we were an insane crowd, being so loud and obnoxious (by this point half of the group had been drinking all afternoon, but it was all in good fun). Everyone came to the bar after dinner to continue partying (this was during our card game, so we weren’t involved with the drinking too much.

Larry had been drinking quite a bit by this point; after dinner we left him at the truck, where he was repacking him bags (he’d bought quite a few souvenirs from a local shop in the morning). He briefly mentioned to Max that he wanted to go swimming, but since it was dark at this point, we thought he was just talking. About an hour later, as we were playing cards, we realized that Larry wasn’t around. Being the only four people who were sober, we split up to go find Larry: Max and Linda searched the complex and tents, while Jane and I headed down to the beach. We were worried that perhaps he actually had gone swimming! The two groups met up where the tents met the beach, not having found Larry. Thankfully I spotted Larry a dozen meters or so ahead of us on the beach; he was laying down, using his backpack as a pillow. We woke him up and brought him back to the bar.

After playing a few more rounds of cards, we all decided to head to bed. Several people (Larry included) were scheduled to be up at 05:30 in the morning so they could go for a morning hike.

All told it was a good day! True to my vow after my rough night in Zanzibar, I’ve refrained from drinking since!

Tuesday, 4 October

I was up early this morning once again, waking around 05:00, primarily because the sun had already risen and I didn’t want to waste the day away. To my surprise, everyone who had signed up for the hike managed to make it up on time! I wished them a good day and then settled in to read more in “Atlas Shrugged” while sitting on a beach chair.

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After breakfast I went to the bar area to get some work done before returning to my beach chair to read some more. There was a nice area under a large tree that we had gathered several of the beach chairs; Rafa, Joana and others were there relaxing and soaking up the sun as well.

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Lunch today was truly amazing: steak and pasta salad. Nyka truly outdid himself today. The hiking group hadn’t returned by lunch, so those of us who stayed behind got to enjoy the meal fresh and hot (the hikers had their lunch when they got back, but it was cold by then). After lunch I spent the entire afternoon reading more. It was amazing and relaxing.

In the evening, Max, Jane, Linda and I gathered to play 5,000 once again. We started around 17:00 and played until dinner at 19:30; we resumed the game after dinner. Unlike last night, Max and I had rather better luck – especially Max. This time Max kept getting great hands of cards and he ended up reaching 5,000 points, clobbering the rest of us:

Linda: 3570
Jane: 2780
Max: 5075
Me: 4445

After finishing the game, we all decided to head in to bed so we could get up and head down to central Lake Malawi in the morning.

Wednesday, 5 October

We set off early this morning to our next campsite, further south on Lake Malawi. Our drive was around 350km, but we made a stop at a local supermarket to stock up on snacks and water. We were all surprised by how nice the supermarket was, I felt like I was in a Western store! I grabbed some Pringles and candy since I still had three bottles of water left in the truck.

After the shopping stop, a few of us (Max, Jane, Larry, Rafa and me) played Uno at the front of the truck. Today was the day for Max and me to sit at the front of the truck, so we gathered everyone up to join us. I played two rounds before having to bow out as I started to feel some motion sickness.

We reached the campsite around 13:00 and quickly setup our tents before having lunch (burgers!). The campsite was on the beach and we were all eager to get out to enjoy the sunshine and relaxation. During lunch we noticed several monkeys climbing around the trees nearby.

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After lunch I settled into a chair under an umbrella to spend some time absorbed in my book. Max came and joined me; we spent a couple of hours in quiet relaxation reading. Later on, Max went and joined some others for a game of volleyball. I went and watched them play for a bit, but I didn’t feel like joining (despite their asking several times).

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After dinner, Max, Jane, Linda and I gathered to play cards again; we settled on playing 5,000 once again. Linda became a natural at the game, constantly kicking our butts by going out early on in each round. We were constantly asking her if she was going out!

Linda: 1710
Max: 1940
Jane: (355)
Me: 780

Posted by Glichez 06:43 Archived in Zambia Comments (0)

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