Snake Park

Day 310 and 311, Friday / Saturday 09/10 November 2012 – Snake Park, Arusha, Tanzania

I had been looking forward to this day for a wee while. It was the day when everyone on the tour but me left for an overnight trip to the Serengeti. I had elected to not take the trip for a number of reasons, one of which was the cost, almost 600 NZD to stay in a tent overnight in the national park. Yes, I could afford it – sort of, and if I had a job to go to I probably would had done it. However two days of relaxing almost on my own was something I was really looking forward to. I have been used to being solo for so much of 2012. Forty one days of sharing my space with a group was draining me and I was starting to get a bit tetchy – and I was not the only one. Myself and the rest of the curmudgeon club were starting to get restless.

It was another restless night, very noisy again and it rained briefly but heavily around 2:30 am, fortunately Leonie heard it before me and got up to close the rain flaps on the tent while I stayed dry in my sleeping bag – yes it has been sleeping bag weather. I was really surprised that I have been using my sleeping bag so much, I am very glad I bought it.

It is the last full day with the truck for most people so Ebron cooked up bacon and eggs for breakfast. I was planning on not eating as I so badly over indulged the night before, but meh – bacon and eggs, they have to be eaten πŸ™‚

Everyone was packed and off on the new adventure for 8:30

I helped clean up the site and pack the truck for our planned departure at 10:00. However, the truck battery was dead flat so it was another two hours of hanging around Kudu camp waiting for the battery to charge enough to start the truck. The battery final had enough charge just as the kettle boiled.

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We were finally on the way back to Arusha and Snake Park just before 1:00. I rode up in the cab with Will and Ebron and I very much enjoyed the journey. Sitting up front does give you a whole new perspective on the roads and how to drive them – I got to experience first hand what all the honking was for. We arrived in Snake Park at 3:00 and had couple of their delicious home made burgers for lunch. I put up my tent and spent the rest of the day doing very little. With only having one mattress in the tent it was not configured normally – so the first time I went into it after setting it up I stood on my new Riy Don sun glasses and broke the arm off them. Damnit, The last pair lasted two years, this pair has lasted three days, lucky they were cheap.

I had a beer in the bar with Will and then went and watched a movie – Machete in the truck and then went to bed early, didn’t feel like eating after that late lunch and a night off was a good idea. Sadly the rest of the camp ground did not subscribe to that at all and made noise all night.

So I was a little grumpy when I woke on Saturday morning, the last full day of the tour. I had breakfast with Will and Ebron and they spent the rest of the day working on their part of the truck.

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I mooched around for a bit, walked around and saw the snakes in their glass enclosures. Even behind glass they scare me !

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I still had some data left on the plan I bought from Vodafone NZ so had a play and set my phone up as a wifi hotspot and managed to connect to the internet, reception was hopeless sadly so I didn’t get to post any blog entries but I did get a whole lot written. Once everyone had left the campsite I enjoyed a few hours of peace and quiet, with only my tent in sight.

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The others all arrived back in camp a couple of hours earlier than expected and just before the rain set in. There was a quick rush to get all their tents up before the rain came down. We have been so lucky with the weather, this was really only the third shower we have had and the first one that eventually turned into quite a bit of rain.

Soon after they arrived back we cracked a cask of red wine and had a couple of pre-dinner drinks. It was our final meal together, a large spread catered by Snake Park. Post dinner turned into a bit of a drunken mess, most of us stayed up way past our bedtimes, spending the remains of the Tanzanian money in the Snake Park bar. I was wise and stuck to whisky and coke, no mixing drinks this time, except for the few rounds of Jagermeister shots that appeared throughout the evening. Even Bill and Dave, my fellow curmudgeons were up past their bedtimes. It was a good night and a nice way to end the tour.

Lovin’ (in) the Ngorongoro Crater

Day 309, Thursday 08 November 2012 – Kudu Camp,
As seems to the tradition on this leg of the trip I was up far too early again, but today was all worth it, a game drive in the Ngorongoro Crater, something I have been looking forward to for days. The crater is a long extinct volcano that did not explode, it collapsed, creating a large natural bowl that is full of wildlife. A lot of the animals can get in, but cannot get out again. it is also one of the few parks where there are no giraffe – they cannot make the steep climb.

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We were warned to take warm clothes as the drive up can get quite cold and while it was hardly freezing it did get a wee bit chill as we made our way up the side of the crater. On the way into the park we saw the only elephants of the day, and I have no photos as I wasn’t ready. The road in the crater is pretty bad so we have hired four wheel drives and guides to take us through. Our guide was Dave.

We stopped at a view point above the crater for a look down inside. Gorgeous !

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At the view point we met a large group of Maasai men herding cattle and goats into the park, as I said in yesterdays post the Maasai are allowed to feed their live stock where ever they like. Naturally we were not allowed to take photos – though there was a funny moment when a bunch of goats made a run for it and the Maasai and half our group were trying to herd them back – ever seen a New Yorker in his sixties herding goats – I have…

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If you look carefully you can see a Maasai wandering under the trees.

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Wilderbeast

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Ostrich.

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Not long into the game drive we found one of the things we were looking for – Cheetah ! and so did everyone else πŸ™‚

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This was shot at almost the full extent of 200mm lens plus the 2* extender, so it was a way off. The closer shots have been cropped – a lot, so not the sharpest.

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Awesome, we watched her (we think) for a while, but she didn’t seem to be that interested in doing much at all so moved on further into the crater.

A zebra crossing!

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A closer view of a hyena, though this one appeared injured as it was limping when it finally got up and moved.

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We stopped for lunch by the hippo pool. We were all advised to eat in the vehicle as the kites will take food out of your hand. We followed the advice and then watched as a small group arrived and sat down by the pool side to eat. The kites were soon hovering over head – not that they noticed. We all got out to await some action, but sadly one of the other guides told them to get into the vehicle. We, and the kite, left disappointed.

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We watched the hippos for a while – I have never seen hippos roll over before – something new. The pool was quite shallow and there was a lot in it, so I guess this is how they stay wet and cool.

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We saw Buffalo – but not vast herds.

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A kory busterd

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Wart hogs (I still love them)

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Wart hogs and jackals

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And the real highlight of the day – a lion at a fresh kill.

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We soon found a lion couple resting in the wind. They took the opportunity of us all watching to have a quick shag on the road side.

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On the way out we spotted a white rhino – there are six in the park, it was a long way off and we waited for it to come closer but it refused, so this long distance shot is as good as it gets !

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On the way out we passed the Maasai cattle herd, well more like we had to negotiate the cows on the way out, as they weren’t that interested in getting out of the way.

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Once back at the campsite and getting chores out the way Will, Brett, Leonie, Nancy and I went into the village of Karatu and visited one of the local bars for a couple of beers in the sun. As dinner time approached we hired a motorcycle each to take us the kilometre back to camp, it was a load of fun, but the battery died in my phone before the bikes and it was the only camera.

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(sorry, if you hate the photo, it is the only one of the five of us!)

I ate a huge meal, drank a couple of whiskies and went to bed. Another awesome day !

Kili, Kili, Kili !!

Day 308, Wednesday 07 November 2012 – Kudu Camp, Karatu, Tanzania

I slept well until a pre-dawn chorus from about 4:00. Starting with dogs, then roosters, bells and the morning call to prayer. Oh well, at least it was an early night. The good news was the sky was almost clear and we had some great views of Mt Kilimanjaro to enjoy over coffee.

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There were also some fabulous viewing to be had from the roadside once we were through the town of Moshi.

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Mt Meru was not so cloud free this morning.

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The countryside around this part of northern Tanzania is the lushest I have seen in Africa. There are small patches of quite dense native forest scattered amongst the small crop farms – it is all quite green. As we approach the city of Arusha it is obvious that there is more money around here than in the south, more and larger houses and far more private vehicles.

Arusha seems pleasant enough. Everyone on the truck, bar me, is going to do an overnight Serengeti tour in a couple of days. I have elected not to do it as it is close to 600NZD and in my mind not worth it. While they were all off getting frustrated with organising their park entry and accommodation I went and had fish and chopati at a local cafe with Will and Ebron, nice.

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We all went to the mall in Arusha for coffee, cake, internet and shopping – I bought a six pack of beer and a bottle of whisky. There is still a long way to go on this trip πŸ™‚ Security is obviously an issue here!

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We stopped at the cultural centre for those that were interested in buying Tanzanite (a precious stone). I went for a walk around and looked at some of the carvings.

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Lunch was had at Snake Park camp just outside Arusha. We will stay here in a couple of nights time and were here to do a Maasai village tour. While the countryside entering Arusha was lush and green it was the complete opposite on the way out, dry and arid plain lands. The land where the nomadic Maasai people tend their herds.

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The Maasai village tour started with a walk through a cultural museum (and associated retail opportunities) followed by the local clinic – which specialises in snake bites. Snake bite is very common within the Maasai community with admittances daily. The clinic is not funded by government and nor do they charge their patients. The village tours help to fund the anti-venom and other medications. There were two children in with burns as well as a woman bitten by a spitting cobra as we visited.

The village was a fifteen minute walk away, it was really the compound of one man, his ten wives and sixty five children and grand children. Each wife has her own house hence the large compound!IMG 5144

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We were mobbed by the younger children when we arrived. I am not normally a small child magnet, it’s not that they run in fear, they just normally select someone else over me. Inexplicably today was totally different and I spent some time swinging the smaller children around – until I was too dizzy to do it anymore.

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These photos courtesy of Leonie (though she doesn’t know it yet – Β thanks :))

The village visit was interesting, we learnt a bit about Maasai life, this holding was one of the permanent camps an had been in this location for thirty five years. They also build small temporary camps as they move their herds around the area. The Tanzanian government have allowed the Maasai to roam where they like so they can move into areas restricted to other people – where ever there is food for the cattle, goats and sheep. They still practise male circumcision, though female circumcision is illegal. It was unclear if that was in reality still done. Our Maasia guide Olly, and his recycled tyre shoes.

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After the visit we were back in the track for the drive up to Karatu and Kudu Camp our home for two nights. The cloud formations as we were leaving Arusha were fantastic, I have been really enjoying the clouds here. I even stuck the Canon out the window, for the first time…

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The road to Karatu is flat and new, even though there was no wildlife to see, Will said we could open the top hatches to give those on the second leg an opportunity to stand up while we were driving. I took a few photos from out the top and then the glare guard on my 70-200mm lens blew off the lens and was run over by the following truck – Shite!

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The road soon starts to snake steeply up into the hills and we passed by Lake Manyara which looked very nice in the fading light. It surely is a beautiful piece of Africa here.

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Malaika πŸ™‚

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We arrived in Kudu camp just on dark and popped tents up before settling in to dinner, and for me an early night. It was a great day, one of the best on the second leg, lots of different things to see and do, so much better than driving all day.

It seems that we are going to have another four years of President Obama, much to the relief of all on the truck !

The Kiwi in the rock

Day 307, Tuesday 06 November 2012 – Honey Badger Lodge, Moshi, Tanzania

Grrrrrrrr, an early start. Up at 4:20 and on the truck for a 5:00 departure. I had gotten used to sleeping till 7:00!

The journey through and out of Dar took close to two hours, about half that of the journey in a few days ago. My back was still quite tight and the pounding on the temporary lanes around the road works was quite painful at times. There was a large number of busses on the road, many of them are beyond packed, even at that early hour. With a population of about four million and few cars; buses are an essential means of travel. A lot of the inter-city/town buses have western names, Liverpool, God loves you, Spider etc, though my personal favourite was the bus named Facebook.

They are without a doubt the craziest drivers I have seen. It is fortunate that their buses are not that fast or we would have seen more overturned buses than the one we have seen so far. Having said that we are routinely passed by buses and were passed by one going through some road works, crazy!

We stopped for a late breakfast at a roadside cafe, it was so good to have that first (and second) coffee of the day – the Africa instant coffee is not too bad, better than the Nescafe anyway. I was dreaming of the latte I had yesterday in Stone Town as I took the first sips.

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I took the opportunity of being off the bus at the right time to ring my mum back in NZ, I was hoping to Skype but she was not online. Mum has been on a three week trip to north eastern USA, a fall trip to Maine and Vermont etc. She only just made it out of NY before it was all shut down due to Hurricane Sandy. It sounded like she had a great trip, though it was only a brief call. I am looking forward to seeing the photos and hearing more about it one day.

Back on the road we passed another rolled over truck, the first for the day. Unlike the fuel tanker from a few days ago, this one had a police presence at the accident site, so no one helping themselves to the product – and no photos.

Pineapple and sisal are the big export crops from these parts.

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I am finding it very hard to be photographically inspired at the moment. I loved Stone Town but took far less photos than I did in the similar streets of Barcelona. I have taken the guidance about not taken photos of the people seriously – and there are people everywhere! The views out of the truck are also just not that interesting with the landscape being nowhere near as diverse, or startling as Namibia.

I spent most of the drive reading, emailing and writing blog posts on my phone, not ideal for blog writing but at least I can email them to myself and get them on the laptop. I am learning to be productive on the truck when I can, good to get some work discipline in now, before I have to start working hard to find a job when I get back to London in December.

We stopped for lunch at the newly opened Rock Hill Rest. Clean loos, with paper – I cannot see it lasting ! The food was good and the cokes were cheap, I could see why it was a busy spot, I wish the owners well, it was a nice respite from the normal roadside rests.

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After lunch we started climb into a more mountainous area of Tanzania and I take back my earlier comment about the scenery being really boring, the hills are quite lovely in the late afternoon sun.

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I quite liked the Kiwi that Leonie spotted in the cliff face.

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We stopped for a “comfort stop” along a long straight section of road, there were some quite cool cactii around so I nipped out with the camera for a walkabout. Similarly to most of Asia I am constantly amazed at the amount of trash in the roadsides in Africa, particularly here in Tanzania. I think the manufacturers of plastic bags should take a long hard look at themselves and stop polluting the third world, it is a disgrace !

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Train ride would be a cool way to travel here, – long and straight !

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As we drew closer to our campsite in Moshi we started to get glimpses of a cloud shrouded Mt Kilimanjaro, we were of course hoping for an unobstructed view but it was not going to happen this day. We did get a good viewing of Mt Meru from just outside the Honey Badger campsite.

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Once in the camp the usual routine unfolded, tents up, chores done, beer in the bar, dinner, a drink or two then sleep.

Fingers crossed for a cloudless morning!

He is not as disreputable as he looks

Day 306, Monday 05 November 2012 – Dar es Salaam

Damn, I knew as soon as I wrote that good sleep was habit forming I would sleep badly and I did. No reason for it, bed was comfy, it was warm but not overly so and the night market food was still comfortably sitting in my belly.
We had breakfast on the roof of the Safari Lodge, the view was not spectacular and it was overcast and already humid – it was looking to be a sticky day. We were serenaded throughout breakfast by the voices of chanting children from the school next door.

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When we went to go out I couldn’t find my sunglasses in the room. I suspect I dropped them when the flash cards fell out of my bag last night – bugger ! I have managed to not lose those sunglasses for two years, they had some good memories, oh well.

Brett, Simon, Leonie and I went for a walk to the Zanzibar coffee shop.

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Just after we left the hotel I spotted a door that looked like it was worth photographing and swung my bag off my back to get my camera out. I had a sudden pain right across my chest and back and my first thought was “shit, I am having a heart attack”. I checked for other symptoms, no shortness of breath, no numbness – so decided it wasn’t anything immediately critical. I was in real pain but kept my mouth shut until we sat down in the cafe. By then the pain was just in my back and it slowly worked its way out over the rest of the day – a wee nervous moment!

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The coffee was excellent though. Possibly the best I have had in Africa πŸ™‚

We reluctantly dragged ourselves out of the coffee shop and returned to the hotel to check out and store our bags in an empty room. Once sorted we were back out into the heat to see if we could find a working ATM that took Mastercard. It seems the one I found last night had been fixed, which was great news as I could then replace my nice expensive sun glasses with a pair of ten dollar Riy Dons, funnily enough the logo is quite similar to Ray Bans πŸ™‚

We spent the next hour or so randomly walking the streets and alleys of Stone Town. It is a pretty cool place, old and run down, but still a living and breathing residential city. I did love the doorways – a lot !

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There is a great blue here that I just love, I am going to add it to my favourite colours list, along with Vietnam yellow – they are colours that will remind me of places I have visited.

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I loved the Girl Guide sign above this doorway into the old fort area.

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Laughed at this !

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We stopped for lunch at Green Garden Cafe, pizza and an avocado, ginger, mango and lime mocktail for me. Yum ! It started to rain while we were lunching so we hung around for a while waiting for it to stop as no-one had a jacket or umbrella or anything else remotely sensible.

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The rain hadn’t stop before we left. The streets of Stone Town were ankle deep in some places, I would like to think it was mostly fresh rain water, but God alone knows what we waded through.

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The eves from the shops on both sides of the narrow streets were not really built to allow anyone to walk under in the rain so there was a constant stream of runoff from the roofs pouring on heads and shoulders as well as the rain itself. It stopped when we were almost back to the hotel and we found others from our group wandering wetly around as we neared it.

I love this – they are football mad here, but not everyone has a TV, so this guy puts the results up, very cool, though obviously a Liverpool supporter.

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Once back at the hotel we had some time to kill so I went on a quick stroll aroud the immediate area, I found a nice little graveyard in the middle of the houses.

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And finally, another bicycle, right over the road from the hotel.

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We had a 3:30 ferry back to Dar es Salaam to catch so we walked over to the port at 2:45. I had a wee “oh shit” moment when I could not find my ferry ticket, I could have sworn it was in my pocket, luckily it was in my bag.

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The ferry was different to the one we came over on, it also appeared to be over sold and we were lucky to get seats on the top, uncovered deck. The ride was lovely though, mostly smooth for the whole journey, apart from a brief, light shower when we got on it was sunny all the way as well. The best news was it only took an hour and a half to get there, thirty minutes faster than the way out.

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Once disembarked, Brett hired a mini-van that was to take us to the harbour crossing ferry, come with us over the harbour and drop us at the campsite. The kilometre to the ferry took almost one and a half hours, but it was a quick ride over the harbour and back to our ever faithful truck. I think we all missed our home away from home.

It was after 7:00 and dark when we arrived. Fortunately the tents were still up from when we left three days ago and Ebron had dinner all prepared, so no chores pre-eating, yay!
It was the birthday of one of my fellow travellers so there was another Ebron special cake for dessert. Double yay !!

People jelous never win

Day 305, 04 Sunday November 2012 – Stone Town, Zanzibar

Another great night’s sleep, this sleeping thing is almost getting to be habitual. I am definitely not going to complain if this keeps up.

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I wandered up to the cafe to pick up a couple of pre-breakie lattes, they are not particularly good, but they are rare and it is the thought that counts! Breakfast was another leisurely affair, I ate plenty, just not as much as yesterday. I still took a post feed lie down before we had to check out of the room at ten.

Yesterday we all agreed as a group to stay here at the resort until 3:00 rather than head into a hot and humid Stone Town in the morning. We have most of a day there tomorrow to explore the streets, so a day off around a good pool in a sea breeze before the hurly burly of a busy city and then back on the truck was just perfect.

I spent most of the morning lazing by the pool taking the occasional dip as the fancy took me. It is overcast again today so not too hot to be outside, though my face did get a touch of sun burn. Lunch was another massive affair, it will be good to leave here, too much food !!
I took a quick final dip in the Indian ocean before getting ready to jump on the mini-bus back to Stone Town. Out of the water it was a quick stroll up the beach to the hotel, trying, unsuccessfully, to avoid the hawkers on the way.

The hawkers are a pain, they are hard to get rid of once they collar you and they collar quickly. I understand they need to make a buck and there is little other opportunity to do so. However, they are all over the beach rendering it almost useless. The beach is beautiful – soft white, clean coral sand, edged with a clear, warm sea. It should have sunbathers and swimmers all over it. We were all by the pool where we can relax unmolested – a real shame. There are gates and guards at all entrances to the hotel to keep the hawkers out, but not on the beach – I guess that is a good thing though.

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The bus to Stone Town took about an hour and was a pretty quiet affair, most of the people seemed to just sleep the trip away. Rather than glossy posters the hairdressers here have hand painted pictures, they are quite amusing – and I am leaving my hair till I get back to the UK.

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The bus dropped us off about one hundred metres away from the Safari Lodge Hotel which was down a series of alley ways. I am really looking forward to exploring them tomorrow ! It is very reminiscent of the old part of Barcelona, with narrow and twisty alleys through mostly crumbling old buildings. I loved that part of Barcelona.

Here there was very little grafitti, and though there are loads of bikes, none of them have been in a place where I can photograph them, so unfair!

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We unpacked and then all met in reception for a walk to a recently opened hotel where we had a cocktail on the roof and watched a rather uninspired sunset. It was entirely pleasant and all rather peaceful, unlike the hectic night market where we went for dinner ! I took a few pictures from the roof.

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My feet were a little itchy so I wandered off for a bit and walked around some of the streets surrounding the hotel. I found an ATM that took Mastercard but it was broken, damnit.

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I finally headed back to the hotel for the sunset and a beer.

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The night market is a food market, mainly aimed at tourists, but there were plenty of local people eating as well. It was also very cool. As soon as we walked in the gates of the harbour front park where the night market was located we were surrounded by the touts trying to entice us to their stalls. The entrance was hectic but once through the initial melee it was quite calm inside.

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The seafood did not really appeal so I followed our tour leader’s recommendation and went for a shish kebab, a hugely popular stall. While I waited for that I had a Zanzibar pizza, which is basically a pancake.

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They come with a huge variety of sweet and savory options and I elected for the popular Nutella and banana option. It was delicious, after the kebab I went back and had a chocolate, vanilla and banana one. I also tried a sugar cane and ginger drink, pressed directly from the cane, also delicious. I missed street food.

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After dinner we went to Mercury’s Bar for a glass or two. The bar is named after Freddy Mercury, the late singer from Queen, who was born on Zanzibar. As we left the bar Simon came out saying he had found a couple of Flash cards and handed them in at the bar. I instantly knew they must have been mine and sure enough they were, they must have fallen out of my bag when I got my wallet out. Lucky for me they were found, whew !

A day of diving in Zanzibar

Day 304, Saturday 03 November 2012 – Nungwi, Zanzibar

A massive sleep was had last night, I didn’t fully wake up until 7:10 when I had my first real coffee in a few days. I joined a number of the others in hotel restaurant for the buffet breakfast – eggs, beans and chips on a deck overlooking clean white sand and a crystal clear Indian Ocean. Heavenly. The grease was followed by fresh mango and pawpaw, in the last 2 days I have eaten more fruit than I have in months. I will be healthy again in no time; well maybe if I skipped the chips anyway.

The others all left on their snorkelling trip an hour before my dive trip started, so I just lay down and enjoyed some more peace and quiet.

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I dived with Spanish Dancer Divers, there were seven of us on the boat along with the staff. Sadly the sea was not as icy smooth as it was yesterday which made for a bumpy ride to the first dive spot – Leven Bank. The site is an underwater hill, it does not penetrate the surface and I have no idea how the guys find it as there are no visual indicators. Must be magic!

On the way a small pod of dolphins was spotted by one of the crew so we donned masks and fins and jumped in to see if they would come and play. Unfortunately they were not in the mood and swam out of reach soon after we were in the water. I did manage a long distance snap of them near the bottom. It was the closest I have come to dolphins and it was pretty damn cool – I had a mega grin πŸ™‚

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The first dive was a deep one, as there was quite a current and a bit of a swell we did not faff about on the surface, just straight down to 30 metres. Visibility was pretty good considering the current, it was a drift dive so we just floated along near the bottom and let the current take us where it was going. I struggled to get buoyancy for a bit and used up air more quickly than the others but I was happy with my first dive in nearly six months. Apart from one really large moray eel I didn’t see anything new or exciting, but it was great to be down below again. When my air hit fifty bar The dive master took me up to the five metre decompression stop and I stayed there hanging on to the dive buoy line for three minutes and then drifted to the surface while the rest continued the dive. I was soon picked up by the boat. It was rolling quite badly in the swell and for the first time – possibly ever, I felt quite nauseous, though I did manage to not vomit. Unlike the next person who got in the boat.

As we motored towards Mbwangawa, a reef dive site, a large storm passed over the island and just past us out to sea. We could see the pouring rain from the distance and fortunately managed to skirt the whole thing.
Mbwangawa is a shallow off shore reef dive that was slightly sheltered from the wind so was less choppy than the open ocean dive. It was a good dive, I was sorted in the water and stayed the full 62 minutes. It did get pretty cold towards the end, even with full length wet suits on. We saw quite a few moray eels and a really large ray under a shelf. The coral was quite unusual, it was long flat and plate like – not anything I have seen before. It was cool just drifting along beside it.

After the diving I took a late lunch in the bar and waited for the football to start, Manchester United v Arsenal (the team I support). It was two minutes to kick off when the power went out. Bugger!

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The power did not return until after the game had finished, which was probably a good thing as we lost 2 – 1. We all met in the bar and sat around chatting until dinner at 7:00 at Baraka, a local beach restaurant. The food was cheap and the lobster curry was as delicious as the calamari curry I had last night. We even got a free drink !

Zanzibar !!

Day 303, Friday 02 November 2012 – Nungwi, Zanzibar

I had left the rest of the group soon after dinner last night to grab a few minutes peace and quiet after the long long day on the truck. I also planned on a massive sleep as I was feeling tired and the early mornings were starting to have an impact. Obviously that plan was thwarted! The security guard from the camp and some of his mates decided that 4:00 am was the perfect time to cut coconuts and talk really loudly in the middle of the campsite. This was followed at 4:30 by the first call to prayer for the day, the east of Tanzania especially around Dar is strongly Muslim. I did manage to doze again until get up time at 6:10 – this was a lie in !

After a quick breakie I packed a small bag for the three day trip to Zanzibar, a trip I have been really looking forward to. Like Mandalay in Myanmar, Zanzibar is one of those exotic locations from childhood adventure novels that I have long wanted to visit and today was to be the day. Naturally the day started with us getting on the truck, though this time it was just a short ride to the harbour side to get the very busy ferry a short distance over the harbour to down town Dar es Salaam. From the truck we had a five minute walk down to the ferry terminal, it was 7:30 am and hot and humid, a few of us were starting to leak a bit as we hit the large sprawling mass trying to squeeze through the ticket stile and into the larger congested mass of commuters waiting to board the ferry.

The ferry ride was short, it is only a couple of hundred metres across the harbour, but we had seats by the side so it was interesting viewing the going ons in the harbour – like other developing countries there were a number of people bathing in the water, a dangerous activity !

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On the other side of the harbour, Brett hired a local bus to take us the few hundred metres to the Zanzibar ferry office. It was hot, humid and crowded and easier to keep us all together if we were in a bus.

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The state of the vehicle left a lot to be desired, tape all over the place holding panels together and all the seats were damaged in one way another, mine had basically nothing underneath the vinyl seat cover.

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Getting out of the harbour side was interesting, six lanes of cars trying to squeeze into two lanes through a gate, nothing unusual there of course! Unlike Asia this was done in semi-silence, very little honking of horns and people seemed to good humouredly jostle for spots in the road. I am surprised though were no accidents while we were watching.

We had almost an hour wait at the ferry terminal so a few of us walked to the ATM to get some Tanzanian Shillings, however the machines do not accept MasterCard so I had to change some of my precious cash resources which was frustrating. TIA – This is Africa.

The ferry was one of the modern quick cat ferries, though the ride was fairly slow, there have been a few ferry sinkings on the Dar – Zanzibar route.

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The sea was like glass all the way to the island and it was a magic two hour ride, lots of dhow in the water with some great clouds and a cool sun rainbow.

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As we approached Stone Town onthe island of Zanzibar I was very excited to see white sandy beaches – I knew this was a tropical island, but I must admit I was not expecting it to be like this.

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We alighted the ferry in Stone Town and once clearing Zanzibar immigration we jumped on an airconditioned mini-bus for a forty minute ride to Big Body’s Spice Farm.

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Hmm the Hajj. something else to add to the to do list…

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After the relatively hot and boring tea plantation tour the other day I was not overly excited by the prospect of a spice farm tour, but wow – what a difference a tour guide makes. Big Body was very engaging, quite funny and had great English. He stunned everybody, especially the Polish girl in our group when he broke into some rapid fire Polish.

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It was a great tour, preceded by a nice curry lunch and some local fruit tasting. The pineapple was the sweetest and juiciest I have ever had !

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At the end of the tour we were all presented with palm leave hats, ties for the boys and jewellery for the girls. It was a great couple of hours. The ride to the hotel was about an hour, the mini-bus driver was not scared to put pedal to the metal and fist to horn, just like Vietnam again – though a wee bit safer, I think. We are staying at Amaan Bungalows, a beach side resort in Nungwi village. The resort is budget but surprisingly nice, large and airy rooms and a great bar area.

After unpacking we all met in the bar, surprise surprise, it was half price cocktail hour so good value.

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We had dinner next door at Langi Langi restaurant – or rasta rant as they called it.

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The food was great, I had a very nice calamari curry, it was beautifully flavoured. After dinner a couple of us stayed for a whisky or two in the bar before an earlyish night.

Fifteen hours on the road to Dar.

Day 302, Thursday 01 November 2012 – Dar es Salaam

I had a lousy sleep last night, and struggled out of bed at the ridiculous time of 4:30 – and there was no coffee either. It was a hurried pack up and we were on the road for 5:00, starting on a twelve or thirteen hour trip to the camp ground on the beach outside Dar-es-Salaam, the capital of Tanzania. It is damp and cold this morning, I had a polyprop on to start with and as we progressed on the journey I was regretting not having socks on as well.

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The road was a wee bit quieter first thing, but the trucks coming the other way barely slowed to pass us and the road was almost a single lane for a long section through constant road works – almost all the way into Dar. (this was taken later in the day !)

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The Japanese were proud of this section of road, not sure why.

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Will was stopped for supposedly crossing the centre lines in some no name town and after pleading with the cop was still issued a ticket. There are a lot of cops on the roads into and out of Dar and apparently this is very common.

At 8:00 we stopped for breakfast in a roadside cafe – and coffee, times two for me.

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The road to Dar passes through baobab valley and I have been really looking forward to seeing these trees and getting some time to photograph them. We did stop for a wee break and I nipped out with camera and grabbed a few shots, I definitely wished I had more time there.

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The valley is quite long and I enjoyed looking out the window at the trees, we passed another truck crash, this time a fuel tanker had rolled and it was mobbed by local people stealing the gas, while a couple of policemen looked on – I guess I would not be wanting to try and stop them myself.

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We stopped to buy charcoal at the roadside, we are not allowed to burn wood in some places in Tanzania.

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I loved the satellite dishes on the roofs of some houses, there is no power going in – I assume they have a generator. It is likely that they will charge other villagers a nominal fee to watch TV and most likely football.

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There was one village where they were selling clothes and baskets – either that or they were growing a t-shirt tree.

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I was not always fully concious, at least I wasnt dribbling – and a lesson learnt about leaving the camera out πŸ™‚

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We passed through Mukumi National Park and saw a number of animals on the way through, nothing worth stopping for, but it was very exciting to see wildlife so close to the road again.

As we had such a long journey i bought a roaming data plan from Vodafone NZ, it was great to be able to cruise Book Face and do emails as we travelled. Over the next few days I used this to write blog posts on my cell phone and email them to myself so I could pick them up on my laptop. Of course after I had done it a few times I realised I could have just saved them as drafts and opened them on my notebook anyway and saved the data traffic.

We arrived in the outer suburbs around 3:30, amid complete chaos on the main street. The entire street was being widened so temporary dirt lanes were in use. The lanes were probably single but there were always two lanes of vehicles and at one point where the lines blurred between temporary and new road there was six lanes of cars.

It took 3 hours to get through to the far side of the city and then we hit a road that seemed even worse. It was lined with market stalls and as it was rush hour there was people everywhere, buses were pulling in and out of the traffic, seemingly without looking.

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It was chaos both on the streets and the footpaths. The air was full of noise from sound systems, car and motorcycle horns and the hubbub of human voices. The smells were overwhelming, diesel fumes, fires, food cooking and the occasional stench from the sewage filled rivers. I would like to say it was enjoyable but after 4 hours it was wearing thin, we had been on the road for 15 hours, I can only imagine how driver Will was feeling.

We arrived in the beach side camp in the dark and hurriedly put the tents up before having a meal on the beach catered by the camp ground – I assume to the relief of our cook, Ebron. The meal was pretty good and was proceeded by a rather humorous event when one of my fellow curmudgeons sat himself down in the chair and went sailing backwards as the rear legs of the chair sank into the sand. As his feet came flying up, they kicked the table and beer went sailing over the last of our curmudgeonly trio – there was a lot of merriment from us not impacted !

I didn’t stay after dinner, fifteen hours in a truck was too much and I needed to go and have some space in my tent for a while before sleeping.

Running on empty.

Day 301, Wednesday 31 October 2012 – Farmhouse camp, Tanzania

It was nice to sleep in a double bed for a change, it has been a while. I got to starfish in the middle and sprawl; it was a pretty good sleep. Even better was the fact we had breakfast in the cafe at 8:00, so no morning chores – and no tent dropping. I made the most of the space and had another hot shower, cut finger nails emptied my pack and repacked and got damp clothes dry – all while listening to music out loud. I miss those mornings!

Breakfast was a bit Faulty Towers, the people of Tanzania do not speak English like those in southern Africa (Tanzania is East Africa) so most of the staff had limited ability to communicate. I was the only person at our table of four who actually got what was expected for breakfast, two got slightly different things and one got nothing at all, and was still waiting to be served when I came back to the table twenty five minutes are leaving. I rang both my sons before we left this morning, I haven’t spoken to them in ages, no reception in Malawi when it was my youngest 19th birthday. It was great to chat to them and I will do it again soon.

We did not make the 9:00 am departure time, probably the first time we haven’t on the whole trip.

Our one and only visit today is a tea plantation tour just outside Tukuyu. The highlands of Tanzania are extremely fertile and are the breadbasket for the nation. Tea is grown all over and is the prime cash crop. We visited Kyimbila Estate, one of the larger private tea estates in the region, there are 15,000 tea growers – the majority of which are small family plots of one or a few hectares.

The visit was a tad boring, I am glad I did not do the tea plantation tour in Malaysia! The highlight was a small invasion by the tea pickers kids, there is a pre-school on the plantation as well as accomodation for the workers.

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The scenery was good, but it is quite hazy in the hills – a mix of smoke and dust, so photos were not stunning.

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We left the plantation after a couple of hours and drove for an hour or so before stopping for lunch on the roadside. Will and Brett changed one of the front wheels as the tyre had quite a deep gash and they did not want a repeat of the tyre blowing incident from a couple of days back. We were back on the road for 1:15 on the long drive towards our stop for the night.

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Once out of the hills the scenery change back to dry and arid flat(ish) lands, and the people look noticeably poorer than the hill folk. Like Malawi there are a lot of half built and half derelict houses all along the road side.

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Tanzania has a large muslim population so we passed many small mosques on the journey.

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There is also a road upgrade project on, well that is what I am assuming anyway. Along virtually the whole length of the road stand houses with red and green X’s painted on them. Red are closer to the road than green and some of the green have 30m on the side, which I am assuming marks a line thirty metres from the edge of the current road. I guess someday they will be flattened.

We have been advised to not take photos of people out of the truck as it can upset some of the locals, so most of my shots are empty of people, but I assure you there are a lot about. Some are friendly and wave, the kids on the way to and from school particularly so. Most of the photos are taken through the window so loads of reflections – too lazy to drop the window!

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This road is apparently littered with crashed trucks, we saw a couple today.

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As mid-afternoon came around and we were still three of four hours away from the campsite for the night we arrived in one of the bigger towns looking for a gas station, there were plenty but none seem to have diesel, apparently there is a massive shortage – we didn’t realise the guys had been looking for a while. The government forced the oil companies to lower the cost of fuel so they just stopped delivering it…. we pulled into a deserted forecourt (that had loos !) and using air from the compressor pushed the last of the fuel from the secondary into the primary tank and with fingers crossed carried on.

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Yay – tuk tuks !

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Eventually we found a gas station that had diesel, we were there for a while as we waited for the local black marketeers to fill jerry can loads of diesel they can sell to stranded trucks and cars on the way. I think we were lucky, we did get two full tanks – about $600USD worth. Hallelujah !

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Will had wanted to get to the campsite in daylight as driving on the roads are stressful as it is. However, it was dark soon after leaving the gas station and it started to get cold and rainy, luckily the rain stopped before we reached camp. The farm house campsite was really nice, great hot showers and clean non-smelly long drop loos. The added bonus was a lovely amurula hot chocolate they make in the bar, I had one for dessert. Up at 4:30 tomorrow, so an early night.