October 2nd, 2008

Swakopmund is a weird town. It has very much of a German feel to it and yet it is surround by desert. The town is on the coast and full of tourists and booking agents for all of the activities which take place here. People seem to speak many languages, mainly German, Afrikaans, English and then some local tribal languages as well. While staying here, we are sleeping in a hostel, which is a welcome change from camping.

The main reason for coming here was for the adrenalin activities. The first of these was sand-boarding. This is supposedly unique to Namibia and involves sliding down sand dunes at speeds of up to 80km/h. There were two options; stand-up and lie-down sand-boarding. Those doing stand-up used a modified snowboard to travel down the dune. It was popular with those who had snowboarded before. I chose the lie down variety. The idea was to lie on a piece of hardboard about 150x80cm at the top of the dune and then let gravity do the rest. The  hard part was waling back up the dune again. During the morning I did about 8 runs and reached a top speed of 69km/h. The whole morning was great fun and one of the best value optionals of the whole trip. It only cost $30 and included lunch and a DVD.

We were taken directly from the dunes to the airport to meet the people from the skydiving company. They were all very friendly, and excellent and calming nerves. After paying, selecting our jump suits and receiving a bit of training, we were driven to an airstrip away from the airport. Recently the airport has increased its passenger fees, so the skydive club now takes off from some land a short distance away from the airport.

It was only possible for 2-3 jumpers to go up in the aeroplane at once so with 14 of us jumping there was quite a lot of waiting. I went up in the second flight. The flight provided some stunning views of the dunes, coast and Swakopmund during the 20 minutes which it took to reach 10000ft. Shortly before reaching that height, I was strapped to my tandem partner, Dries. My cameraman climbed out onto the wing first, the the pair of us moved to the door and Dries jumped out with me attached.

The feeling of free fall is quite indescribable. You don’t really get a falling sensation with your stomach being left behind. The ground is so far away that it doesn’t really appear to be getting any closer. At 200km/h, the wind rushing past is very strong. It really does feel like you are flying.  35 seconds of free fall seemed to last only a few seconds and then the parachute opened. During the 5 minute decent, I was able to have a go at steering the parachute, before handing the controls back to Dries who executed an excellent landing. The whole experience was amazing! I would recommend it to anyone and am sure I will do another jump myself sometime!

On Tuesday I used a free morning to make use of one of the many internet cafes in town, and explored the seafront a bit. Then in the afternoon, we gathered to go quad-biking. I opted for a semi-automatic bike. It was faster than the automatics, but easier to drive than the full manual bikes due to the automatic clutch. The latter could only really be driven by people who had ridden motorbikes. During the 2 hour ride, we traveled about 60km through the dunes. The most fun bits were driving in arcs up and down the side of steep dunes. We also got a bit of air time by going fast over sand ridges. The photos is one of the few I have of the whole tour part way through our quad-biking trip. There are only 18 of us left now.


There are many restaurants in Swakopmund with excellent food and reasonable prices. My favourite so far is the Napolitana which is conveniently located between the two buildins which make up our hostel. They pride themselves on their portion sizes. On the first night I had an entire rack of pork ribs. Some people had two! Despite the large portions, the food tasted delicious. I have also tried some new meats here, including Eland, Springbok and Zebra.

We were supposed to leave Swakopmund yesterday morning. Unfortunately, Pumba (the truck) has broken down. There is something wrong with the steering and a spare part is needed to fix it. The nearest one is in Arusha in Tanzania. To add to the problems yesterday was a Muslim holiday so none of the couriers were operating. The part should arrive soon, but we still have to stay here two nights longer than planned. Last I heard was that a different truck was on its way from Windhoek to pick us up tomorrow, and then Pumba would catch us up in a few days.

There is only one week left of the tour so without any room to make up time, we are going to arrive in Cape Town two days late. Fortunately this means we will not have to skip any of the activities on the way down from here.

If we had to get stranded anywhere, Swakopmund is not a bad place for it to happen. There is plenty of thing to do here. Besides all of the adrenalin activities, there is the seafront, curio markets, a cinema, good shops, fast internet cafes and excellent places to eat.

Yesterday I had quite a relaxing day. I finished my book, did some shopping, caught up on some news on the internet, and explored the town a bit more. In the afternoon I went to the cinema and saw X-files: I want to believe. It wasn’t anything special, but it filled the time and only cost about £2.

Today I have just had breakfast. I don’t have much planned for today. Later, I will put this post online, then there is a museum I might visit. In the afternoon I may go to the cinema again. I will also need to sort out all of my bags at some point because I am very disorganised at the moment.

Cheetah Farm and Brandberg Mountains

September 28th, 2008

After leaving Etosha and shopping along the way, we arrived at the cheetah farm early afternoon. The farm is home to 3 tame cheetahs and 22 wild ones. We were able to pet the tame ones and take photos with them. One of them took a liking to my flip flop and decided to try and eat it. I got it back eventually, but it is now covered in teeth marks.

The wild cheetahs were in a much larger enclosure. We stood on the back of a flat bed truck and were driven into the enclosure. After waiting for the cheetahs to gather and allowing us to take some photos, our two guides got out of the truck and started throwing huge lumps of meat to the cheetahs. It was good to see some cheetahs close up, because before this, I they were one of the few animals that I had only seen from a great distance. I think I took more photos here than in any other place.


Finally, we were able to watch the feeding of some cubs and their mother in a separate enclosure. The cubs were very cute.

Cheetah cub

That evening we were celebrating Kellie’s birthday. We had a barbecue feast for dinner, then drank some of our own drinks round the fire. We then moved to the bar and partied all night. The owners of the farm and some of their friends joined in.

The next day, we had quite an easy drive with several stops along the way. The first stop was at a Himba village. The Himba are a tribe in Namibia who stll do a lot of things in traditional ways. The women paint their bodies with red ocre which gives them a very striking appearance. While being guided round the village we were taught quite a lot about the culture.


Our last stop was at Brandberg mountains. We walked along a dry river bed for 45 minutes each way, to see some ancient rock paintings known as the white lady. The paintings themselves were not especially exciting, but the views of the mountains during the walk were stunning.

That evening we free camped a short distance from the mountains. It was a really cool place to camp, despite the complete lack of facilities. Earlier in the day, we had purchased some kudu and oryx steaks which made for an excellent dinner.

Earlier today we stopped off at the Cape Cross seal colony. The first thing we noticed when getting out of the truck was the stench of what was presumably rotting fish on the seals breath. The colony was really cool to see though. In the space of a few hundred meters along the coast there were 1000s of seals.

I had thought that the last two days would amount to little more than driving, but they have actually turned out to be really cool. We are now in Swakopmund which is the adrenalin capital of Namibia. Earlier this afternoon I booked myself on sand-boarding, skydiving and quad-biking trips!

Two Countries Left

September 22nd, 2008

Its 8:30am and we have already been driving for two and a half hours and crossed the border from Botswana to Namibia. We got up at 5am this morning and won’t arrive at camp until 6pm. Its going to be a long driving day!

After leaving Maun, we had quite a long drive to our next campsite located right at the foot of the Tsodilo Hills. On the way we stopped at a shell shop which was the last opportunity we had to spend and remaining Pula. Apparently, it is not possible to exchange the Botswanan currency in Namibia. We also passed 13 towns which were curiously labeled Etsha 1 to 13 on the map. I will have to look them up when I get back.

The campsite at the Tsodilo Hills was very basic, but it was in a cool location. Right at the base if the hills which are part of many legends. Shortly after arriving, some of us set off on a guided walk to see some very old paintings on the rocks. Part way through the walk, Cian, Greg, Brad, Richie and I left the group so the we could climb higher up the hills. It was quite a difficult climb, but it was worth it, because we reached one of the peaks and the views were excellent.

Tsodilo Hills

Okavango Delta

September 20th, 2008

We have been in Botswana for 3 nights now. Including tonight, we only have 2 more to go before we leave for Namibia.

We left Livingstone on Wednesday and drove a relatively short distance to the border. From the crossing point, we could see 4 countries at once. Zambia, Zimbabwe, Namibia and Botswana. Another short drive took us to our next campsite in Kasane, Botswana. Arriving early, we had the option of a boat cruise in Chobe National Park. It was very hot though, so most of us stayed around the pool for the afternoon. For the 6 new people who joined at Livingstone, this was their first day on the truck, and first night cooking as well.

The next day, a fairly long drive took us from Kasane to Maun. We shopped before going to the campsite just out of town. This campsite was attached to a hotel so it had a very nice pool and bar which we were able to use.

Early the next morning we we picked up in Landrovers and taken to the edge of the Okavango Delta. From there, we traveled by mokoro for an hour and a half to reach our camping area. The mokoro is a traditional canoe, made from a hollowed out tree trunks. There were a few modern equivalents made from fiberglass, but I was pleased be travelling in the more authentic wooden version. The mekoro (plural of mokoro) were pushed along by a poler standing at the back of the boat. The whole ride was very relaxing as we very quietly glided through the reeds.


We arrived at an island where we set up our bushcamp. There were no camping facilities here at all. We had to dig a hole for the toilet and cooked on a wood fire. I was expecting to have been doing more of this in Africa. Its great having the campsites with lots of facilities, but also good to stay in the basic campsites sometimes too. That evening we were entertained by our polers and guides with traditional songs.

While staying in the delta we went on two game walks. The first walk was in the afternoon of the day we arrived. On the walk we saw elephant, hippo, lion, zebra, giraffe, hyena and various antelope droppings… but very few of the animals themselves! The walks were on a separate island to the camp, so we traveled there by mokoro. On the way back, we watched an excellent sunset over a perfectly still lake. There were also hippos in the lake. The second walk was slightly more successful. We saw some actually animals, including some elephants, zebra and charging wilder beast.

Victoria Falls

September 16th, 2008

For the last 3 days we have been staying in Livingstone in Zambia which is about 10km from Victoria Falls. The last 2 days were action packed and today I am having a bit of a chill day.

There are so many things to do in the area that it is impossible to do everything. Everyone has been doing different activities depending on what they prefer. It has been good hearing stories of what other people have done, including skydiving, bunji jumps, helicopter rides, elephant safaris and lion walks. Some of those activities were too expensive for my budget, but like many of the places we have visited, it has made me want to come back here one day.

On Sunday, seven people went white water rafting and I joined them for the day in a tandem kayak. Having already done white water rafting in Uganda on the Nile, I decided to try something a little different here. I am glad I did, because it was quite a different experience. I actually preferred it to rafting, because I felt a lot closer to the waves. It is less hard work paddling and a lot scarier. In the raft, you can kind of hide behind the edge of the boat, but in the kayak, you are really exposed to the waves. We did capsize quite a few times, but as the day went on, I got better at balancing up, and really enjoyed myself.

Yesterday, I did a full day of unlimited abseiling, flying fox, rap jump and gorge swing. Cian did a bunji jump first thing, and then joined me a little later. Abseiling was quite easy and not that thrilling. It was similar to what I do when I am climbing, just 5 times the height, outdoors and I controlled my own decent. A rap jump is lie abseiling, but you go down the cliff facing forwards. This is much more thrilling, but I only did it once, because the walk out of the gorge too about 25 minutes. The flying fox was quite gentle, but good fun too. You run for about 5 meters then dive off the edge of the cliff and feel like you are flying as you glide across the gorge on a cable. The added bonus with this one is you don’t have to climb back up the gorge. The gorge swing is the big one and by far the greatest thrill. You step off the edge of the gorge and freefall 54 meters before the rope kicks in and you swing back and forth in the gorge. I did this twice, first forwards and then backwards. On the second time, I jolted my back as the rope kicked in, so decided it would be best not to do that on again.

 Gorge Swing

We left the gorge swing site just after 3pm to get to the boat in time for our sunset booze cruise. For $40, we got dinner, snacks and an open bar for 3 hours. Needless to say, a lot was drunk! A funnel helped along the proceedings. There was no music on the boat, but one of the crew taught us some African songs to sing. We saw a really nice sunset from the boat, with elephants walking through the water in front. As the boat came in to dock, there was a rush for last orders at the free bar, but everyone seemed to get at least one last drink. We didn’t stay in the bar at the dock for long because it was quite expensive. Instead, we came back to the campsite, where we partied for the rest of the night. This must have been the most drunken night of the tour so far, and it was great fun!

As I said earlier, I am having a bit of a chill day today. A bit later, I will probably walk into town to use the internet to upload these posts and do a bit of shopping. There is a pool at the campsite which I will probably end up swimming in later.


September 13th, 2008

After a few driving days, we had travelled from South Luangua to the edge of Lake Kariba. There we boarded the houseboat, where we stayed for the last two nights. The drive was not particularly eventful. We stayed in the same campsite in Chipata, before a very long driving day to reach Lusaka, capital of Zambia. In Lusaka, we stopped at an out of town shopping park which seemed to be very exclusive. It was full of muzungus and very well dressed locals. It was a good shopping centre though, which gave us chance to stock up on a few supplies. That night we stayed at a campsite with zebra roaming the grounds. There was also two satellite TVs and I watched England beat Croatia 4-1 in the world cup qualifiers.

The next day we headed to the houseboat at Sinazongwe on the shore of Lake Kariba. The boat had 3 decks, 30 beds, a bar and a plunge pool. I stayed in and en suite quad room with Cian and Joe. The spare mattress went onto the sun deck to provide extra space to lie down. The bar operated on an honesty basis. Each time we took a drink, we marked it down next to our name. This worked well, and by the end of the trip, there were only 4 beers missing. The cost was just split between everyone.


The boat also had two cooks. We provided them with food for the group, and they cooked it all for us. They also did the washing up and cleaning for us so it felt like a holiday from our holiday.

The first night was a big one. As well as drinking from the bar, most people he brought some of their own drinks onto the boat. We hooked up our ipods to the boats sound system. There was a lot of dancing and singing along, a water fight and nakedness of the wrong kind.

The next night most of us got up early because we were supposed to be doing a game walk on the island where we were docked. This was not easy for some after the night before. Rather annoyingly, the guides did not turn up, so we could not do the walk.

Later in the day, we cruised to another small island with a beach. Some people went fishing and caught a few fish which were given to the cooks to prepare for extra food for dinner. Six of us went out on the smaller tender boat to view elephants from the water. We saw them drinking from the lake and then throwing sand over themselves.

That evening we had quite a different night. We lit a campfire on the beach and sat round that the whole evening. We haven’t had as many camp fires as I would have expected, but maybe that makes them a bit more special when we do have them. 

Beach Campfire

We are now on our way to Livingstone, which is the nearest town to the Zambian side of Victoria Falls. The area is one of the adrenalin capitals of Africa which many options available. I haven’t decided exactly what I will do yet. We also lose some people from the truck there and gain more new people.

South Luangua

September 8th, 2008

On our last day in Kande, I had quite a relaxing day. I spent a while lying in hammock reading, went for a walk along the beach, updated this blog and made a couple of calls on the VoIP phone available at the campsite. I also collected my purchases from Mr Giraffe and Georgey Porgey. I was slightly disappointed with the quality, but I did spend an hour or so chatting to the latter and playing the local game I had purchased.

The next 2 days were driving days, although not too long a distance. We camped in Lilongwe, capital of Malawi, where there were more stalls selling carved wooden items. The quality of the carving was probably the best we had seen. On the second driving day we crossed the border into Zambia, which involved my most expensive visa payment of 150 USD. Fortunately, visas for all of the remaining countries are free. 🙂 That night we camped in Chipata.

Yesterday, we drove from Chipata to a campsite just outside South Luangwa National Park. The drive didn’t take too long, but it did involve one of the worst roads we have travelled on anywhere. The campsite is in a great location, right on the bank of the River Luangua. During the day we could see and hear hippos in the water. We also saw crocodiles and some elephants crossing the river. At night, the hippos come out of the water to eat. Last night, some of the others woke up and saw them among our tents. Apparently there was one less than a meter from mine and Cian’s tent, but neither of us inside woke up to see it. The swimming pool at the campsite was specially designed to allow hippos to get out.

We have done two game drives in South Luangua National Park today. For the first one, we set off at 6am. We were in a very open vehicle for the drive, which was good because we got better views of the animals. We saw a few species of antelope which we had not seen before, along with many of the usual. The highlight for me was seeing lion cubs drinking from the river. We also saw a rock python which our guide told us had eaten a whole impala a week ago. We were back in the campsite by 10am to find that Kanyo and Pete had cooked breakfast for us.

After spending the middle of the day lying in hammocks, swimming in the pool and just relaxing, we set off for our second game drive at 4pm. We saw a large lizard in the first half of the drive, which I had not seen before. We then stopped to watch the sun set over the river, it wasn’t a particularly good one though. After that, we continued to drive. Once it got dark, we had a spotter with a powerful spotlight searching for animals. We saw the same lions we had seen earlier and some smaller wild cats which we had not seen before. The night drive was not very impressive overall, but worth trying just to see what it was like.


September 4th, 2008

Its day 35 of my 67 day tour, so I’m now over half way though it. There’s still plenty to come though, including Victoria Falls in Zambia, the Okavango Delta in Botswana, Etosha National Park in Namibia, Cape Town in South Africa and much much more!

For the last two nights we have been staying in Kande on the edge of Lake Malawi. We will stay here tonight as well. It is hard to believe that this is actually the edge of a lake rather than the sea. There is a beautiful white sand beach which stretches for miles in either direction. There are also waves breaking on the beach, some of which were probably almost a meter high yesterday.

Yesterday morning I set out for a walk along the beach, but didn’t get far before bumping into two locals calling themselves Mr Giraffe and Georgey-Porgey. They asked if I would come with them to see some of their wood carvings and paintings. I didn’t have much else to do so I obliged. After looking at their small shop near the campsite, I requested they tae me to the local village where I knew there were more shops.

As we were walking along I asked all sorts of questions about the things we saw. One of the sights I found most interesting was a lady catching lake flies from near a tree using a basket on the end of a very long bamboo pole. They catch millions of these tiny flies, then cook and eat them. A nearby guy grabbed a handful and showed me how they are very soft so they can be squashed into a paste and then rolled into balls to cook.

I ordered two items from these guys; a custom hand painted T-shirt and a carved wooden board for a traditional local game. Georgey-Porgey also taught me how to play the game. I beat him twice, but I suspect he may have been going easy on me to encourage my purchase. I only haggled a little bit over the price of these items. As a result, I probably paid slightly over the odds, but that was kind of deliberate in recognition of all the interesting information they gave me along the way. They were also still very good prices by UK standards. I will collect my purchases later today.

Later in the afternoon Tara and I hired some flippers and swam out to a small rocky island 800m off the shore. It was much harder swimming out than it was swimming back, as we had the waves helping us on the way back. There wasn’t a lot to see on the island, but it was nice to just sit there and enjoy the view. There were some rocks with deep water below which we jumped off a few times before swimming back.

Throughout the day yesterday, we had a whole pig on a spit roast. By the evening it was cooked and it tasted amazing! One of the best meals we have had on tour. Before we sat down to eat, we all changed into our fancy dress costumes for the evening. We had purchased them in a flea market in Mzuzu on the way here from Luwawa. The theme was cross dressing. Everyone had made an impressive effort and it was a very entertaining night. My personal costume involved a formal light blue dress and a wig mad from a mop.


Fancy Dress

Zanzibar to Luwawa

September 1st, 2008



August 25th, 2008

On Friday night we stayed in a campsite on a beach near Dar Es Salaam. There wasn’t much else special about the campsite apart from the beach, but it we arrived early afternoon, so there was time to sit on the beach and have a swim. We also had a feast that night with 2 grilled fish and lots of different salads and other sides. This feast was shared with the group from the other Absolute Africa truck, who will be joining our truck after Zanzibar.

The next day we headed in to Dar Es Salaam to catch the ferry to Zanzibar. Not much exciting to say about the ferry. It took 2 hours, was completely full and quite stuffy inside. The only good thing was that they showed The Italian Job during the trip which kept me occupied for the whole duration.

Once we got to stone town in Zanzibar, we went on a spice tour. This consisted of a very rushed tour round 4 buildings, lunch and a tour of a spice farm. The buildings were the old fort, house of wonders, slave markets and the sultan’s palace where he kept his 14 wives. Unfortunately this part was far too rushed to really appreciate any of it. Lunch was ok, but the spice farm was very good. We got to try lots of different spices and teas, learnt about traditional remedies made form the spices and saw how they climb coconut trees.

In the evening, we ate at the apparently well known food markets in Stone Town. The market consisted of many different stalls selling all sorts of meats, fish and other foods. Most of the meat and fish was cooked on skewers as we ordered it. The lobster was comparatively expensive, but one of my favourites. There were also stalls making Zanzibar pizza, which is difficult to describe, but very tasty.

After the food market, we went out to 3 bars. The first bar, called Mercury’s, was very lively but also expensive. The live music was cool, but it felt very touristy – almost all mzungus inside. The second bar was recommended by our guides. It was nice, but very empty. Apparently it would have filled later, but we wanted something a bit more exciting, so we went to a local night club. The club was really big and on a rooftop, which was pretty cool. I didn’t like the music much at all, but the beer was cheap, the place was full of locals and it was a great night overall.

The next day we traveled an hour to the northern beaches where we will stay at the sunset bungalows for a total of 3 nights. The resort is one of about 10 along a beach which I think was called Kendwa. Each has a nice bar located right on the edge of the beach with chalets behind. Our chalets are basic, but have beds, so they are at least better than tents!

Earlier today, I went on a day trip snorkeling. The boat ride to Mnemba Island was long, but it was nice to be out on the water. Among the people who had been snorkeling before, some said it was really good, and others disagreed. As my first snorkeling trip, I really enjoyed it. The most interesting fish I saw was yellow with black spots and looked like a banana.

While we were snorkeling, 6 of the guys hired a boat to go game fishing. They were slightly disappointed with the experience, but they did catch a large tuna fish. They got the fish cooked at the resort restaurant and there was plenty to share around.