Sunday, September 28, 2014

This is the one you should have received from Mombasa

Our time in Kenya has been split into 3....... Safari, packing up the truck and WAITING!!!! At present we are in the waiting phase. We went through this when we were leaving South America. There each day we heard "maƱana, siempre maƱana", tomorrow, always tomorrow. Here we get the same sentiment, only the words are slightly different, "maybe even tomorrow!" I first heard these words over 20 years ago when I visited Kath, my youngest daughter, during her gap year in Tanzania. I had hoped that things would have changed. Well, maybe even tomorrow! Still, there could be worse places to be waiting.
The swimming pool with a view of the beach just in front of our hotel room.  From this position we were able to see our ship both arrive and sail carrying our motorhome.

Before coming down here we took the truck north for a safari with Mickey and Jane.  This was quite different to the previous safari with them as we were going to camp, them with their roof tent and us in the truck. We had the most amazing time with some wonderful animal sightings, on the last day, all the cats and the rarely seen, African Wild Dog.

 New to use was the Gerenuk, the long necked antelope which reminded us of the lamas and alpacas that we had seen in South America.

The part of the Reserve we visited is know as Buffolo Springs.  This is why! Fortunately, the spring has been walled off to enable people to swim without the fear of intrusion of wild animals. (I was told that there are often crocodiles in the swampy ground just behind the spring - the dark green area just above the pool on the left)


We also saw more elephants in one herd than we had ever seen, between us we managed to loose count at around 100!  Smaller groups of them also made frequent visits to our camp, and as you can see, got quite close to us.




Also new to us were these grevy's zebras, that have many more, thinner stripes than those we have seen in other places and furry ears!




A pride of lions lying in the shade not long after having killed a zebra.  Just out of shot is a single lioness close to the carcas making sure that nobody steals what she and her little group had worked hard to kill!


Mickey suggested as we entered the last day,that he thought it unlikely that we would see any cats as they were somewhat rare in this park!!!! First we saw a cheetah, sitting in the shade under a bush. We mainly saw it in silouhette, but it definitely was a cheetah,just resting from the heat and well camouflaged. What a thrill.
Next a leopard crossed our path,she was looking for some shade as it was very hot, after following her for a short while she decided to sit under a safari land rover.  The poor people sitting in the truck couldn't see the leopard at all and sat there looking VERY embarrassed,occasionally leaning over to see if any part of the leopard was visible!!! (We met them later, when we could talk and agreed to send photos of their experience!) We must have watched for as least half an hour.                                                                                              





Reticulated giraffe, with their much more regular and distinct patterning

Driving along a bit later we saw a giraffe looking very alert and moving from one foot to the other uncertainly. Not far from it was a pair of lionesses,casually lying in the shade but looking alert too. They sat looking at one another for a long while but as there was no real action we moved on.
Our final action of this amazing day was when Mickey stopped to talk to some other tourists and their guide and we had a tip-off about a pack of wild-dogs. These are very seldom seen and are difficult to find as they sleep most of the day and hunt at night. Directions were given,and off we went in search. The track was rough,it was hot and we had had a terrific day,but eventually we saw the rock under which the dogs were resting. Needless to say, they knew we were there and began to snarl and yap and try to send us away.  We stayed for about 15 minutes,watching their behavior,taking pictures and just being thrilled by seeing such a rare sight.
Our final evening beside the campfire was excellent. We had had a fantastic time,seen more than we had hoped and there we were in the African desert feeling about as lucky as could be! What a fantastic day,

KENYA UPDATE

We are just sitting in the airport in Mombasa awaiting a flight with Jambojet (the Kenyan equivalent of Ryanair). 

We have been in Mombasa for just over a week getting the truck sorted and put onto a ship to get it back to Europe.  Earlier this morning we watched the ship sail past our beachside hotel and off intqo the blue yonder.  Next time we see the truck will be the middle of next month in Barcelona.

Meanwhile, back to the cooler and less humid climate of Nairobi, staying with Mickey and Jane until we fly back to England on Thursday evening.

PS.
There was supposed to be a blog from Mombasa with lots of animal photos from our last safari to Samburu - but - the internet service from our hotel wasn't up to it!  Hope to get it out in the next few days from Nairobi.

Monday, September 1, 2014

KENYA AGAIN CONTINUED

During our visit to the Mara we stayed in a lodge on the top of the escarpment overlooking the plains of the Massai Mara.  Our bedroom consisted of a very smart tent with lovely stone tile floors and all mod cons. The veranda looked out over the Mara and we were able to see small planes coming and going with new visitors as well as herds of animals roaming about.

So taken were we with the smartness of our surroundings that we forgot to take any photos ourselves.  These are a bit of a cheat taken from the publicity blurb with our iPad!  The final photo is the view, taken with a proper camera by us.

Friday, August 29, 2014

KENYA AGAIN

Some of you may have been wondering what has happened to our Blog since we last published anything in September of last year.  Well we have been in the UK where we have had some health issues to resolve. Fortunately we are now back on the road again, although we have decided it is time to call an end to this lifestyle and to settle down in the UK again. To that end we have a small house in Devizes backing onto the Kennet and Avon Canal and intend to start living there once we return from this trip.  We are now in Kenya to retrieve the truck and send it home on a ship from Monbassa to Antwerp.  Whilst we are here we a doing a few short safaris with our friends. Mickey and Jane, and have just returned from the Massai Mara.

Unlike our last trip there, where the main animals were wildebeest and zebra, this time it was lion and elephant! On each day we saw lion and on the second day, 31, although there is some discussion about the exact number which could be even higher!. They were in groups of up to 15, lots of cubs and some fierce looking males. Fortunately they were mostly quite docile as they had probably been hunting before we got there and were full!!! 

We saw some lovely warthogs, most of which ran off with their tails in the air, lots of wildebeest and buffalo and large numbers of elephant. One sighting was of about 30 elephants of all sizes making the most of a very large puddle,spraying dirty water over each other....even the little ones joined in even though they got covered in mud!!!
New to us were the topis, a breed of antelope which Mickey says have yellow socks and blue jeans ! They were really lovely and like many other antelopes like standing on a mound to get a better view. Also there were groups of other antelope with a few adults looking after the youngsters...baby-sitting en mass. Hugh crocodiles lay by the river banks,hyena looked out of their burrows,and then disappeared equally fast! We did have a sighting of a leopard but it was up in a tree and all we could see was the tip of its tail. Someone must have seen it go into the tree and when one car stops everyone else stops to see what they are looking at!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

This is our last blog but with the photos.

You may have noticed that all the photos that were in the blog, going back to our trip around Europe in 2011 have gone.  I am going to try and get them back. I SUGGEST THAT YOU  delete anything that comes through to you by e-mail between now and DECEMBER 1st as we shall not be writing anything new before then at the earliest.

I think that I have it sorted now, although I'm not completely sure. Time will tell!

Our border crossing from Tanzania to Kenya went very smoothly apart from
the fact that the parking break on the truck jammed half way through a
tricky bit of manoevering in a congested parking area. In the manual it
simply tells you to press the Emergency Parking Break Release. Not that
easy in a crowded situation with a large number of experienced African
lorry drivers cheering you on!

However, that problem resolved, eventually, we passed through all the
official bits without problem and set off on our way to Nairobi. Having
missed a turning along the way we arrived in the centre of the city during
evening rush hour. By the time we found the campsite it was dark and we
were very, very tired and I was quite irritable! Still nothing that a
glass of beer and a good nights sleep couldn't put right.

During the following week we had the most enjoyable time with an old
college friend of mine and his wife. Ate a lot of food, drank (probably
more than we should have)and laughed a great deal. We were taken to some
very interesting places...to the Daphne Sheldrick Foundation to see the
orphan elephants which come from all over Kenya and are tended by their
keepers on a 24hour basis and fed on a special formula developed over the
years, with luck and a lot of patience these elephants are released into a
National Park to spend the rest of their lives unmolested.

They also took us to a place where they recycle flip flops, and another
where a man makes the most beautiful glasses out of old bottles and then
etches them with wild animals, birds or whatever else you fancy. We ate
out a lot, laughed a lot and had great fun.

Apart from that we did spend a lot of time talking with Mikey and Jane
about where we should go in Kenya during the month that we had available.
We settled on a trip to the Masai Mara and then a sweep north to Nakuru
and the lake so that we could see some other friends.

Going to the Mara proved to be much more of a trip that we had expected.
Our map showed a decent road. It turned out to be a very rough dirt track
with lots of pot holes and detours. When we eventually arrived, a day and
a half after leaving Nairobi, we found a lovely campsite and a very
helpful man to take us into the Reserve and show us around. Another
significant highlight of Africa. Lions,

leopard more wildebeest and zebra than you can imagine. There were also
lots and lots of tourist vehicles. Difficult to take a photo without a
Land Cruiser showing up somewhere,however we did manage to have a pair of
lions to ourselves for about 20minutes though we had to share the leopard
with lots of others....well worth it though!!!

After the excitement of the Mara we found another road misrepresented on
our map! A road of about 50 miles was shown as tar; actually slick mud and
even worse when it rained. The result was that we had to spend a night
parked up on the side of the road miles from anywhere. Not the first time
we have done that, of course, but the first time in Kenya, where we had
been told it was not advisable to do so. Still, in the morning we were
able to carry on although negotiating our way down hill past a large truck
bogged down in the middle of road was a bit nerve wracking.

One of the things we hadn't really appreciated was how high most of Kenya
is. Nairobi is at about 1800 meters and, going west to the Mara, you climb
a bit and then drop down into the Great Rift Valley at about 1500 meters.
At school we always drew the floor of the Rift Valley flat. I was really
surprised to find it full of hills and the remnants of some sizable
volcanoes. Although I knew that there we lakes in the valley, there were
far more than I expected. We camped for a few nights beside Lake
Naiavasha, which has some lovely birds and hippos and is freshwater. Right
beside it, separated only by a very narrow causeway is Lake Oloidon , no
hippos and lots and lots of flamingoes.

Flamingoes don't like fresh water. There is lots of evidence that Lake Naiavasha has been the home of
flamingoes in the not to distant past. Apparently, depending on who you talk to, it's down to global warming!

Now we are back in Nairobi and will be flying home on September 24/25th
after spending the week with Mickey and Jane whilst putting the truck into
storage. Home for a holiday!



Thursday, August 22, 2013

Tanzania - with photos!

Sorry there are no photos this time. Having a nightmare with the internet and this computer. Will update this blog as soon as. We have now been in Tanzania for a month. The highlight of this month is a choice between a fantastic day spent in the Ngorongoro Creater and Liz falling into a storm drain and breaking her wrist! 

The latter happened on our second day in the country and meant that we had to stay put on a campsite close to Iringa so that we could be sure that the resetting of the wrist and the plaster cast was satisfactory. Although it all seemed OK we decided to go to a rather smart clinic in Dar es Salaam just to have the break re-x-rayed and get a second opinion. The most exciting part of getting this second opinion was the ride in a tuk-tuk from the campsite to the clinic and back with the river crossing. We discovered that a tuk-tuk can just get through the foot passenger access route as long as it is hooting its horn for the entire 3 minutes that it takes to get from the ticket office to the edge of the dock! Anyway, The Public Hospital in Iringa got the approval of the rather smart consultant at the Aga Kahn Clinic and we are now looking for someone to remove the plaster cast and replace with a splint and bandage. Hopefully this will give Liz a bit more mobility and she should feel a lot more comfortable. 

 The second highlight, the Ngorongoro Crater, is between the town of Arusha and the Serengeti, quite close to the border with Kenya. After looking at several ways of getting into the Crater we decided to drive to the small town closest to it, Karatu, and then get someone to drive us in. Because of the nature of the place there are lots of restrictions and costs involved. 
For example, there is a one off cost for taking a vehicle down into the creator of $200 and only Tanzanian vehicles are allowed in. There are also weight constraints so that only vehicles of Land Rover size allowed in. The paperwork involved is quite unbelievable, involving a trip to a bank to pay the entrance fees, in US$, and then driving to the park to queue for about a 30 minutes to get the 5 copies of the bank receipt stamped and then replaced with 2 different sheets of paper, one of which is handed to a guard who has watched you go into the office and go through this whole process and the other is handed to the same person when you leave the park in the evening! Once you get down into the crater all this becomes irrelevant and a thing of distant and fading memory. There are an estimated 30,000 animals in an area of 265 square kilometres, or about 10 miles by 12 miles. We sat and ate our lunch watching a lioness basking in the sunshine, a little restless as she watched a herd of buffalo, knowing that she would need to wait for at least one other lion to come along to help her get supper.

Earlier we had had the most magnificent sighting of a male lion which passed so close to our Land Rover that you could see the flys sitting on his back and smell the lion. 


 We were told that the numbers of wildebeest in the Crater at this time of the year was low because numbers of them had left to go into the Serengeti and Masai Mara as part of the migration.  I find it difficult to imagine there being many more wildebeest than we saw in such a small area. They and zebras were everywhere that you looked. It is also quite a strange sensation being down of the floor of the Crater, about 610 meters below the rim, part of which is shrouded in cloud which you can see tumbling over the rim and into the Crater. The whole of the floor of the Crater is basking in sunshine and, I marked contrast to the rim, warm without being excessively hot. 

In this northern area of Tanzania we have come across many Masai. They are often working as guards at campsites. They are tall and very impressive in their traditional dress, always wearing a long narrow bladed knife and carrying a cherished stick. Very occasionally they are also seen carrying a spear too. On their feet they mostly wear a pair of flip flop type shoes that appear to be made from old car tyres. Against all this tradition, it is startling as you look at them with some awe and then hear the stark tones of a mobile phone, answered with "hallo" followed by a pause and then a gabble in a language one can not understand. It is said that there are more mobile phones per head of population in Tanzania than England!

On our journey from the coast to Arusha we travelled on some of the worst roads we have ever encounter anywhere in the World, made even more annoying by the fact that the new road, 90% complete but unusable, runs parallel and within sight of the bone shaker along which we were driving. We survived although we did loose our number plate and all of the rear lights on one side of the truck. Fortunately, we have been able to replace them but the hand painted number plate bothers me a bit! During this part of the journey we drove to the top of the Usambara Mountains and stayed at a campsite with the most amazing views and glorious sunsets. Our next move is to cross the border into Kenya to see, amongst other things, an ex-college friend of mine. We shall do that tomorrow.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Malawi

Lake Malawi has an area about equivalent to the area of Wales! There is, however, more to the country than just the Lake. The walls of the Great African Rift Valley rise, in places, from the shores of the Lake [about 1500 feet] to a quite mountainous terrain with streams, small farms, rocky hillsides and cold, cold morning temperatures! Some mornings have almost been frosty. The views are spectacular when you get up high and you can see for miles…even to the other side of the lake.

Large numbers of fishermen get their living from the lake using various methods to catch the fish. Most entail going out in a mokoro, paddling it across the water, sometimes they dangle a line other times they use a net…they row out from the beach in a semi-circle towing a net behind them, when they reach the shore they rest for a while then they start pulling the net in. It takes 5 men on each end of the net, and about 20 minutes of hard rhythmical tugging and on the occasion we watched, all for a bucket full of fish. Apparently this is the windy season….there is always a breeze….so the fish swim lower in the water, and the catches are not so good. We had a delicious meal of Chambo, which is only found in Lake Malawi, one of the nicest fish we have ever eaten. There are environmental issues here too, as the fishermen are catching smaller fish which are the breeding stock for the future….what a dilemma!

                                             
On our way inland we came across a rubber plantation…tall rubber trees with a slanting groove in them and a small pot hanging under the slit. The liquid rubber trickles down the slot into the pot!! In addition to the industrial rubber collected by the factory staff there appeared to be a local trade in rubber balls made from the dried strips of rubber when the tree stopped dripping. These strips were wound into balls of varying sizes and sold at the roadside…no delivery miles for those balls!!

 

Apart from following the edge of the lake we went to a wildlife reserve along 30ks of rough road. There were signs of tobacco growing and we met a loaded lorry that was off to the auction floors in Mzuzu. There were small houses all along the road…Malawi has more people per square kilometre than any other African country we have been in…making it hard to find a lunch-time picnic spot!! We spent 2 days sitting close to the lake…and wandering about a bit…hippos slept on the shore all morning sunbathing, then waddled off into the water. Baboons and monkeys clambered about in the trees…the little ones were really cute…and various antelope came to the water to drink, impala, bushbuck and kudu. It is really good when the wildlife comes to you!! We had campfires each night which we shared with some other Brits…all good fun and lots of chats about experiences in Africa.

 Justlook at the mouth on that hippo!

After a quick flit back to Mzuzu to stock up on a few essentials, we headed north to Chitimbe where we were greeted in the campsite by 4 large Overland Trucks, about 100 people and a really cute chameleon!