Archives for February 2014

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Kenya

9th February 2014 Crossed into Kenya yesterday with, again, a minimum of fuss. Both Ugandan and Kenyan officials most friendly. Visas cost USD$50 each and a road tax of USD$40. DSC05212

I described the road into Dar as the Highway to Hell. Well the one into Nairobi is Beyond Deathwish. Same deadly driving but when visibility decreased to about 20 metres due to rain fog and hail their driving techniques were not changed one iota. Same high speed and overtaking on blind bends and crests.

Recrossed the equator and arrived at the Wildebeest Eco camp where it is 15C. (Is this Africa?). This place is owned by an Aussie couple, Alan and Lynita, and is a green oasis. One of the best so far, with excellent facilities, Wi-Fi and restaurant all at a reasonable price.

13th February 2014 Arranging visas for Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt.

Letters of introduction from the Australian High Commission and other information was provided quickly and at no cost, just make sure you get there early as these services close at midday. Same for the Ethiopian embassy.

The Ethiopian embassy had some beaurocracy but not too bad. We had to undergo an interview, which was not unpleasant, as we had heard. The Ethiopian diplomat who interviewed us actually apologised for making us wait five minutes.

Cost USD$20 each for a two month visa.

At the Egyptian embassy we were told to apply for the Egyptian visa at Khartoum.

AUD$64 each for a one month visa for Sudan.

All of the above has gone smoothly as we were prepared with copies of all of our documents, passports, carnet, birth and marriage certificates, passport photos etc., were not cheeky with them and waited patiently. All in all the waiting was not too bad.

Having completed these formalities we have a wait of two or three days for the visas to be issued.

We experienced a similar “sheep following” ritual to the one in Dubai. We had gone to a local upmarket shopping centre, which is surrounded by new road works, nothing like what you have seen in Sydney. As we left I took the obvious dirt road back to camp. About half a kilometre on I came to a mountain of roadwork blocking the road ahead. WRONG WAY, but there were twenty cars behind, following me.

16th February 2014 Yesterday we went to the giraffe park, which is just a few kilometres away from our camping. Here you could hand feed them. They have long ( about 30cm ), blue, rough tongues and form them into a scoop shape just as you place the pellet onto them. They will also try to lick your face.

Today we went to the Kenya Wildlife National Park, which is also but a few minutes from our camping. It is quite a large park with a backdrop of Nairobi skyscrapers, so get the right angle and you can get a picture of some wild animals against a city skyline.

We, again, saw many animals, antelope, rhinoceros, hippo,  giraffe, zebra but no cats or elephants. It was still worth the US$50 each for entry.

17th February 2014 I had the best haircut that I can remember today. It included a facial massage with balms applied, neck also, pressure points, beard trim with hot towels and some mild Chiropractic techniques. Judy was not quite as happy with hers as they were a little too timid with her hair.

After lunch we drove into Nairobi city to pick up our new Garman GPS. Nairobi is a very busy city but with quite a western feel to it. After negotiating the tortuous one-way streets and bypasses we finally approached our destination where I had several meetings with the city police. The first was when I made a right hand turn and, apparently, went against a red light. Two woman police officers pulled me over and explained to me the meaning of a red light. Again I apologised and pleaded ignorance I’m an Australian, whilst Judy did some quick talking and changed the subject. After talking for a bit the officer said you should buy some land here (I don’t know either), asked us for our phone number and said we should all go out together sometime soon. The next was when I parked illegally while Judy went in to get the parcel. There were other cars parked there also so I thought I was safe. Some “Clamping Inspectors” even walked past without comment. Hello, another policewoman. She informed me that she would have to impound my car and that it would cost me 6000 shillings to release it (about AUD$80). What are we going to do about this? She said, (you get my drift?) She then suggested that if I paid an instant fine of 3000 shillings all would be well. Luckily my wallet was a bit bare and she accepted 10 dollars of various currencies. As she walked off she told me that I was now allowed to park there. Not five minutes later two male police approached and with a big smile told me that they were going to arrest me and take me away. I told them that I had immunity because of the previous encounter. They were very interested in this information and went off in search of the officer allowing me to escape. I think they were joking with me. I might add that this city is known amongst travellers as I-rob-ya.

On the way home we called in at the Sudanese embassy, slightly late, and collected our passports and visas just as they had instructed.

I have a wallet with old credit cards and a small amount of money in it in case of robbery but I think that this is the wallet I will pull out whenever I speak to the police. See the connection?

At the Wildebeest camp we have met several other overlanders, a Czech couple Petra and

Tuck your shirt in, son !

Tuck your shirt in, son !

Pavel, a South African couple Jean and Rui, and a German, Jürgen. We all got on well and socialised in the evenings to become what I like to call the “Wildebeest Club”. Unfortunately we are all going in different directions but we may catch up with some of them later in Europe.

19th February 2014 We left Nairobi and headed north about 160k to the town of Nyeri where Baden Powell, creator of the Boy Scout Movement for you young’un’s, lived and died. He is buried here and we will visit his grave tomorrow, I as an old Boy Scout and Judy a Brownie.

Crossed the Equator again, 26c.

Big problems with Tracks4Africa see “Tips” section.

Camped now at Sandai camp and guesthouse looking toward a snow-capped Mount Kenya. This place is at the end of a ten kilometre black dirt road and the rain is just starting. Guess I’ll be testing by new rubber boots tomorrow. In the morning we had coffee with the owner, a German lady who was very welcoming and we would have liked to have stayed longer but the road is calling.

Really pouring now with hail. Cosy in our cubby. With a fire waiting to be lit in the shed, next to us.

Too miserable to light the fire, it is ready for the next man.

20th February 2014 didn’t have to dust off the Wellies but I did do a 360 doughnut in the mud, totally out of control but came to no grief. We did pay our respects to Baden Powell. There is quite a complex there, a museum, an indoor camping area his and his wife’s gravesite. We met the Head Guide who told us that she had recently met and shook the hand of Kenya’s President, Uhuru Kenyatta. So I shook the hand that shook the hand.

 

We then motored north to Umoj Waso Women’s Group Camp, which is a community project to protect abuse amongst the local women. There is no shower here and you have to pay corkage for any food or drink that you

consume that you do not buy at the restaurant. We are camped in a semi arid area next to a muddy river. The cook came up to me and asked if I needed some security and upon further quizzing told me that although there was no problem here, as we were travelling to Ethiopia ,we may need to enquire at the local police station as to the availability of security i.e. a man with a gun to accompany us north.

21st February 2014 The first 80k was a perfect tar road with little traffic and picture perfect countryside. The last 120k was a really bad dirt road and we have decided to stop early today at Henry’s camp, Marsabit before attempting the last 200k of bad dirt in Kenya.

Henry’s camp has a good hot shower, flushing toilet and a small open common room with some beer in the fridge. It is cool and very windy here at the moment (high altitude). Henry himself is a Swiss man who was stranded here thirty seven years ago and decided to stay. We have also ascertained that the road ahead is clear of bandits.

22nd February 2014 Encountered no bandits and the road was a little better that expected ie. Some tarmac, some good dirt and no rain. Plenty of interesting arid landscape, donkeys and camels and nomads in bright clothes. I tell you most of the good stuff is just driving along the road.

Entry into Ethiopia was easy until we reached customs. CLOSED, because the man went home early but operators in the area could ring him and get him back. (Remember Zambia). We kicked up a stink and sure enough we got through. We are learning.

 

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Uganda

4th February 2014 Entered Uganda with a minimum of fuss. The Ugandan authorities were very pleasant. US$50 each for a three month tourist visa and USh83,000.0000 or AUD$38.00 for road tax.

Uganda, to me, is even more spectacular than Rwanda with similar, garden like scape. We wound our way up to Bwindi Backpackers lodge which borders the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, gorilla country, and rumoured to be frequented by our ancestors (or maybe just mine) its very misty up here. The dirt road up for the 36k was very rough at times but very high, mountainous and pretty, well worth the drive. As I sit here writing this in the front seat, ten or so children just watching and being curious surround me. I note that they are gradually getting closer and closer.

The manager of the lodge is a young Ugandan by the name of Junior and he told us that he was a soccer player of note and was about to have a game just down the road, a short distance and would you like to come. Of course we would. A short distance in Uganda is different to ours. About two kilometres on and down a long, steep ravine we finally made it to the football field, a flat space at the bottom of the valley. On the way, however, we saw how friendly every one we passed was, with lots of hello’s and those smiles.

As usual we are the only guests here. There is no power here so it’s a candle lit dinner and warm beer. They are actually killing us with kindness, especially lighting the donkey (a boiler) for our shower and having the school children perform for us.

5th February 2014 We took a tour of a Pygmy (Batwah) village starting at about 9am, just Judy, our guide Richard, and myself. The path took us through some extremely steep and stunning terrain. As we walked and approached the Impenetrable forest, gorilla land, a familiar sound alerted me to an incoming phone call to Richard. Yes mobile reception is very good in the darkest of Africa in Uganda. When the nearby national park was established the Batwa were evicted from their natural habitat and resettled close to the park in huts provided by the government, the reasoning being was that they would continue to hunt in the park unless removed, depleting the animals.

Children's bedroom at left

Children’s bedroom at left

When we reached the village they were most welcoming and entertained us with several dances. I must say that they were taller than expected especially as I had seen what I thought was a true pygmy back at The Volcanoes. This person was about three feet tall and in perfect symmetry, not a dwarf. I think the people we saw were forest people. Amazing, though, how they can make a 20L plastic jerry can sound like an African drum.

The elderly woman of the village and chief dance meister took a look at the photo that I had just taken of her and declared that she looked like a gorilla.

Interestingly there were a couple of teenage males in the village who seemed too cool for school, sucking on a vodka sachet and smoking tailor made’s. Richard told me they also smoked the other. They were casual but when the dancing started they got up with gusto and stomped their gumboots down.

 

 

 

We returned, exhausted at 3.30pm but stopped at the community hotel, a mud hut where Richard introduced us to the non alcoholic version of sorghum juice, Bushera, which tasted like lemon flavoured yoghurt and looked like granular coco, not all that bad, but I could only drink a quarter of a huge mug. Richard told me he could drink five or six of these in quick succession and finished off what I couldn’t.

On this trek Judy and myself consumed copious amounts of water and sweated like pigs. Richard no sweat. He didn’t drink a drop of water but said he may crush some sorghum for the moisture.

Diving back down the mountain we sustained some collateral damage as I tried to negotiate my way around a truck stopped on a mountain bend. A fellow LandCruiser had just successfully negotiated it (a ute) however as I passed the back of the car slid down and  #$&^%*<. Judy thought I was remarkably composed.DSC05138 DSC05144

6th February 2014 Again we have ended up at a wonderful place, not having travelled too many K’s. The Bunyonyi Overland Resort by Lake Bunyonyi and, we are waterfront again.

The sun peeped out as we had a mid afternoon aperitif and Judy decided to do the washing while I blogged. The wind picked up and blew the washing down, a precursor of the wet season to come at the end of the month.

Absolutely pouring down now.

7th February 2014 Uganda has reverted to scenery similar to Tanzania and we have ended up at the Igongo Cultural Centre near Mbarara being the only customers bar two African bizzo types. This is a big complex with a fifty-room hotel almost built. We are camped amongst the building activity and at 7.30pm it is still full of construction workers. It opens in ten days to great fanfare to which we were invited. Unfortunately we leave tomorrow.

We awoke to the complex being overrun with police and army. The manager proudly took me on a tour of the hotel

and later, on the radio, we heard that the opening of the complex was indeed a celebrity event with government ministers to attend. Alas without our presence.

8th February 2014 We reached the Equator at about 11am, the temperature was 26C, before arriving in Kampala.

Uganda has fully reverted to Tanzania with roads that range from superhighways to arterial roads with potholes a foot deep, no exaggeration, and, the same crazy driving.

Kampala has also mimicked Dar Es Salam with unbelievable traffic. Whilst stuck in one of the traffic jams I took a couple of photos of the pandemonium and before too long two women police came up and asked if I had been taking their photo. I pleaded ignorance and they let me pass, perhaps it is a no no.

Crossed the Victoria (White) Nile in the late afternoon and are now camped close to it.

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Rwanda

 

 30th January 2014 Entered Rwanda with formalities which took two hours, though fairly straightforward. US$30 each for a visa. An almighty rainstorm poured down for about half an hour in the midst of a ramshackle border post hosting about one hundred juggernauts but no worries as we were well trained at the Zambian entry point.

 

Rwanda is already a beautiful, mountainous terrain and, although the villages are similar to Tanzania, the tree lined roads, hedges, grass and no rubbish or brick heaps present a much more pleasant picture. Also no speed bumps and humps, which in Tanzania are vicious.

Staying tonight at the back of a motel, had dinner and got some local Kwachas (francs) in the town of Kayonza, about 60k from Kigali.

31st January 2014 Started the day by taking a drive some 20k out of Kayonza to a genocide memorial. The last 10k took us along a very rough road to the site but when we arrived we found a church and some graves, lager than the usual, but not much else. Parking there trying to figure if we were at the right place a man standing nearby walked across and introduced himself as Andrew. He explained that there were three thousand victims of the genocide buried here who had been killed in cold blood in the surrounding buildings, and that they were in the process of building the memorial.

We offered him a lift to where he was going which happened to be 60k along the road to Kigali and as we travelled it turned out that he was a Catholic priest, educated in Chicago, well travelled, but was now a parish priest and sometime advisor to a private school near Kigali.

Rwanda is a breath of fresh air. Beautiful, mountainous, with tree blossomed roads all the way to Kigali. It is a manicured garden.

Kigali is a modern, clean, efficient city. One or two set of lights, (digital ones that do a count down to the change of colour), and the rest controlled by roundabouts. I haven’t driven in the right hand lane for forty years but I can tell you this was the easiest of reintroductions. This seems to be the most advanced African country so far.

Registered at the Kigali Youth Hostel, though it should be called the Kigali Aged Hostel for obvious reasons, plenty of oldies.

In the afternoon we went to the Rwanda memorial and museum in Kigali, which opened our eyes to what went on here twenty years ago. It’s unimaginable. After the German holocaust they said never again. Well I think it’s ever again, it just keeps happening. 250,000 buried here.

In the evening I had a jam session with a Rwandan reggae man and an American wildlife ranger, it pumped, attracting various Germans and others with nothing better to do.

 1st February 2014 Motored west across the same beautiful, mountainous country to Kibuye on the shores of Lake Kivu where we are camped, among the gum trees in the grounds of a luxury hotel, the Bethany. Right on the lake, we look across to the Democratic Republic of the Congo. There is an African choir singing just above us on the next outdoor level.

We are in the territory of Diana Fossey (Gorillas in the mist); she is buried in nearby Volcanoes National Park where her gorillas still live. We may go to see them but the asking price is $750 each so I’m not sure we will do it.

I got out of the car to look at the choir and their photographer invited me to come closer. I asked for permission to film and it was granted. Turns out they were making a promotional film for their out coming CD. I think they liked that I was interested and saw that I was dancing along. The music was very good and I bought a CD, they all cheered. Later they asked me if I would like to join them in the choir, singing and being part of the film clip. That was the start of my film career. I had a lot of fun up there with them; they even gave me a robe to wear so you could hardly tell that I wasn’t really a member of their choir. Eat your heart out Geoffrey Rush (Bran nue dae).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m the one in the black robe.

 

Met Katarina and Daniel, from Sweden, who have the knowledge of the source of the Nile so we will go in search of it later, just like Livingstone. I have my own theory of where it is.

We later had dinner with this couple and may meet up with the family in Europe this summer.

2nd February 2014 Yep, found it, the source of the Nile, but no. To this day it is undetermined but we were in the general area, maybe. In our search we drove the back tracks of North West Rwanda and saw much of the continuously cultivated countryside. It seems no part is untouched by human hand and people are everywhere. On entering the Gisenyi area we passed a Unicef transition camp but not sure where these refugees are from, possibly South Sudan or Central African Republic. Stayed at Gisenyi overnight at the Dian Fossey (Dian not a typo) hotel car park and set of next morning in search of Gorilla.

3rd February 2014 Paused at Musanze to get some Ugandan and US money and to stock up on vegetables, which we had not had for quite some time. The roadside stall stall we stopped had a good selection and the women stallholders helped load up our bag with their choicest examples. When I asked if I could take a picture a small riot erupted with people laughing, asking for money and a final result of the head woman demanding a picture of herself, standing defiantly, arms folded with a frowned expression on her face, all antics hilarious.

On the subject of food, we have not seen a lot of salad, vegetables or fruit apart from bananas. In preparing any of the vegetables, they have to be washed in bottled water as any other water is of dubious quality. The locals may be more used to it as we saw them collecting water and washing their hands in the storm water running along the streets of the towns.

Chicken is about the only meat as the beef is of very poor quality, nearly as tender as camel hoof. The fish we did not like to try as the lakes here, huge as they are, are polluted, certainly close to shore.

This reminds me of a recipe for cooking camel hooves.

Recipe: Place the hooves, one brick, four bay leaves and seasoning to taste, into a pot of water and bring to the simmer. Simmer for three weeks. The brick is then ready to eat.

Reached the Volcanos National park where, the asking price to see the Gorillas was, truly, $750 per person. Not only that but any other trail of interest, such as Dian Fossey’s final resting place was $100 per person and you could not enter the park independently. Some volcanoes in this area are still active, the last one going off in 2010. Next stop Uganda.

We are very close to the equator, latitude 1 or 2 but I have a jumper on with daytime temperatures in the low 20’s and nights 15 or 16c. This is due to the higher altitude and the moderating effects of the great lakes system in central Africa.

Reached the Volcanos National park where, the asking price to see the Gorillas was, truly, $750 per person. Not only that but any other trail of interest, such as Dian Fossey’s final resting place was $100 per person and you could not enter the park independently. Some volcanoes in this area are still active, the last one going off in 2010. Next stop Uganda.

We are very close to the equator, latitude 1 or 2 but I have a jumper on with daytime temperatures in the low 20’s and nights 15 or 16c. This is due to the higher altitude and the moderating effects of the great lakes system in central Africa.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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