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Kilimanjaro – Day 1 (2975m)

4:19 am Filed under: Travel

After a slow start this morning (nothing bad just typical “Africa time”) we eventually got to the trail head and started walking at about noon. Our bus driver was a classic, he looked like snoop dog.

Oh yeah we were held up a bit when the bus’s shock absorber half fell off, which they “fixed” by tying it up with a bit of rope and putted along at walking pace the rest of the way. At least we didn’t have to walk with all the gear any further than necessary.

Snoop dog and his bus A prime example of afri-stacking while we were waiting around  A local girl checking us out while we were fixing the bus The bus, she's broke Sleeping in caves has been prohibited, please us tents  Loading the food Big crazy skunk monkey The whole crew, ready to climb Umbwe Route Starting Point The first few steps up Kilimanjaro

We started out at around 1800m above sea level on a reasonable jeep track, which eventually got pretty steep and tricky (I would have loved to have the KTM there). After an hour or so we stopped to show our lunch packs, after which we started on the “real” trail. Which I guess you would say was a 5 hour dirt, moss and root staircase through the jungle.

Kilimanjaro Porters Lunch pack Umbwe Route Umbwe Route Kilimanjaro Fire Trumpets Umbwe Route Umbwe Route IMG_8104 Umbwe Route Umbwe Route  Umbwe Route Camp End Of Day One

I really enjoyed the twisting switch-back natural staircases and the setting was spectacular, a bit like Magoebaskloof actually, old decaying trees covered with stringy moss as far as the eye could see in all directions.

Eloise had a pretty tough first day but seemed to spring back at dinner, I hope she finds a good rhythm and enjoys tomorrow more.

Kilimanjaro – Getting There & Around Moshi

3:32 am Filed under: General

The following is transcribed from the journal I wrote while we were traveling, the detail thins out a bit after we actually start climbing because the altitude effects my brain making writing almost impossible.

Our trip here was pretty uneventful, even the transfer through stinky Nairobi airport went quickly and without incident.  Our bags all arrived with us in Kilimanjaro airport and the hotel was just an hours mini bus ride through to Moshi.

The next day we spent stooging around the hotel, broken up with a quick look around Moshi, which was surprisingly not very touristy but very African. Basically a general shit fight everywhere with every second shop the identical crappy little general store, fabric shop or electronic goods store all surrounded by a constant swarm of clapped out push bikes, motor bikes and cars.

Mt Kilimanjaro From the Plane Utility Tuk-tuk At least he's safe Moshi Markets Moshi Main Street Masai Vendors BananasPorters waiting around for a trip Mt Kilimanjaro from our hotel

One entertaining thing we saw were these bikes converted into machete knife-sharpeners, where they have a grinding wheel running off the back wheel. So the operator mounts and peddles the bike backward and grinds away.

By the end of the day we were a bit over all the waiting around, at 5PM we had a hike briefing and met our guide Killian. He seems to be a nice jovial kind of guy, with plenty of interesting stories about different parties he’s taken up the mountain.

Apparently he took the crew up to film the Kilimanjaro IMax movie.

Elephant Sands

4:44 am Filed under: Travel

We were pretty keen to wave goodbye to Zambia. We crossed over on a barge back to Botswana and spend the night in Kasane.

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The next morning we made tracks to Francistown, but decided to make a quick stop over at Elephant Sands for lunch. Whilst preparing some delicious sandwiches and sipping on a beer, we has some visitors. This is what followed:

 

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They emptied the pool which was right next to the lapa and were so close the owner had to “shoo” them away. It was an awesome experience. My favorite of all shots Pete took is this one:

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Victoria Falls

3:09 am Filed under: Travel

To view the spectacular Victoria Falls we had to enter Zambia and head to Livingstone. The moment we set foot in the place we had a bad feeling. Just after we crossed the border we got pulled up by traffic cops. We lost our number plate in Botswana at one of the river crossings. It kinda gave them something to rub their hands together for, but once we paid the fine and had the receipt, it was ok. We got pulled up 3 times in a 60 km straight. They loved pulling the “insurance card”. They pulled all this BS about having to have bought insurance when you crossed the border. Luckily we had a letter from our local insurance stating we were covered in Zambia, but we still had to argue the point every time.

A very small portion right on the edge of the falls Looking through the gorge Zimbabwe side - small part right on the edge, before the spray hits yaThe smoke that thunders

Another one of their favorite “dodgy ways to make money” was a scam they called “council tax”. Where ever you were pulled up, they claimed you had to pay this tax, even to cross the border, yet no where is it a legal requirement. I think it is one of those where if enough people believe it, it gets real. What a croc of S#it!

With the demise of Zimbabwe Livingstone became the main destination to see the falls. Unfortunately Livingstone’ians didn’t realize the value of the tourist and are blatantly out to stooge you in every way imaginable. Dad’s wallet got pinched as a bunch of locals helped him into his own car. All activities are reasonably  expensive, but hey, it is the Vic Falls…one of the seven natural wonders of the world.

After viewing the Falls from the Zambia side we decided to head over to Zimbabwe to view it from there. It is a short walk away. Saffa’s cross the border no charge, but if you are travelling on a Aussie passport they sting you US$50. After enquiring about a “few hour crossing to few the falls” and being ensured that it would only be $20 for the Aussie passport, we were truly pissed off to re-enter and be charged US$50. The conversation got a little heated (to say the least) and ended with an official saying “then stay in Zimbabwe”, and chucking the passport back at us. Needless to say, we “negotiated” our way back in after changing some currency at exorbitant  rates. In the end, Pete could have seen the falls in helicopter for cheaper than walking over the border. This all said, it was a pretty spectacular view from Zimbabwe.

Family shot Pete and Max getting soaking wet  Max's rain coat Neels and Hester in the hired rain coats Vic Falls bridge Zambia side - Knifes edge Vic falls

Pete and I also went for a white water rafting trip. Due to extremely high water, I was a bit disappointed. It was more like taking a raft out on sea. On top of that we ended up in the Oar boat (safety boat that catches any one that falls out). Was nice being in the gorge, but I just know the rafting can be so much better.

Caprivi

6:38 am Filed under: Travel

After the wildness of Botswana we we crossed the border over to the relative civilization of Namibia, we were booked in for a few days at Kalizo lodge near Katima Mulilo right on the mighty Zambezi river.  The Zambezi is a mighty slab of river and was running at full level due to plenty of rains north in Angola, we guessed it to be around 400 meters wide where we camped.

It was a nice to spend a few days in one place and take a break from all the driving. Pete and I were hoping to catch some tiger fish, whilst Dad and Hester were keen on a birding boat trip.

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The extreme wet season up north did not work in our favor when it came to catching huge tiger fish, apparently they hang out in the reeds when the water is this high, so we were relegated to spinning and trawling for the little ones that hang out in the main river.

We still had heaps of fun, even if we did have to settle for the little fellas, amongst the 3 or 4 tigers we also caught some squeakers and a cat fish. The squeakers are so name because they make this weird squeaking noise when out of the water. Pete got a little nervous towards the end of the trip when his tiger tally was a little low (Zero), but he managed to get one right at the end.

Pete's babel First Tiger for the day Foul hooked or not, I got it in the boat Mokoro on the Zambezi Local fisherman Bokoms - dried fish Fishermans hampie Enjoying the river Pete's huge tiger Teethy tiger Sunset over the mighty Zambezi

Dad and Hester enjoyed their birding trip immensely,they saw some really scarce king fisher and plenty of other cool birds, unfortunately I don’t know all the names.

  Fish eagle Some rare king fisher Parrot dove Another type king fisher Water monitor

Another awesome chapter in our trip.

Max is mobile and full of attitude

6:56 am Filed under: Family

It’s been a big week over this side, Max was home most of last week because he had the flu so we had full time crawling training all week. He already had the basics down but still didn’t really care for it, as always he was just happy being where ever he was.

Around Friday that changed as he got a taste for exploring, he’s been on the go since.

Max dual wielding biscuits Max on the move All new attitude Playing the ball out of the play pen game No more going to bed quietly

With this new found freedom arrived a whole new attitude, and a new set of lungs… no more going to bed quietly!

It’s all good fun!

Botswana – Moremi & Savute

5:16 am Filed under: Travel

After the Delta we headed north, first stop being the Moremi South gate camp ground. Just outside the reserve entrance we saw a group of elephant, giraffe, zebra and red buck, but did not even bother slowing down as we weren’t even in the reserve yet so we figured if the spotting was that good outside the reserve we’d see plenty more…. we were wrong.

That night we had a spotted hyena visit the camp, he obviously scavenges the camp sites often as he’d return quite quickly after we shooed him away. We took the camera to bed and waited for him after we turned the camp lights off to get these pics.  So much for all animals being afraid of fire, he didn’t flinch as he ate some scrops right off the fireplace next to the fire.

Just after we retired Neels said there was another much larger one around the camp also but we missed him, the whole experience made us glad we shelled out for a roof top tent (especially with Max).

Moremi South gate campPete getting the perfect shot Spotted hyena Posing for Pete Curious lil fella So much for keeping them away with fire

The next day was meant to be a quick half day drive to Savute and some game drives around there, a half hour into the trip we realised our mistake.  Just because the map has a nice big fat white line that’s much fatter than most of the other lines, doesn’t mean it’s going to be a “real” road!

No, the “major” road we were taking was just a single lane sand track, much like ever other sand track we’d been on, twisting and humpy limiting our speed to 20-30 kmph. By lunch time we’d only just reached the North gate (around half way) at which point they told us the way forward was impassible due to some deep water crossings, and that we’d have to go all the way back to South gate where we’d camped the night before and take another route around.

Due to the fact that we’d seen the grand total of SFA the whole way up the track we weren’t so keep on the idea of doing it all again. At that point this real boertjie (Afrikaans) cowboy strolled in, he managed some other camp to the North and had just came through all the water crossings the guy at the gate was saying was impassible in a similar model hilux to ours (with a slight lift kit).  He said both our cars would make it through the crossings no worries and offered to go ahead and show us the best line through each crossing.

I don’t know if there’s any official colloquial term warning about trusting cowboys but we “just” made it across the crossings, the point where water came over the front of Neels’  Pajero was and little too close for comfort.  We were thousands of ks from civilization on deep sand roads in all directions, if we had have drowned one of the vehicles, it was definitely holiday over….  All is well that ends well I say! 

PS: I actually really enjoyed finally giving the Hilux a good test… but the look on Neels’ face didn’t let me show it at the time.. Pete.

Typical road The bridge before the water crossings A little too deep? Wading through the croc and hippo infested waters The hilux finally seeing some decent action

The road to Savute was just more sand, but pleasant enough, it got quite deep at some points requiring some low range actaion. At one point in the track we came across these weirdoes in two Kia soft roaders getting towed by a really cranky local in a tractor… when I say towed, I mean towed by a friggin chain as thick as your leg… I’m sure the front would have been missing by the time they got to Savute.  Thankfully after crawling along behind them for a few ks they stopped at a little offshoot through the bush and let us pass.

That night we had a honey badger visit us, yep a stinking badger!!! Thing is you very rarely see them in the wild, apparently they’re quite a force to be reckoned with in the wild so we made sure we packed the camp up before heading to bed…. Unfortunately no photo.

Pete was fascinated by the fortified wall around the ablution block, the whole thing was like a military bunker, with the cinder block walls on the outside reinforced by 45 degree sloping dirt on the inside. It was made like that so it was elephant proof, because in the dry season the elephants dig all the water pipes up, you can see from the photo the bunker was elephant proof but the sign wasn’t.

Camp at Savute Early morning Max Blue bird Banana beak Elephant didn't like this sign Elephant crossing the road Max getting some beer for dad

Another great leg of the trip, we’d love to head back this way one day and give ourselves a little more time to explore… now that we know how far you can/can’t drive each day.

Botswana – Okavango Delta

8:55 am Filed under: Travel

First thing the next morning we packed up camp and headed straight for the airport to catch our flight into the Okavango Delta. The flight was quite interesting, we all packed into a Cessna for a short 20 minute hop over to the Delta. We only ever got up to 4000 feet so we got a great look over the delta. The dirt landing strip looked pretty dodgy on approach but our pilot Freddy made a nice “smooth” landing.

Max checking out the view Okavango delta from the air Arrival in our little Cessna Mokoro pick-up from the airstrip

On our first mokoro outing we went to the hippo pools. Never thought I’d say this, but we actually saw a hippo jump out of the water and take a little dive. The second time round was a little close for comfort, as this one felt we were intruding a little and actually jumped towards us, doing a kind of mock charge. Gave everyone a good fright.

Spider stick infront of Mokoro Max and I enjoying the ride Papio, our excelent guide Looks can be deceiving Double trouble 

Plenty of interesting insects visit the mokoro, specially if you don’t have the spider stick in the front, which KP (Pete’s guide) never bothered with, he also struggled to steer his bent “banana” boat on the main track so Pete had plenty of visitors, they are all friendly insects though…. even the wasps nest we went through didn’t attack us.

 KP's Banana boat Praying mantis Teeny weeny little green frog Another cool red spotted reed frog

Most outings consisted of a mokoro trip to an island, followed by a little hike looking for some animals. We did one big day to an island a little bit further away with a packed lunch. When we got there our guides immediately saw some lion spoor (foot prints). It was awesome to see how they tracked it, staying down wind, we circled around full of anticipation (we were tracking loin on foot with no rifles or backup). Unfortunately we didn’t see the lions, mainly cause some baboons got us side tracked, and the fact that lion are so well camouflaged. We find the remains of a giraffe was killed recently, the bones still had some skin on.

This was one of the best veld (bush) experiences ever, with no guns, no cars, no motors. Just trusting our guides and there knowledge.

Other interesting animals were the red lichwe, they are a lot like a red buck but specially adapted to all the water with padded hoofs that don’t get stuck in the mud as they run across the water plains. The sound they made running through the water was real distinctive.

Lucky beans Rats of the bushveld...even in Botswana Squirrel Zebra crossing the water Water lillies Cruising on our big day outing Water level... just right Red lichwe Crane of sorts Good campflage Mokoro cruising Whats left of a giraffe KP showing what a giraffe fima is good for Elephants spotted every day Plenty of fish eagles  

We had an awesome stay at Oddballs camp. It is an all inclusive kinda deal, with open bar and great food. The guides eat with us, and we got a bit of a feel for there life style as we went to watch a pool game of South Africa vs France in the Soccer world cup at Papio’s tent in the staff camp.

Our tent Lunch at Oddballs Enclave Outdoor bath room Bucket shower Group shot Papio, Shelley & KP Oddballs Enclave mokoro entrance Oddballs Camp

Overall we loved the Delta and highly recommend it to anyone visiting Botswana!

Max 1st Birthday party

9:14 pm Filed under: Family

Last Saturday we had a few people over to celebrate Max’s first birthday. Mum baked a pixel perfect Mario (from the Nintendo games) upon Pete’s request. She did a marvelous job!

Thanks mum.

Smiling cousins Wow! A candle! Mario cake Mum, master cake baker and us Mmm, cake

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