A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: chris89

All good things must come to an end

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So, here I am on the 213th day of my trip. My flight home is at 11:45 local time tonight and brings down the curtain to an amazing 7 months away from home.

I am incredibly excited about my return - to see my parents, my friends, my dog Toastie - even my sister. I am also slightly anxious that my friends will have changed during their first year at university in some subtle and unexplainable way that will, temporarily at least, alter the connection between us. Everyone tells me that nothing changes back home, but that cannot be true. Time will tell.

In an attempt to form a suitable conclusion to my blog I have created a simple awards list. The winners are:

Favourite countries: Guatemala, Peru and Namibia

Most stunning scenery: Patagonia (Chile)

Best Beaches: Zanzibar

Best sunrise: Journey to Ayers rock (Australia)

Best sunset: On 'El Misti' 4500m above sea level (Peru)

Most interesting museum: Auckland War Memorial Museum (New Zealand)

Best restaurant: Carnivore (Kenya)

Best ice creams: Santiago and Valpraiso (Chile)

Worst buses: Nicaragua

Dirtiest toilets: Bolivia

Dodgiest capital cities: Guatemala City and Tegucigalpa (Honduras)

Worst boat journey: From Honduras to Utila

Worst roads: Zambia

In addition to Bolivia's toilets, there are several other aspects of travelling that I won't miss:

Border crossings

Long bus journeys

In Latin Amercia struggling to express my frustration at the lack of cooperation from the locals

Tiny toilet cubicles and non existent toilet paper...and if there is toilet paper not being able to throw it down the toilet!

Uneven pavements which have left me cut and bruised

Having to collect and carry plastic bags for dirty washing/shoes

Needing to be constantly vigilant against scams

Having the police called (on 3 separate occasions) due to my 'behaviour' (refusing to be bullied into a scam)

Arriving in England at 6:20 tomorrow morning, I will have travelled over 60,000km through 19 countries across the globe. Thank you to everyone who has followed my journey. It should be remembered that some of the best stories from my trip have not been included on the blog due to reasons of personal censorship. I look forward to hearing everyone's news back home and to sharing some stories of my own.

Posted by chris89 07:03 Archived in Kenya Comments (1)

Special Serengeti and 'Nairobbery'

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View Journey of the Wide Eyed Wanderer on chris89's travel map.

The Serengeti is arguably the most famous national park in the world. Along with the adjacent Ngorogoro Crater, it offers unrivalled game viewing. To access it we travelled across the lip of the misty crater, before descending into the vast plains of the Serengeti. As the sun rose, the roof of the jeep was opened, and I stood and sunbathed, watching for wildlife.

I have been very fortunate to see a wide variety of animals in other national parks on my trip. However, the Serengeti was the first quintessentially African safari like the ones seen on television, where the indescribably open expanses have only a solitary acacia tree in sight. My guide's superhuman ability to spot wildlife allowed us to see giraffes, elephants, a serval cat, and for the first time, cheetahs lining up their next gazelle for dinner. Although giraffes remain my favourite, its the baby hippos that I would most like to take home with me!

Camping on the crater lip, the temperature fell dramatically, so we were pleased to head down into the shelter of the crater the next day. The crater was formed by a volcanic explosion that led to the volcano caving in on itself - leaving a hole 22km in diameter and over 600m deep. The crater has a tropical rim, created from all the mist that clings to the edge. In the crater itself, the relatively lush foliage supports a high density of animals.

Arriving in the crater, we immediately witnessed a pride of lions finishing their breakfast of zebra and, with their apetites sated for another few days, allowed a pack of hyenas to strip what little meat remained on the carcass. As we travelled towards the lake, pink in the distance from the thousands of flamengos, we passed countless wildebest. Before starting the journey back to the crater's rim, we were able to see, one final time, hippos and lions.

Leaving the national park behind, we returned to our base in Arusha for 1 final night in tents. The morning after, I passed through my final foreign border crossing (hooray!) as I travelled into Kenya during an unexpectedly long and winding drive to Nairobi. After saying goodbye to the group, most of whom I have travelled with since Cape Town, I arrived at my basic accommodation for the next 2 nights. Having settled in, I watched the European Championship final with a fat Kenyan priest who spoke almost no English. Our only shared language was a mutual desire for Spain to defeat Germany.

I am sharing the accommodation with another group member, Andy, and together we ventured into Nairobi - worryingly nicknamed 'Nairobbery' by the locals. We were offered a free lift into the city and within a couple of minutes had seen a large crash as 1 car ploughed into the side of another. The drivers of the damaged cars looked unperturbed.

Nairobi city centre is an unexciting hub of shops (the majority selling mobile phones). Indeed, the most interesting part of my trip into the centre was watching a taxi driver desperately trying to find the handle to open the window of his car which, of course, had long since fallen off.

That evening, Andy and I dined at 1 of the top 50 restaurants in the world - 'Carnivore'. Here each table has a flag and, after eating the soup, bread and salad, waiters will continue to bring succulent pieces of meat to your table until you surrender and put your flag down. I failed my stated aim to eat 33 (the table number) pieces of meat - managing 'only' 24. Completely full, I have not eaten much since!

Posted by chris89 04:16 Archived in Kenya Comments (0)

Zanzibar

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View Journey of the Wide Eyed Wanderer on chris89's travel map.

The ferry journey to Zanzibar was stunning - once I'd managed to fight through the crowds. Bright sunlight shone as we travelled past uninhabited islands. Arriving into Stone Town, the Muslim influence on Zanzibar is obvious from the architecture to the calling of people to prayer at 5 in the morning.

The town is the birthplace of Freddie Mercury - a curiously low key place considering the number of tourists who travel through the weathered town. The area was the last large slave market (finally closed in 1873) though the whipping post and sleeping chambers remain. Zanzibar is also famous for its exotic spices and we were shown a spice farm where almond trees, vanilla bushes and several spices with long and confusing names were cultivated. Lunch was a traditional affair eating rice and bones (masquerading as fish) whilst sitting on the ground.

The spice tour ended, dropping us off at our accommodation for the next 2 nights at a beach resort. After rain earlier in the day, our arrival in the shunshine made the scene all the more stunning. It is no exaggeration to state that I was more excited when I saw the beach than at any other time during my 7 months away.

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The white sand beaches, clear turquoise water lapping on the shore below the beach hut and the dark blue water in the distance looked like a stereotypical holiday brochure picture. Even my camera breaking could not ruin my good mood.

The warm waters were perfect for swimming as we looked forward to the full moon party that night. After travelling by boat to the beach we enjoyed some traditional dancing. Unfortunately, for the rest of the evening many words could describe my wellbeing - the most eloquent was probably 'inebriated'. Consequently, I can remember very little of the rest of the party. The following day the weather was not so kind so it was spent at a leisurely pace recovering from the night before.

We travelled back to Stone Town for 1 last relaxing day in Zanzibar. In the evening we went to the local markets to eat octopus and lobster. I think it was this meal that enables me to sum up the following 2 days (the first involved 16 hours on the road) with the word: food poisoning. I continue to have an upset stomach and a constant state of lethargy. I hope my health improves before I reach Serengeti National Park!

Posted by chris89 03:53 Archived in Tanzania Comments (0)

Zambia and Lake Malawi

Wandering hippos, man eating crocodiles and Malawian markets

sunny 26 °C
View Journey of the Wide Eyed Wanderer on chris89's travel map.

Firstly, sorry this post is so long...internet access has been extremely limited during the past couple of weeks.

After leaving behind Victoria Falls, we continued to travel east through Zambia - staying for a night on the shores of the man made Lake Kariba. The next day the bus came to a halt due to engine failure. Consequently, we made an impromptu stop in the Zambian captial of Lusaka, where we enjoyed watching 1 of the many football matches of Euro 2008; supporting Holland has turned out to be a shrewd move!

A couple more days of driving later, along roads with pot holes the size of small cars (group members have suffered huge purple bruises having lurched from 1 side of the bus to the other) we arrived at the rarely visited South Luangwa National Park.

We pitched our tent in a tree house high above the ground and were entertained by the screeching monkeys in the trees. The campsite has no fences so hippos and giraffes wandered freely below us. After watching another football match, I walked back to the tent in the dark. I was in my own little world when I suddenly heard munching a few metres to my left. Unwittingly, I had almost walked into a grazing hippo! Desperately searching for the sanctity of my tree house, I ran up the stairs with a pounding heart to safety.

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I obviously slept well as I was unaware of the screaming during the night. In the morning I was told how a thief had stolen someone's bag, been spotted by security guards, and the thief, having faced the choice of swimming across the river to freedom, or time in a Zambian jail, thought he had a greater chance of survival in the river (a barman later agreed he was probably right). The only problem was that the river is teeming with hippos and crocodiles and, in attempting to swim across the river, the thief was eaten by a crocodile. Clearly crime doesn't pay!

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Once awake, we went for 2 game drives where we saw an incredible array of wildlife - from baboons to dazzles (groups of zebra), elephants to bush bucks. The highlights though were undoubtedly seeing 3 rare sightings of leopards (completing our viewing of the Big 5) and watching a pride of lions devour a zebra.

Following a brutal 18 hour journey, we left Zambia and arrived on the shores of Lake Malawi. The long beautiful beaches and warm waters made it a great place to spend the afternoon. Despite acknowledging my own limited swimming abilities, I couldn't resist swimming to an island 1km from shore. Taking twice the expected time to reach the island, I eventually washed up against the rocks - having swallowed half the lake and feeling as physically drained as I have ever been. Once recovered, I went cliff jumping before starting the slow swim back to the mainland.

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I also went to the nearby village and visited the water pump and hospital. The trip to the school was particularly memorable because as soon as we entered the grounds, we were swamped by Malawian children desperate to hold our hands. We shared a packed class with 110 students as they sang and told us 'mzingos' (white people) of their English classes. According to statistics, Malawi is the poorest country in Africa - yet also the happiest.

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My experiences would support this. During my second day by Lake Malawi we were joined by several excited 8 year old boys keen to play with balls we had bought made from rubber trees. After playing happily the stories of woe began, describing how each of the boys' relatives had died from a rare disease and that by giving them 50 dollars we could significantly improve the boys' lives. This is the unfortunate result of past tourists giving money, pens or other paraphanalia that enabled the tourist to feel charitable, having helped the 'poor villager'. The problem now is that there is a 'begging culture' - an expectation that villagers will receive 'assistance' not through hard work, but by sticking out their hands and telling tourists a sad story - true or otherwise. Indeed, when we pass children on the bus, warm smiles occasionally turn to scowls of resentment if we do not drop pens from the window.

Before leaving Malawi, we stopped at a large market where, in a rare lapse, I went on a spending spree - buying a shirt and a couple of ornaments, and exchanged my T shirt for a poster. Leaving Malawi behind, we arrived in Tanzania crossing tea plantations and mountain passes as we headed to sprawling Dar es Salaam, where we caught a ferry to Zanzibar. There was time though for a thumb sized cockroach to crawl up my chest before we left!

Posted by chris89 06:38 Archived in Malawi Comments (0)

Okavango Delta and Victoria Falls

sunny 26 °C

I dozed as we floated through the rivers of the Okavango Delta. We were travelling in style: inside a 'makoro' (a type of dugout canoe). The sun beat down relentlessly through the reeds and illuminated the beautiful white water lillies floating on the surface.

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The river suddenly opened up into a small lake full of hippotamuses. Huge, 3 tonne monsters whose grunting is a bizarre cross between a horse's bray, a giant's laugh and something that would come from a movie produced by the adult entertainment industry. Their snorting kept me awake for most of the night.

We pitched our tents on the lake shore and watched the hippos snort water into the air, raise their heads above the surface to watch us watching them, before dipping their heads into the water again and disappearing from sight.

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After sunbathing we jumped back into the makoros to go swimming, just 300m from the hippos. I tried my hand at poling the makoro but soon found myself knee deep in water having lost my balance. In the evening we went for a bush walk where we saw monkeys, zebras, elephants and giraffes. We were led by a guide who looked suspiciously like Robert Mugabe. Talking about one of the Western world's greatest allies, I should also mention the curiously high number of streets named after the Zimbabwean. Suggested reasons for this should be sent on a postcard to 110 Robert Mugabe street, Swakopmund.

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We then headed east towards Chobe National Park where, due to banking difficulties, I was left strapped for cash and instead of going on a boat trip, I instead spent my time topping up my tan by the pool - saving my energy and money for Victoria Falls.

The journey to Livingston, our gateway to the falls, was not without incident. I had my Botswana exit stamp in my passport on the Zimbabwean border rather than on the Zambian side which resulted in me almost travelling into the wrong country and temporarily being in no mans land. Eventually we arrived in Livingston where, after finding the white water rafting on the Zambezi closed due to the high water levels, I drowned my sorrows on the 'booze cruise' sunset tour of the river.

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Posted by chris89 04:48 Archived in Botswana Comments (0)

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