Rob and Dee Overland in Africa 2014 – 10,000 miles – 4 months – 10 countries

Monthly Archives: May 2014

Just a quick note to say we are waaay behind on the blog.  We’ve been moving pretty steadily north.  Now in Tanzania and the little GPS tracker thing in the right panel of the blog should be working now.  In Blantyre, Malawi we stayed with friends of friends who are now our friends as well- Brian and Maggie O’Toole.  They were awesome hosts and we had a grand time seeing their city house that Brian has turned into a dairy farm.  Pictures to follow.   Best of all Maggie is coming to Salida this summer to see Jimmy and Janie who introduced us so we will get to show her our part of the world.

Our entry into Tanzania has not been very pleasant so far- mostly mean cops and indifferent people.

When you first travel every country is exotic and wonderful but after visiting 60 or 80 or 100 countries it is inevitable to make valid and informed comparisons.   For example:  I have found the help one gets from street people is an indicator of the culture.  When we sailed around the world we were not tourists but just living our lives and we consequently needed all the things one uses day to day or to fix stuff on the boat.  In Yemen I stopped someone on the street and asked for a hardware part and with some pantomime got across what I needed.  The man walked 4 blocks with me to take me to the right shop.  We have had the exact same experience in a dozen countries- Turkey, Italy, many South American locations etc.  Other places people will discuss with friends and draw us a map or give us pointed directions.  Speaking with 4 people so far here I get a blank “no,”     Their shop does not have what I need and not one person has volunteered where I might find the electrical adapter I seek.  When I ask where I can find it I get a further shrug.

Hopefully the game parks will change our minds about Tanzania.

Rob

 


After the “small world” experience of running into our friends from Boulder, Colorado at the Swaziland border (look under the> Countries>Swaziland tab to read that post), we realized we were both going to be camping in Kruger Park at the same places for a few nights and arranged to share a brai (BBQ).   The first night together was spent drinking and catching up- especially hearing about their experience at Afrikaburn— the Continent’s version of Burning Man which Dee and I had originally planned to attend but did not.

 

The next morning we set out hoping to see some big cats. Of the big five we had already seen many elephant, rhino and cape buffalo but so far lion and leopard had eluded us. We drove for nearly two hours only seeing the ubiquitous impala and one rhino.   Kruger is a busy park but most of the cars stick to the paved roads and we were now deep in the bush on a rough dirt road. When we sited another 4×4 coming towards us we stopped to compare notes on what each had seen. The driver told us he had seen nothing at all in the direction we were heading. We pulled away and had not gone 50 feet when I spotted something moving near the edge of the road—I pointed it out to Dee and we crept forward a few feet. It was a huge male leopard- a loner. We continued to watch it in silence for the next 15 minutes until my attempts to get closer eventually drove it off. It was a magnificent creature and we enjoyed having the special moment to ourselves.

Male Lion

Male Lion

 

Lone male leopard

Lone male leopard

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Next post I’ll write about the awesome nighttime game drive we shared with our friends from Boulder.

 

Rob

 

 


As soon as we entered Malawi our spirits improved. The corrupt Mozambique authorities were behind us. Even the customs helper was polite, well spoken and nicely dressed with a professional demeanor. He was the complete opposite of all the screaming pushy ones in Mozambique. He helped us get thru customs and when I gave him about $6 and he politely thanked me. I thanked him for his help and shook his hand.

The first small town we came to was dirt streets, some small wooden shacks calling themselves stores or food stalls and one or two old cement buildings in desperate need of fresh paint. We wanted a Malawi sim card for our phone so we could call the friends of friends who had invited us to stay at their home that night. One of the small wood stalls had an airtel sign so I stopped but did not expect much. Dee stayed in the truck as I ducked through the doorway into the dimly lit wooden stall. To my complete surprise I was greeted by a man in pressed dress shirt who smiled and asked in almost perfect BBC English, “Good day, how may I help you.”

Despite the surroundings the next few minutes were as cultured as the same transaction would have been in a fancy shopping mall in the US.

Over the course of the next 15 minutes while we got the phone working and topped up with airtime several other nicely dressed men and women came in and we enjoyed polite, rather refined conversations. The confidence and self esteem which the Malawi people displayed was a tremendous contrast to most of what we had seen so far in Africa.

MaureenA bit later Dee and I stopped at a tiny locals restaurant and enjoyed our first dish of the traditional corn meal balls called, Nshima. The surroundings were rough but the interior was neat as a pin. There was one round table in the room with 5 seats around it and we sat down to join a local man eating there.   The woman running the restaurant, like everyone we had met so far spoke perfect English with the same refined way of speaking.   She told us we were the first “visitors” to ever eat at her restaurant. Her name was Maureen, her smile radiant, her food delicious and her company a delight- we had been in Malawi less than an hour and we loved the place already.

 

Rob

 

 

 


Dee with local Mozambican women

Dee with local Mozambican women

Four days in Kruger National Park proved plenty so off to Zimbabwe. This is the country with the ruthless dictator/president. Mugabe is 90 yrs old and was reportedly good for the country in the 80s but has turned extreme in his grip on power and control and the economy and people have suffered. It felt like a broken country; everybody knew things did not work but they tried to cover up or ignore it. Visited the Great Zimbabwe ruins, their heyday from 11th – 13th century when they ruled an empire stretching from Central Africa to the Indian Ocean. This was a large city made of stone walls constructed with granite blocks chipped from local hills and laid up to 11 meters high with no mortar. The curves in the walls were graceful and beaconed one along to the next view point. Then drove up to Harare the capital, a large dirty city. Highlight was picking up a young woman hitch hiking with her 2 yr old child returning from her family farm plot to the city to take an interview with the local college so she could become a teacher. We got a more positive view of the country from a local making the best of her life in a difficult environment. Went to the National Gallery for a look at local art and even though we called to make sure it was open, when we got there the exhibit was closed. Also got hit up by two down and out stories and feeling was the “donation” would go for liquor rather than the stated purpose. Enough of big city life. We did get a terrific small statute of Shona sculpture (local soapstone carved with some smooth and some rough raw surfaces) from our backpackers Small World. On to another day of border crossings – leaving Zimbabwe, into Mozambique, one night outside Tete, Moz, and into Malawi where we will be staying with friends of friends introduced to us in Salida. Travel on!



So varied. Changes in landscape, vegetation, vistas. And cultures as expressed by dress, manner, loads being carried by those along the roads. What an adventure. Went from South Africa to Mozambique, a border crossing, then 8 km over sand dunes to the coast. That was the main road to Ponta d’Ouro the laid back beach town on the Indian Ocean. Found camping in a park right on the beach. Good to kick back and be in one place for a few days. Did a dive. Not spectacular but got in the water, saw some coral, fishes. A tourist destination, sort of off season and quite basic. Three days was plenty so back over the dunes, got off track this time due to washed out sandy track but locals in a large truck happened by and showed us the way.
Added Swaziland to our itinerary, a kingdom within South Africa and a good surprise. Organized,neat, good farmlands mainly sugars cane, bananas and pineapple. Local crafts of weavings of sasil into wonderful table mats, bowls done by woman’s cooperative (Gone Rural) and intricate and colorful candles made by local artists(Swazi Candle Craft Centre). Staying at backpacker lodges, camping out in gardens and chatting with other travelers mainly 20-30 something Europeans.

Then onto Kruger National Park, South Africa’s best known game park. We have a Wild Card that covers park admission ( proved to be a good bargain with five visits covering the cost and we were now on 10+ visits). Camping is inside fenced areas along with the fancier bungalow accommodations, restaurants, good bathrooms and cooking facilities. We get up about 5:15am, quick breakfast/coffee, down with the tent and out the gate at 6 am for early morning game viewing. It is intense, staring out my side, looking through vegetation though we often spot animals as they cross the tarred or many dirt roads we travel on. Trade info with passing vehicles on what we’ve seen where. I am keeping a list of daily sightings and noted three pages for one 3 1/2 hr morning drive! Samples are lots of impalas, giraffes in groupings of 3 -4, springboks(many types of boks to identify), rhinoceros, wonderful birds from huge vultures and graceful hawks to tiny multi colored bee catchers, a solitary leopard walking along a dry river bed (our first large cat sighting), hippos and crocks laying about a waterhole, a small but dangerous puffer head snake crossing a dirt road, warthogs with tusks, and elephants either solitary males or in groupings with protective females running the group. Wow. One is tired after the intensity of 3 hours of sighting and photos.

We did a night drive with a ranger and 14 other tourists and that was spectacular. Went out at 8 pm and after 1/2 hour started seeing the big guys. Four lionesses, two older and two quite young, about 9 months according to the ranger. Just lying on the tarred road getting the warmth and keeping away from annoying insects in the grasses. Then a solitary female leopard, 4 rhinoceros, an owl on the road turning its head almost 360 looking for a meal, a large elephant feeding on trees and shrub, more rhinos and what are those eyes in a tree? Two leopards came down and quickly mated and repeated this activity four times, with the male opening his jaws and biting the female on the neck each time to distract her from the other pain as the ranger explained. This occurred near a group of impalas who called out warning to each other but the ranger said the leopards will concentrate on mating for several dyas and then get back to hunting. Extraordinary – we observe, animals go on with their behavior nonplused by us being around as long as we stay in our vehicles and are quiet. Then three males lions walking down the road – dark manes around their large beige necks. Hyenas, more impalas, more birds and ranger headed back to camp around 11pm. He had extended our night drive by one hour since sightings were so good. That’s plenty of info for now. Til next time.

Dee

 


Just a quick note to say we had an awesome time in Kruger National Park.

Especially our night game drive where we saw leopards mating– 4 times in about 10 minutes —  (could make some of us feel a bit inadequate); also saw lionesses with young,  rhino, giraffe,  three huge male lions, hippos, buffalo, rhinos,  etc, etc.

Pictures to follow.

Off to Zimbabwe tomorrow so probably no internet access for several days until we get to Malawi where we will visit friends of friends from Salida.

 

Rob