27 March 2003
It has been a fair while since the last bulletin, and we have been busy having the time of our lives. We are in Dar-es-Salaam, and fly over to Zanzibar tomorrow for some rest and relaxation.
The drive down from Addis Ababa into Kenya was fairly mundane, although the drive through the great rift valley was very scenic. We spent our wedding anniversary in the hot springs at Wendo Gennet. It was our first hot water for ages and a great opportunity for a shower.
During this time the truck broke a spring so we were held up for half a day changing that. We also said goodbye to our Mechanic Paul in Nakuru. Due to these slight hitches we pretty much rushed straight through Kenya as we had an appointment with the gorillas in the Parc National des Volcanes in Rwanda. We were originally supposed to see them in Uganda but we couldn't get the booking . We were all very excited about going to Rwanda, and it was justified. It is a very beautiful country, with rolling green tropical hills and valleys and lots of tea plantations.
If you have seen the film "Gorillas in the Mist" then you will know the ones. We were a bit concerned because they were talking about charging 4000 US dollars for taking a camcorder, but it turned out that was just for professional film crews and we were fine. We ended up chasing the gorillas all over the side of the mountain because they were feeling shy, but it was still a wonderful experience and we took lots of video.
From Rwanda we drive back through Uganda towards Kenya. We stopped at a place called Jinja which is on Lake Victoria and is the source of the (White) Nile river, so we have now seen the source of both Niles.
Steve did a day's white white water rafting there - full on grade five rapids. We flipped our raft on three of them, but Steve only thought he was going to down on one of them. Debs and some of the others sat at the side of the river at the first rapid to watch them go down. It looked quite hairy from that angle. They had a cameraman go down the rapids with us in a kayak, and we have bought a copy of the video on CD.
After Jinja we headed back into Kenya via the Lake Nakuru game park. We saw our first Rhino there - it just wandered across the road in front of us - as well as water buffalo, giraffes and millions of flamingos.
Further down the road to Nairobi is Lake Naivasha. We spent a couple of days here. The lake is huge and the national park is fab. Steve and Debs decided to have a rest day on the first day, as we had seen so many animals in the Nakuru park, and the park fees for Naivasha were quite high. It is also very expensive to go out on Lake Naivasha. We canped right on the lake edge and were disturbed during the night by Hippos coming out to graze the grass next to the tents. They have an electric fence to stop them coming right up to us!!
The next day Debs fulfilled another dream. We walked down the road to Elsamere, home of Joy Adamson of "Born Free" fame.We had afternoon tea on the lawn, kawtched some video and looked around the small museum in the house. It is now a conservation and research centre, with no lions resident.
We spent a couple of days in Nairobi where we planned to send a bulletin out. Unfortunately the Internet provider for the whole city was in a billing dispute with the national telephone company so there was no Internet access anywhere. We went to the cinema instead and saw "Catch me if you can" - all very civilised. We also went out for a group meal at a restaurant called Carnivore. While they do serve vergatables, it is mainly meat-meat-meat. We had beef, pork, chicken, hartebeest, crocodile, ostrich and meatballs made of antelope. Debs and I polished off a couple of bottles of wine and then most of the group launched ourselves onto the dance floor to make fools of ourselves. We even dressed up for the occasion. We had our first taste of civilisation and loved it!!!
We batted straight down from Nairobi to Arusha in Tanzania. This is where part 1 of our overland trek ends, and we said goodbye to Priscilla, our truck. Another company, Phoenix, organises the second part and we have a new truck called Lola.
Arusha was also the base for our Serengeti safari, although we did this in Toyota Landcruisers. We had the option to stay in the lodges in the Serengeti and the Ngorogoro, so we took it. Over the course of 3 days in the Serengetti and Ngorogoro crater we saw all of the big five, and in fact pretty much every animal there is to see. Wildebeest, antelope, giraffes, zebras, ostrich, rhino, hippos, baboons, dik-diks, antelopes, gazelle, lions, cheetahs and a leopard.
The highlight was watching a lioness chase a wildebeest out of a watering hole, right into a river where a couple of crocodiles got it.
It was pretty hard to top the Serengeti tour, so we decided to climb Mt Kilimanjaro. Four of us set off with a guide, a cook and 8 porters on a six day climbing expidition on the Machame route to the summit. It is not the standard route (they call that the Marangu, or "Coca-Cola" route) - it is more challenging but way prettier and has a higher success rate. We spent the first two days climbing to about 4000m altitude, then the next two walking around the mountain up to about 4600m before starting our climb to the summit. The summit climb started at midnight - we tramped up by moonlight in a howling gale with snow lashing us, and feeling dreadful due to (mild) altitude sickness. It was the hardest thing we have ever done, both physically and mentally. We all thought that we were not going to make it to the top at one point or other. However, we trudged on, one step at a time, and eventually we were at the summit. 5895m altitude, and the highest point in Africa. It felt fantastic - the most amazing sunrise. Hopefully we will be able to put some photos on the web site soon.
We are now off to spend a few days laying on the white beaches of Zanzibar before heading down to Lake Malawi. We are still thoroughly enjoying our trip, especially is it all gets easier now (more bars & showers, less sandmatting and bush camping). The group size is down to 14 passengers although Lola has 24 seats, so there should be lots of room.
We miss you loads, and thanks to all of you who are sending us news from home. It doesn't feel like we have been in Africa for very long, but it feels like we have been away from you guys forever.
Steve & Debs