Thursday, May 19, 2011


I have, on occassion, entered one or two writing competitions (generally the type that gets you a free trip) and while I know that my writing is not prize-winning, I continue to hope that the judge will have really bad flu, be completely fuzzy and oblivious and just choose mine so that he/she can just go to bed already. But it occurred to me that the article I wrote for the last one predated the existence of this blog, so I am now adding it to the repertoire. For a brief time before I headed into Sudan I lived in Kenya, and did a little travelling there as well. What a gorgeous place....

Amboseli Game Reserve

Having never stayed in a Kenyan National Park before, and the sum of my experiences to that point having been South African National Parks, it hadn’t crossed my mind for a second that finding food and drink would be a problem. Until we arrived at our ‘rest camp’, and discovered how loosely they use the term ‘camp’: Waist high fences are your ‘protection’ from the animals, and long drops and cold showers are the extent of your “convenient and adequate ablutions”. CafĂ© or food stalls? Sorry, what?

Luckily our driver, Mariepe, was a Maasai man who lacked the ‘safe’ gene, and, ignoring all signs saying “animals will rip you limb from limb after dark if you leave the camp”, with us in tow he headed out into the bush with his panga and found us the local Masaai tribe. To their obvious hilarity and many repetitions of ‘crazy misungu’ (white person), they finally led us to a goat carcass hanging from a tree, chopped us off a couple of hind legs and added some ‘ugali’ (local version of maize meal) to the package. I am sure the price we paid funded the purchase of at least one herd of goats.

With our rather dubious meal packaged in two-year-old newspaper we headed back rather quickly to the relative safety of our camp and fire. Mariepe volunteered to prepare the ugali, and proceeded to cook it into a state not unlike play-dough. By this point I had diced and braai’d the goat, so Mariepe gave us a brief lesson on how to eat. One must pick up a piece of ugali, flatten it in ones right hand (the left hand should not to be used for eating) and use this as a spoon to scoop up a piece of meat, some meat drippings and some salt, and eat it as a whole parcel. Wish some shyness, and much giggling, my travel partner and I complied with instructions and found ourselves eating a very respectable meal.

There are few things quite as beautiful as watching the sun set behind Mount Kilimanjaro, eating something local and surprisingly delicious, and listening to hyenas call to you from the other side of a one meter fence you pray they can’t get over. ..

Mariepe, our driver, at the Magadi Hot Springs, en route to Amboselli

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Passport Stamps!

One of the most annoying things about my trip to the States being cancelled is that I had ordered a brand new spangly passport, had a lovely new exciting looking visa pasted into it, and gone.... nowhere. It has been many many years since I had a naked passport. I was starting to feel uncomfortable.

Enter my friends. One of the awesome things about staying in one place, is that I have now redeveloped a lot of my friendships that had been left flapping in the breeze. Some of these friends are awesome holiday planners. I have traveled with one friend, I have traveled with a boyfriend, but never before have I traveled with a group.

The journey started with a big 4x4 and an overloaded trailer, and LOTS of booze we thought we might not get through. Heading straight from Cape Town up country for 10 hours we landed our asses in Augrabies falls National Park, whereupon the booze supply was rapidly done away with.

Augrabies Falls

Having rested, got in the holiday spirit, and begun the inevitable destruction of our livers, we headed out two days later in search of game drives, and predators. A brief stop over at a desert camp gave us our last night in a real bed, and a covered porch from which to watch the thunder storms, before heading to Kgalagadi Transfontier National Park.

What was meant to be desert and barren, turned out to be lush and grass covered. With rains that like of which havent been seen in a decade, the dunes and red earth had turned lush and green, with golden grass fronds reflecting the sun and bringing to mind Sting and his Fields of Gold...

Kgalagadi Transfontier Park

The only down side was the complete lack of animal sightings. We saw lions twice, but both times they were doing a very good job of pretending to be rocks, and little else stood out above the grass. Could this deter us? Na-ah! A bottle of Tequila became the shot of choice for ever predator spotted, but its amazing what becomes classified as 'predator' after the first few.

"Hey guys I saw a snake! They eat mice right? Well, actually, it was only a mouse. Don't they eat insects or something?... No?.... You sure?.... then it was DEFINITELY a snake I saw. Yup. DRINK!"

A lack of decent tasting drinking water, along with a generally accepted suspension of road rules (aside from the 50kmh limit) contributed to a rather raucous group of passengers, and eventually we felt for the sake of the park rangers and the carefully hidden animals, it was best to head to our next destination. Namibia!

Having used the border post as a spot to turn the car around once, the actual crossing of the border lacked a little oomph, but we all got our stamps, the search of our vehicle completely missed all the cocaine, herion and sawn off shotguns they were sure we were hiding, and eventually we found ourself in Namibia on a road to... nowhere....


Blinding heat and a road that stretched endlessly before us was the most significant thing about the majority of the actual journey. Luckily what lay 6 hours ahead of us was a Spa based at Ai Ais Hot Springs, and the gorgeous views of the Fish River Canyon. Second only in size to the Grand Canyon, the Fish River Canyon was a surpising and giddying rift in the flat land we had driven through. Awesome in size and fascinating in its creation and composition, we would have stayed many long hours at the view point, had the wind not been so cold, and the call of the hot springs so loud.

Fish River Canyon

All good things end, and after 12 days of camping and driving through dusty deserts we were a sad group to head home, but grateful that when we got there we could have a hot shower and sleep in a bed that didn't slowly leak air all night.

Next year: Caprivi Strip and Okovango Delta? Or lying on sandy beaches, eating massive lobster and swimming with Dolphins in Mozambique? I love where I live...