Archive for May 2012

Safari (May 9 – 12)   1 comment

Safari

Since we took so many photographs on this Safari, we have put them all into a slide show at the bottom. There are around 60 pictures, so it might be a good way to pass time at work.

Lake Manyara

Our safari began with scenic Lake Manyara. This large salt water lake is surrounded by lush forest and small plains. Here we saw many animals all congregated in a small area, perfect for a short game drive and introduction to the area.

Serengeti

The second two days of our trip were spent in the Serengeti. When you imagine Africa this is what you think of. While this park has a vast array of landscapes, the most impressive was the large sea of grass that stretches for miles in every direction punctuated with the occasional granite rock island or lone acacia tree. On these plains were thousands upon thousands of zebra and wildebeest. During our stay there we saw a wide variety of animals including lions, leopards, hippos and many different types of antelope. It was amazing seeing the kilometer long lines of hundreds of wildebeest beginning their annual migration to follow the rains.

Ngorongoro Crater

The third night of our safari was spent on the rim of the Ngorongoro Crater, a collapsed volcano, where we had a spectacular view. That night we camped in a grass field which is apparently grazing ground for water buffalo because they kept us up half the night munching the grass around our tent. Worried that we would spook them and start a stampede or mauling frenzy Magan and I laid perfectly still and let them go about their grazing. The next morning we descended into the crater which contains large grass fields surrounding a soda lake (full of flamingos) with small patches of forest. This crater creates a micro-environment where all the animals live in close proximity. Although the animals can move over the steep cater walls they prefer to stay there due to the year round supply of water and green grass. Here there were many lions as well as a few black rhinos.

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Zanzibar (May 1 – 5)   1 comment

Zanzibar

After a long-awaited hot shower in Dar es Salaam we enjoy a night in a bed before being woken up by call to prayer which Magan described as a satanic sound that gave her the chills. From Dar we took the ferry to Stone Town on the once independent (formerly Portuguese then Omani Arab) spice island of Zanzibar. Here we wandered aimlessly through the winding streets enjoying the smells of the distinct culture of this island. Since the town is more of a labyrinth than a grid we let ourselves get lost amongst the kids running and men playing dominoes often being greeted by hello, jambo and even Hakunna Matata or Rafiki.

St. Josephs Cathedral and Slave Memorial

Slave holding cell and inside the cathedral

Stopping at random stalls to try the local cuisine or grab a cup of spiced tea we were able to immerse ourselves into the flow of daily life. While in Stone Town we also visited the former slave market and St. Joseph’s cathedral. Hundreds of thousands of slaves were captured by the Omani Arabs and sold through here to the Seychelles, Mauritius, Persia and other destinations. Thanks in large part to Dr. Livingston slavery was abolished and a church built on this site. The baptismal pool is where baby slaves (unwanted) were drowned and the altar sits at the former whipping post.

Baptistry and Altar

The next few days were spent at Matemwe beach on the eastern shore where white coral sand beaches meet clear turquoise water. Here we had the entire resort to ourselves and enjoyed good food and warm ocean. One day we hired a local to take us snorkeling at the reef near a resort island a couple of kilometers away. The beautiful coral and hundreds of colorful fish made for a day of fun that will be long remembered and more than makes up for the down side of the beach, which is the local population coming down to defecate on the shore during low tide.

TAZARA (April 28 – 30)   1 comment

TAZARA

Zambia to Tanzania

After our fill of Victoria Falls we decided to head for Tanzania. This can be accomplished via flight (too expensive), bus (no fun) or the TAZARA train; we chose the latter. To begin we took the bus to the Zambian capital, Lusaka, where the TAZARA office is located. Upon arriving we are immediately pounced upon by Africans like a pack of dogs on a three-legged cat. They all want to taxi us to our destination, however, since it was only about a kilometer away we decided to walk. While taking in the sights we notice this city more closely resembles a land fill than a capital city.

Later at the TAZARA office we asked for tickets on the Friday train (the other departs on Tuesday) and were told the ticket salesman is not there. “OK, we’ll come back tomorrow.” “No”, we’re told, “they will be back next week.” Apparently only two people in the world can issue tickets, the other one must be in Tanzania. I can’t imagine the training and certifications one must need to issue train tickets.

Maintaining high spirits we hop on a bus for Kapiri Mposhi to buy tickets at the station. Kapiri Mposhi is located 200km north of Lusaka and is truly the jewel in the Zambian crown. A bustling metropolis with one paved road and a couple of guest houses acts as the gateway for TAZARA. The logic for making the train depart/arrive here rather than Lusaka is lost on me, and probably anyone who dares to put logic and Africa in the same sentence.

A dirt road leads to the TAZARA station built along with the train and track in 1970-1975 (none of it changed/upgraded since). “No train today” was how we were met, “try tomorrow.” Ah, we get to enjoy Kapiri for another day. There is a God. The next day we buy tickets and are told we are to be separated into male and female cabins. After my initial frustration I realize that a bunch of Africans cohabited together on a train for 2 days is probably a bad idea.

As we depart for our 40-48 hr train ride we watch the scenery flow past and are regaled by stories of our fellow white passengers about Lusaka that include many muggings and one incident where a drunk driver passed out and ran over several people sleeping in the bus parking lot. The next day we entered Tanzania and the scenery immediately improved. Almost as though whoever drew the borders created a squashed telephone shaped country purposefully avoiding nice scenery. Beautiful green forests and mountains surround the train and the remainder of the journey passed rather uneventful, except for an exploded bottle of Coke. It was a very nice train ride even if it did take 56 hrs and arrive near midnight at Dar es Salaam.

Chobe NP (April 23)   1 comment

Botswana

Taking a day trip from Victoria Falls we headed out to Chobe National Park in Botswana. The park runs along the Chobe River which divides Botswana from Namibia and eventually joins the Zambezi before pouring over Victoria Falls.

We began our safari in a small boat gliding along the river surrounded by some of Africa’s most beautiful scenery. We were accompanied only by our guide and one introverted Jap girl giving our trip the feel of a private safari; one advantage of traveling in the off-season. While in the river we saw elephants drinking at the river’s edge and covering themselves in dust or creating mud to spray on their backs. We also saw crocodiles, water buffalo, a giant lizard and large herds of hippos which stayed submerged with the exception of the tops of their heads, ears twitching, coming up only to stretch and yawn.

Elephants and Hippos

Water Buffalo and Giant Lizard

After the boat we stopped at a nice resort where we had a delicious buffet lunch then headed out in an open top vehicle . Along this portion of the trip we saw many animals including baboons and monkeys, giraffes, various antelope and a surprisingly large number of elephants. Chobe has around 60,000 of them. It was amazing to drive amongst these large animals and watch them playing and grazing, many of them only a couple of feet from the vehicle.

Elephants and a Crocodile

View from the boat on the river and Lily pads in the river

After our ride through the park we headed back, this time taking the ferry to Zambia, where we stayed in Livingston for a few days and saw the falls from northern side of the river. The overall view was nicer on this side, but that is about all Zambia has to offer; except for the train to Tanzania…

On the river and a baboon having a drink

Posted May 13, 2012 by Magan and Brenden in Africa, Botswana

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Bungee! (Apr 21)   4 comments

Victoria Falls

Zimbabwe

In the heart of Africa Magan and I head out to the suspension bridge spanning the Zambezi river that separates Zimbabwe and Zambia. To our back is the giant and stunning Victoria Falls. To our front is a large gorge with the rapidly churning Zambezi river 128 meters below. While this may not be the highest in the world (they claim 3rd highest) it is certainly the most beautiful.

**Just to recap, for Vicky Lou, we must all remember the Australian who did this jump back in January of this year where her cord snapped sending her splashing into the croc infested and rapidly churning waters below: Click here for the story and video.**

As we step out to the ledge and into the breeze the beautiful scenery surrounds us. We are flanked by steep cliffs that drop straight down to the river that is covered with mist from the falls forming a permanent rainbow below. Suddenly you’re snapped back to reality as your told to stand up and put your toes over the line. You look down and it suddenly hits you that you’re about to jump 111 meters (cord length) toward the fast flowing, crocodile and hippo infested water below. Every instinct tells you to stop and take a couple of steps back, but before you even know what’s going on your arms are outstretched and you hear the countdown: 5…4…3…2…1…BUNGEE!!! You swan-dive out and feel yourself being pulled toward the ground and watch the water rushing up to meet you.

After a few seconds of gut-wrenching free-fall you feel the cord tighten and you bounce and swing around for a minute or so while the employees strap a cable to you and haul you up. This is a complete adrenaline rush and by far one of the best things we have ever done. The awesome feeling of jumping 111 meters towards the ground leaves you with a buzz for the next few hours. It takes two joints (marijuana cigarettes) just to calm our nerves.

Below are our videos and photos from the jump; Enjoy!

Video 1: Brenden’s Jump: Basic video with our camera. Enjoy my spastic jump into the abyss.

Video 2: Magan’s Jump: This is a more professional video taken by the company

Getting Ready

The Fall

The Bounce

After the jump

Zambia

A few pictures from the Zambian side of the falls. This side of the falls was just as impressive as the Zimbabwe side, but gave a better view and comprehension of the immense size of Victoria Falls.