Archive for the ‘Africa’ Category

Lesotho and Mozambique (Apr 1 – 18)   3 comments

Lesotho


Leaving Cape Town we head towards Lesotho on a large bus that takes us to Bloemfontein, about 2 hours short of Maseru (the capital of Lesotho). Once in Bloemfontein we catch a mini-bus, or combi, that takes us straight to Maseru and drops us off right outside the border. Once through customs we catch a taxi to a large parking lot with more combis waiting to take people all over the small country that calls itself the “kingdom in the sky” because of its high altitude.

We waited for about two hours for our combi in the litter filled lot, all the while being approached by women with buckets on their heads and men with large boards trying to sell us various items for which we have no use. Interestingly they all have the exact same items for sale – fantastic business plan. Finally our combi arrives and we pile in like sardines and set out on our four-hour journey with our bags in our laps.

That afternoon we arrive at the town of Semonkong and found our lodge and the great view well worth the trip. The next morning Magan and I took a couple of horses for a ride through the bucolic countryside. We rode over the rolling hills and through a large meadow covered with tall golden grass. All along the way we were entertained by the sound of cow bells around the necks of the herds of cows and sheep. Our first stop was the large 192 meter Maletsunyane Falls that sat engulfed in a large gorge of deep green grass and dark jagged rock. For the remainder of the trip we rode around taking in the sights of the terraced hills with rows of blond wheat climbing up their sides. At each turn there were people walking (and riding) with horses and mules carrying large bags of rice or corn and large plastic crates full of beer. The hills were punctuated with stone roundavel with thatched roofs.

The remainder of our time was spent hiking around and enjoying a part of africa that seems to have remained unchanged for hundreds of years. While in Semonkong we met a very nice family from Cape Town who befriended us. They introduced us to biltong (a type of jerky) and mealie pap (traditional South African food) and shared a nice steak and sausage dinner with us. The next day they gave us a ride back to Bloemfontein saving us the cost of a ticket and considerable hassle. I hope we are fortunate enough to meet more people like that on our travels.

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Mozambique

Wanting a brief vacation from all the traveling Magan and I decided to head for the tropical coast of Mozambique. Since this is Africa the journey there was anything but easy. The bus from Pretoria to Maputo was comfortable, but the follow on trip to Inhambane was long and crowded. Our small van packed with Africans seemed to stop every 15 minutes either to pick up new passengers, talk to the locals or get inspected at one of the ridiculously numerous police checkpoints. After a night in Inhambane we took a short ride to Tofo where we spent the next few days.

Tofo is a nice quiet town where the warm Indian ocean meets large and virtually empty white sand beaches. With warm sunny weather and water so clear you can see the bottom even if you can’t touch it we were able to unwind and relax. Even though we were often approached by locals selling bracelets, cashew nuts and sea shells it was still a great experience.

Despite Mozambique being a poor country it was rather expensive. I am not sure I understand their sense of (or lack there of) business. While traveling we would see businesses cluttered together selling the exact same things. Every couple of miles there would be multiple stands all selling either oranges or cashews or another common item, but often nothing else. Even on the beach there are many people selling bracelets but no one selling towels, sun screen (all tourists were white), snorkel equipment, sun glasses or any other common sense item where they could form competition with their rivals and  Perhaps make some money. Oh well, TIA.

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Great White Shark Dive (Mar 31)   4 comments

Swimming with the Great White Sharks in South Africa

While in Cape Town we decided to do a little research into the life and behavior of the Great White Shark. So we headed out for Gansbaai, about 2 and 1/2 hours east of Cape Town, and boarded our boat (Nemo) to head out and find these interesting animals. We found a nice spot near Dyer Island which is the most active place in the world for the Great White. We began tossing chum (fish guts) into the water, dropped our cage and put on our wetsuits. The first few sharks to show up were interesting, but seemed a bit young. How could we learn anything from such an inexperienced animal? We continued to chum and decided to toss out some tuna heads to lure in the larger sharks. Soon the mac-daddies arrived. These large sharks, which we estimate to be at least 10 feet long, were pleased to help us in our research. As we entered the cage, in order to better understand these creatures, we were able to hypothesize that these animals are in fact one of natures finest killing machines. If only that pesky cage wasn’t in the way perhaps we could have done further experiments and try to prove our hypotheses first hand.

Please enjoy a few pictures below. Click the links below to watch a couple of our videos on youtube.

Video 1 – Shark Grabs the Bait

Video 2 – Shark Gnaws on the Cage

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Namibia (Mar 19 – 29)   5 comments

The Namib Desert

 

Finally, we have arrived in Africa. Our first stop was the former German colony of South-West Africa, now known as Namibia. After a few days in Windhoek we got our rental car, which was a Nissan Micra (small car which was an upgrade) with driver’s seat on the right and gear shift on the left. We headed out on the main highway, but after an hour of driving the road turned to gravel. Four more hours and we arrived at the small desert town of Sesriem in the heart of the Namib desert – oldest desert in the world; 50-80 million years old. The drive itself was very nice and we encountered a unique African scenery that we had yet to experience. We went from rolling hills to vast plains covered in small african trees.

Upon arrival we set up camp and headed out to a nearby gulch known as Sesriem canyon. It was formed by a flow of water that runs rarely, but during the rainy season.  This 1km long canyon was mostly dry with cliff walls reaching up 10-20 meters on each side. The bottom had a bit of plant life, but the most interesting part of the walk was looking at the walls which were made of clay and stone or solid rock with smaller crevasses carved through them.

That night as we camped outside the park gate we saw the best night sky we have ever seen. It seemed as though every star visible to earth was in the sky with the long blurry line of the Milky Way dividing the night sky in two. The next morning we entered the national park and headed to Dune 45 (above) where we climbed the steep ridge to sit on the pinnacle of the dune for the sun rise. As the sun came up the surrounding desert caught fire with the bright orange-red dunes that spread in every direction. As the sun rose higher we were in awe at the landscape of deep red dunes rising as high as mountains that were juxtaposed against the bright clear blue sky.

Farther down the trail we came to Sessusvlei where an ancient river used to flow through the desert and into the middle of the dune sea creating an ephemeral pan. While this was an impressive sight we were eager to see the next attraction, Deadvlei. After hiking 2km through a few more dunes we arrived at a large white clay pan dotted with dead acacia trees. Surrounding the flat pan are the tallest dunes in the world, measuring up to 300-400 meters tall. The colors of the white pan, dark brown trees, tall deep red dunes and bright blue sky merge together in such a surreal way that you feel as though you have been sucked into a Salvador Dali painting, missing only 200 foot tall elephants and clocks melting from the trees. After our trip to the desolate yet extremely beautiful desert we were ready for the wild animals of Etosha.



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Etosha National Park

We arrived in Namibia at the end of the wet season which is not the best for viewing wild life because of the high bush and ample water that makes watering holes superfluous. We had intended to stay for 3 days and 2 nights, however, we were cut short to 2 days and 1 night because of a flat tire. None of this mattered because the first day we saw an astounding number of animals.

As we entered the park we were greeted to our right by three giraffes grazing in the bush only a few meters from the road. Continuing on we set up camp and headed out where we saw many species of birds including one that looked to have a 6 foot wing span. As we drove through the park we would stop and scan the horizon often with the binoculars in search of animals. On one stop while looking in the distance we happened to catch a glimpse of a hyena about 10 meters from our car. We weren’t able to get a photo because it soon disappeared into the brush. Later, while looking in a tree at a large bird, I saw a brown mass bobbing through the tall golden grass which turned out to be a female lion walking toward the tree – again, no photo because she was out of range. A few hundred more yards up the road and we spotted a large adolescent male lion crossing the road. As we watched from a couple of feet away he walked to the side and stood there grunting. Later, from a couple of kilometers away we also saw a full adult male lion.

It was getting late so we headed back to camp for lunch. Along the way we saw the occasional springbok, zebra, gemsbok, ostrich and wildebeest, but when we arrived at a watering hole near camp there were scores of them all gathered in one place. Back at camp there was another watering hole where herds of these animals were all meeting to drink. They would stand around and wait for their turn. Once one herd would move out the next would flood into the watering hole a few feet and drink.

After lunch we headed back out, this time to the opposite end of the park. Here we saw large herds of zebra, springbok and gemsbok. As we drove they were scattered about the road giving us great pictures. We even came upon a train of 40 or so zebras walking in the middle of the road. Farther down we found a couple of zebra carcasses being devoured by groups of ravenous vultures. If we had been an hour earlier we could have seen a great show.

As we headed back for the night we came upon three female lions laying a few meters off the road. After watching them for a bit we headed back to camp where we grilled up some steaks (of one of the animals we saw that day, I have no idea which one) with some green beans and had a nice meal. The next day we saw giraffes and more zebra, springbok, gemsbok and wildebeest, but also some gazelle and kudu before our flat tire. Even with our bad luck the animals we saw the first day were amazing and worth the trip.

Feeding the cheetahs at one of our camp sites before the park

Gemsbok

Wildebeest

Ostriches

Watering hole just outside the camp

Zebras walking down the road

Three lions laying in the tall grass

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Posted March 31, 2012 by Magan and Brenden in Africa, Namibia

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