A Travellerspoint blog

From Swapkomund to Capetown

August 1st to 5th, 2010

After our two day stay in Swapkomund, we headed south towards Sossusvlei which both Chris and I were very much looking forward to experiencing. This area is known for its amazing sand dunes which are up to 1000 feet high and cover a vast area in Namibia. These dunes are often photographed. The first part of our journey continued through open, sandy desert. Most of our travel mates slept, as always, through the morning hours, but everyone perked up when we began to drive through very interesting and beautiful rocky mountainous terrain. This landscape lasted until we reached the Tropic of Capricorn at which time we took the opportunity to take a group photo. It was amazing to think that in our African trip we had started in Kenya crossing the equator and here we were at the Tropic of Capricorn. I had never been been physically at the Tropic of Capricorn before. 110_0132.jpg
Scenery Along the Way

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Our Gap Group at The Tropic of Capricorn

Mid-afternoon we arrived at a campground which was a bit disappointing for Dana as we did not see any of the large sand dunes that we had been expecting. Unbeknownst to us, the sand dunes were about 45 kms away, which was not an issue except that there was no trip planned there until the next morning. Dana was once again, a bit bent out of shape with this reality and we decided instead of engaging in the usual sit around the campsite and socializing routine to head off to some hills that were nearby. As we climbed, we did find some small sand dunes which were welcome and helped a bit to dampen Dana’s disappointment of having to wait till the next morning.

Dunes near the Campground

Dunes near the Campground

Very early next morning before sunrise we all prepared to leave for the 45 km journey into the main sand dune area. Near our campsite was the gate to this area which is opened early in the morning and closed in the evening. Literally busloads of people were lining up at the gate that morning. Our driver, managed to slip in second place, but as we later found out that we were all heading to the same destination, Dune 45 which is the dune that is traditionally is climbed to watch sunrise.

So we commenced out climb up the edge of Dune 45 which was probably 400 to 500 ft. Climbing sand dunes is quite an art. We had to walk on the ridge which led from the base to the peak, placing our feet in the previous person’s footsteps. There were somewhere around several hundred people climbing that morning which for Dana was yet another disappointment. Luckily, it was quite a climb as it meant people were a bit quieter than they likely would have been otherwise. Dana wasn’t to know that later on that day we would be able to spend hours in the afternoon in the dunes by ourselves, without another person anywhere near. The sunrise itself was not spectacular, but to see the dunes at sunrise was gorgeous. Going down was a heck of a lot easier than going up as we ran down the ridge on the east side of the dune in just a few minutes. Before long we were back in the parking lot, eating breakfast with the rest of our group.

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Dune 45

The next activity was further on, going to the heart of Sossusvlei, where we met “Bushman” who was a very enthusiastic and highly knowledgeable guide to this area. When he walked, he almost ran. Maybe part of it was that he walked in bare feet and had to keep moving fast as the sand was hot even in the morning. We discovered, through him how much life is underneath the sand surface and in fact rain is an enemy to this ecosystem. It was amazing. The centre piece to Sossusvlei is a large salt pan which is thousands of years old and there are very old striking dead trees still standing in this pan. It was gorgeous to photograph, only one problem, too many people wandering around endlessly where Dana wanted to photograph. It was a frustrating business, especially when we discovered that we only had about half an hour to explore this area, before we had to head back to the pick up truck which had brought us into this area. The roads were not navigable for ordinary vehicles or buses. Sadly our things, including extra water were back in the bus so we had not choice to but to leave. On that trip back we talked to Bushman and asked him if there were any areas that Chris and I could explore on our own that afternoon. We had had the foresight to organize with park to hitch a ride with the last park vehicle leaving the area at 5pm. We said goodbye to everyone on our bus at about 10am and then had a rest and lunch under a scraggly tree which provided a tiny bit of shade. It was already very hot. We had a 5 liter bottle of water with us.

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Desert Critters

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Salt Pan of Sosussvlei

So rested we headed off with Chris’s good navigational skills to the “Body Dunes” area that Bushman told us about. It was not so far away, we probably reached it in about half an hour’s walking. We wandered around the body dunes for the next three or four hours totally enchanted with Dana taking many photographs of the sand ripples and the softly curved of the dunes. It was the soft curves that gave the body dunes their name as they commonly resembled parts of the human body. Both of us were captivated by the beauty and solitude of the area.

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"Body Dunes"

In places we saw footprints of small animals and of insects and occasionally we actually saw beetles running up and down the sides of the dunes. At about 4pm we started to head back to the parking lot to be in good time for our ride back to the campground. Just near the parking lost was an oryx who was just standing there, gorgeous set against late afternoon dunescape. It was a treat to see the oryx so closely and to be standing on the same earth as him.

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Oryx

We arrived back to the parking lot just as the last bus was leaving, but that was no concern as we knew we would get a ride with the park in a smaller vehicle. We waited and waited and no park vehicle showed. There were a couple of vehicles who drove by having left Sossusvlei and then one stopped in the parking lot to inflate his tires to a normal pressure. He had softened them to drive through the sand. We decided to ask them if we could get a ride as we were worried that there was no ride coming and neither of us wanted to spend the night there. Luckily he and his wife agreed to give us a ride and we had a rather quick trip back as we were racing to get back before the park gate closed. We found out that they had been the last car to leave the salt pan, so we were indeed lucky that they had stopped in the parking lot.

We arrived at the gate just as it was about to close which was a big relief for the driver and us. We said goodbye to our kind companions and headed straight for the restaurant for a cold drink. We then found out campsite and they were quite happy we were back safely as they didn’t know why we were so late. It had been a very adventurous day and one that we both will remember happily.

Early the next morning we headed out on the next leg of our journey, our destination was the Fish River Canyon, well known as the second largest canyon in Africa and one that Chris was keen on exploring later in the trip. The landscape was stark with relatively low flat-topped hills and wide open valley floors that the road followed. Andre, our tour guide, thought the trip was going to take most of the day, but amazingly enough we arrive at the Fish River Canyon in the early afternoon. Sometimes we wondered about how Andre could be so off in her timing! We were delighted about we thought this would mean we could spend a longer time admiring the canyon which was situated about ten kilometers from the campsite. Imagine Dana’s consternation, when we discovered that we would not be leaving the campsite until 5pm which would give us only a short time at the canyon before night fall. We asked Andre if it would be OK for us to go by ourselves right away and she was not in agreement. Disappointed and angry we walked over to some small low cliffs overlooking a stream bed near the campground. It helped lighten our mood. When we returned to the campground we found out that Andre agreed to leave the campground half an hour before she had originally said.

So we all took off the canyon and walked along it’s edge for about half a mile. Because it was so late the bottom was in deep shadow and most of our companions like us were frustrated, because of the poor conditions for both actually seeing or photographing the canyon which was a beautiful sight. Dana and I sat on the edge of the canyon taking in the quiet and the majestic beauty of it, while everyone else gathered back at the bus. It was good to have this time to just experience being there.

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Fish River Canyon

After supper, Andre sensing people’s discontent, asked how people were feeling. And for the first time on the trip, most people voiced frustration with how aspects of the trip differed from their expectations. It felt good to hear that we were not the only people who had hoped that our time would have been spent on activities that allowed us to experience Africa more fully. But it was a pity because it came so late.

The next morning we packed up and headed off to the Orange River, which in it’s lower reaches, forms the border between Namibia and South Africa. Our border crossing from Namibia into South Africa was remarkably easy and swift. We were impressed by the friendliness of the border staff on both sides. We arrived at our new campsite in the early afternoon, set up our tents in a small area allocated to our group and then Chris and I headed to the river for a swim. Soon after we finished swimming the whole group went up river and got into rubber two person dinghies and started paddling downstream. This was fun and we saw lots of birds, the most notable was a Goliath Heron which was perched on tree very precariously for it’s huge size. These birds are almost two meters tall and absolutely stunningly beautiful. Sadly, Dana did not have her camera, as it was a bit risky to have a camera on the trip down the river. Everyone seemed to enjoy themselves. In places there were little runs of fast water, so we had to cross these carefully. It was very pretty landscape. At one place we stopped for a swim which was so refreshing.

We ended up back at the campground and watched the sunset on the Orange River.

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The Orange River

This was to be our last night of camping on this trip as we would be in Cape Town early next evening staying at a hotel in the central area. The trip from the border to Cape Town included a variety of scenery, gradually becoming more agricultural as we headed south. We pass right by the town that Dana would later be staying in for her week photographic workshop in the area known as Namaqualand. It certainly was a gorgeous area, a mountainous semi-desert. We were certainly feeling some relief of this trip being over and were looking forward to travelling on our own once again and not moving around in a group of 22 people. There was one last dinner together at a restaurant in central Capetown to round off the trip, followed by the night at the hotel and a farewell breakfast the next morning. I think we were the only ones who had not signed up for the wine tour that next day preferring to climb up to Table Mountain which overlooks Cape Town. The last time Chris had done that he was ten years old. We will continue our trip to Table Mountain and beyond in our next entry.

Posted by danjali 14:36 Comments (0)

Overland Trip Part 2: Namibia-Botswana Border to Swakopmund

July 25th to 31st

From Ghanzi, we made our way towards the Namibian border. Our six days in Botswana where drawing to a close. We spent our first night in Namibia in the country's capital city, Windhoek, which is located about half way up Namibia. We stayed in a hotel for the first time since we had left Malawi. and very much appreciated sleeping in a comfortable bed. We also had our own room which was a great blessing - our own private space at last. Earlier that day we had wandered into downtown Windhoek only to find most shops closed as it was a Sunday. I had been hoping to find an internet café so that I could post this blog, but again my plans were foiled!. We did, however, find a craft market in the middle of Windhoek and were able to have a quick look around the stalls there. Sitting on the ground at one of the stalls were some bare-chested women who were completely covered in red ochre; their hair was smeared with the ochre in such a way that large clumps of it had accumulated at the base of their braids. I had heard about the women's tribe, the Himba, from a young couple whom we had met in Botswana and who had visited one of their villages in northern Namibia. When I heard about the couple's experience, I knew I, too, wanted to visit a Himba village, but I could not think of any way to fit such a visit into our itinerary. Our overland trip went within 50 kms of the Himba villages, but there was no way to make a side trip and still remain on the trip. Anyway, it was amazing to see these women and their babies just sitting there. I ended up buying some bracelets from them, making sure I bought one from each of the women. I wondered what it must be like for them to come to the city for a month or two and everyday sit there trying to sell their handicrafts. I decided not to take photos that day as I was sure that I would somehow get to a Himba village. As things turned out later in our stay in southern Africa, it would have been too crazy for us to spend three days getting there, so, unfortunately, I don’t have any photos for you.

Being in Windhoek was a bit of a shock for me as it is so westernized. Everything was clean and most buildings looked very new. Also, most of the people I saw had white skin. As Namibia had been a German colony until the end of World War 1, much of the signage is still in German, so this was the first time in Africa that I could not identify what all the shops and buildings were. I found this a very odd experience, and began to wonder where was Africa. In fact this sort of wondering was to continue in my mind for much of the rest of our trip.

Later on that evening our group was going out for supper and Chris and I decided that it would be best for us to join them. As always it really was not our scene as we went to a pub that was incredibly noisy and busy; noticeably, there was not a black face to be seen! We left early and went to the hotel to enjoy our beds!

From Windhoek, we headed north to a place called the the Waterberg Plateau, where we camped for the night. The plateau itself is very impressive as it is huge and rises out of a very flat landscape. Once our tents were up, Chris and I headed off to hike to the top of the plateau. We explored the top, following a trail and almost tried to descend using another route, but realized that it was likely a more difficult trail. We greatly enjoyed exploring the area.

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Waterberg Plateau

The following day, after watching the sunrise from the top of the plateau, we headed farther north to Etosha National Park. It’s known for its salt pans which are large dry salty areas that are lakes when there is enough rainfall. Upon arrival, another disappointment - no game drive though it was clearly stated in the itinerary and we reached the camp area in the early afternoon. Chris and I went to the “waterhole” near the campground to see if there were any animals visiting. We spotted a jackal and a wildebeeste, but what most impressed us were the thousands of birds that swarmed to and fro in the early evening. They all ended up landing in a small area of reeds at one side of the waterhole. We were entertained for quite a long time watching them. As it turned out, the water hole did not have many animals visiting it that night so we crawled into our tent early and got a good sleep.

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Watch out for warthogs!

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Birds at Etosha Waterhole

Most of the next day was spent doing a game drive through the park toward our second destination in Etosha - a campground near the southern entrance. As Etosha does not have much grass, it was very easy to see animals there. We saw herds of wildebeeste and zebra and then encountered a whole herd of elephants. Amongst the highlights of this park are the waterholes where, each time stopped at one, we saw elephants, greater kudu, springboks (a variety of antelope) and a jackal or two.

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Herd of elephants

At lunch time, we stopped in another campground and, as usual, Chris and I went off to explore. We quickly found ourselves heading toward the nearby waterhole and, as we drew close to it, spotted the first elephant. Once there, we found that there were at least twenty or thirty elephants - big bulls, females and youngsters - drinking and bathing. I was in heaven! For ages we had been wanting to see greater kudus, large antelopes, which have gorgeous long spiral horns (the males) and are taupe in colour with white markings. Enter stage left, the kudu - the males and the females. Could it get any better? We must have sat there for an hour and a half watching. We knew we would get the last of the group's lunch, but it was worth it. As it was, we found it hard to pull ourselves away. I had seen postcards of waterholes filled with, and surrounded by, numerous animals, but I thought that this was probably a rare occurrence. Clearly my thought was untrue.

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Elephants at an Etosha waterhole

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Male and female greater kudus

We made it back for lunch which - as usual - was not a very interesting meal, especially as we are both vegetarian. Our lunches mostly consisted of the equivalent of kraft cheese slices and bread and, sometimes, salad, which I was a bit hesitant to eat that as the lettuce, tomatoes and other constituents were not often properly washed and even when they were, the water purity was questionable. Chris and I eventually got smart and started to buy our own cheese. That made lunches much more bearable. In general, the food on the trip was pretty unimaginative even though Andre herself was vegetarian. The problem was she never really ate, so I guess it didn’t matter too much to her what the vegetarian food was like.

Our safari through Etosha continued into the afternoon until we arrived at the southern campground. Once again we set up our tents. One of the sweet things about that campsite was that we happened to be right beside a group led by a Congolese guide who was now living in Namibia. I had a long conversation with him while setting up our tent. I remember thinking that if I wanted a guided trip in Namibia he would be a great person to show me around. One of my real delights in travelling is the very spontaneous connections I make with people along the way.

We didn’t know when we arrived at this campground what a fabulous location it was. As soon as we our tent was set up, Chris and I went exploring. We quickly discovered the waterhole, which already had three elephants there as well as some springbok (aptly named as they leap high when running, seeming to have springs attached to the bottom of their legs). We stayed until the last minute before supper and then headed right back to the waterhole as soon as we had finished eating. In the first part of the evening, two huge bull elephants had a bit of a standoff with each other in an elephant sort of way. After about an hour, one of them wandered away into the distance, only to be replaced by more.

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Male elephants in stand off

I can’t tell you how many elephant families came to the waterhole that night. It was so much fun to see them wandering in from the distance. Then the first two rhinos arrived. Rhinos are not as easily seen so this was really exciting for us. The other lovely animals that were at the waterhole most of the evening were the giraffes. For any of you that don’t know, giraffes need to splay their front legs right out to the sides so they can lean their necks down to drink water. It’s quite a sight! So there are the elephants, babies through to older adults, the giraffes, the rhinos, the inevitable jackals wandering around in the background, the springboks and the occasional greater kudu. It really is quite a scene. I felt like we were watching the kind of reality TV that interests me. Chris and I were so captivated that we didn’t really notice that it was rather cold that evening. Successive individual or pairs of rhino came to drink. I think that by the time we left, we counted eleven rhinos, including a young one who was suckling on its mother. We also watched two male rhinos having a stand off for quite a long time. It never amounted to any charges, but one rhino ended up staying on the far side of the hole, while the other one walked over to the near side and came very close to the viewing area where we were sitting. It was fabulous to see him so close (though nowhere near as close as we had been to the rhino in the park near Livingstone). He then was able to drink from the waterhole in peace. Over and over again as we animal-watched, we saw males having power struggles with each other. At one point in the evening, I felt I had to go back to our group to let them know what was happening at the waterhole. Hard to imagine that they were missing all this wildlife activity even though it was just minutes away from where they were sitting chatting and drinking. At about 10:00 p.m., we started hearing lions roar in the distance, but they sounded very loud even though they were far away. It was interesting for us to see the impact the roaring had on the other animals. We could see the giraffes became quite nervous and turned to face the direction the roars were coming from. Even for us, it was quite a formidable experience hearing that roar from such a powerful animal, yet really so small compared to the size of a rhino or an elephant. We kept hearing the roars for thirty minutes or more, but no lions came into view. Just as we stood up ready to go back to our tent, Chris saw two lions approaching the waterhole, so down we sat again and watched as two male lions came down to the water. Amazing! This was the Icing on the cake. I tried to take a photo of it, but it was a forlorn effort given there was only a single spotlight lighting up the scene. We went to bed very happy that night. That evening continues to be one of the major highlights of the overland trip.

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Waterhole night photos - not the best images but they give some idea of what it was like

The next morning we headed out of the park earlier than we expected because we thought we would be doing another game drive as mentioned on the trip's itinerary. Andre decided, however, that we needed to get going to Twyfontein. By this time, I was getting very frustrated with this kind of unilateral decision-making, and Chris was as well. All in all, the trip was a great teaching in a) letting go of expectations based on descriptions we had read on the Gap website, and b) experiencing the pain of clinging, which affected me over and over again in both smaller and larger ways.

Driving in Namibia is really an amazing experience as the landscapes are incredible. So many different kinds of desert. I found myself falling in love with the desert and was perfecting the art of taking photos at 1/1300th sec! Amazingly some of them actually are OK.

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Scenery at Twyfontein

Twyfontein is one of the places where there are ancient rock paintings. After we set up our tents we headed off to where the rock paintings are. We were quite impressed with these paintings which were mostly etchings - on rock - of birds and animals such as ostriches, giraffes, elephants, oryx, kudus and lions. The paintings were apparently made by shamans, and very much had a spiritual meaning. I was amazed at how well they are preserved.

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Ancient rock carvings

That evening, a group of local people sang and danced for us in the little restaurant at the campground. It was really lovely to experience this. The evening's action included our having to sing for them - the best we could do was Frere Jacque in four languages!

We camped in the desert that night and were able do without a flysheet on our tent, which is just net so we had the beautiful view of the stars and the moon. Upon waking, we made another early morning start as we were driving to Swakopmund which was a long drive.

Driving through the desert that day was amazing. It is just so barren. The dunes did not start until after Swakopmund so there were vast flat landscapes with just sand. Often on this trip I was frustrated by the presence of power poles running alongside on the roads - they are such a distraction for photographs - but here, they actually added to the photograph!

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The desert

On this day (July 30th), we encountered the Atlantic Ocean for the first time since we had arrived in Africa. There were miles and miles of deserted beach in both directions (northward and southward). This shore is called the Skeleton Coast as so many ships have met their demise there. A thick layer of fog is commonly present, helping to make the ocean very treacherous - hence the name. I actually saw one of the shipwrecks as we drove by. We arrived in Swakopmund on schedule. We were staying for two nights, and again had beds as we were accommodated in large cabins instead of camping in our tents. By that time, I was actually wishing that we were camping, though I have to say the luxury of having a bathroom so close was pretty nice. Swakopmund itself was a rather strange experience for me. It is totally surrounded by barren desert and ocean and yet it is so modern and almost looks like a movie set. I wondered where the Africa I had known up until Bostwana had gone?

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Swakopmund

Around Swakopmund, there are again lots of “high adrenaline” activities going on such as sandboarding, riding quads on the dunes, skydiving and such. Most of the people on the trip opted for the sandboarding, but we weren’t really so interested in this. We managed to organize a kayak trip with a local guide. Once again, we were lucky enough to be the only people on it. The kayaking was on the ocean but in a fairly protected place (Walvis Bay) near a seal colony and also dolphins. I cannot tell you how delightful that day was. First of all to be on our own was a huge relief. And then to have both seals and dolphins coming up to our kayaks was just lovely. The dolphins would come to the front of the kayak and if we paddled fast they would race with us. Oh what fun! There were also flamingoes which I was really delighted to see. Apparently at some times of the year there are literally thousands of flamingoes at Walvis Bay. It made me want to be there then. Our guide was really knowledgable and passionate about the area so it was very enjoyable to be with him. He and his wife also ran a fair-trade shop in Swakopmund so we visited there upon our return from kayaking.

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Flamingoes

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Cape Fur Seals

We will continue on with our journey in the next blog.

Posted by danjali 12:48 Archived in Namibia Comments (0)

Our Overland Trip Begins (July 17th to 24th)

Livingstone, Zambia to Windhoek, Namibia

In the evening of July 17th, we met with the others who were participating in the Gap Overland trip to Cape Town. Our first encounter with the tour leader, Andre, made me a little nervous about what we were getting into. I had some expectations that she would be quite a bit different from the person in front of me. For one thing, at 24 years old, she was quite a bit younger than I had anticipated, and my first impressions were such that I did not have so much confidence in her being able to lead a trip that I would like. Still, here we were, committed to the trip and we could only wait and see how it would turn out. We had dinner with the other overlanders that evening. Surprisingly, there were five other Canadians, with most of the remainder being Europeans. Our first two nights were spent in Livingstone in a campground on the Zambezi River.

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Sunset on the Zambezi River

Our first dinner together with everyone was fine, though I felt a bit overwhelmed with the numbers. I found myself much relieved when the large table was full and we had to eat at a smaller table with 6 others. It was clear to me that I was going to have some adjustments to make being in the group. Chris was his usual happy self, adjusting easily to the change in our trip.

Many of the people on our trip were up for the “high adrenaline” activities like bungee jumping and ziplines and so on and also flights over the falls, but we decided on something much more tame, a walking safari. There were only two other Spanish men on the safari, which we were very happy about. We had to drive in the open vehicle for about half an hour to get to the place we began the safari, which was a very chilly experience. Chris naturally sat there in his T Shirt while I had just about everything on and still froze! We were glad to arrive. The two Spanish men were flying back to Spain that day and so had one thing on their minds and that was to see a rhino. We were pretty open to seeing anything and just liked the idea of going on a walking safari. So off we went to find the rhino, which had been spotted the day before. I could not believe that in five minutes flat, they had spotted him and we were able to stand not 15 feet away from him as he grazed on the grass.

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Posing with the White Rhino
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White Rhino

We must have spent half an hour with the rhino. It was pretty special. I couldn’t believe that we could be that close, but as long as we were not in his way he was not bothered. The Spanish men were amusing as they spent most of that time posing in front of the rhino with the other one taking photos. It really was very funny. As soon as we left the rhino, they decided their safari was over and asked their hotel to pick them up. So the walking safari continued with just Chris and me which was perfect. We saw giraffes and impala and also some zebra as well as learning a bit about the plants in the area. It was a great experience to be there on foot. There is something very special about standing on the earth with these animals.

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Giraffe and baby

Our last night in Zambia, Kalenga took us out to listen to some Zambian folk music and he brought along his niece who spoke beautiful English. We really enjoyed spending time with her that evening.

The next morning we boarded the overland truck for the first time and headed off to Botswana.

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Overland truck

It took ages to cross the border as there is a ferry crossing as well. Travelling with a group of eighteen other people was something that we were, or more accurately, I was going to have to get used to. I did enjoy the fact that we were high up so we had a very good view of the scenery as we went by. Our first destination was Chobe National Park which is well known for its variety and also prevalence of game. The first evening we went on a boat trip down the Chobe River for three hours. How delicious that was, with the elephants, hippos, water buffalo and many birds. It was great to experience it all from the river rather than being on land. I would do that experience again for sure! Needless to say a few more photos were taken!

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Elephants at Chobe

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Bird at Chobe

The next morning we went on an early morning game drive, that was not quite as exciting but still we saw some animals and that is always delightful. Both Chris and I felt that the driver was pretty uninspired and really was not looking for game very enthusiastically. Some guides are amazing at their capacity to know where to find animals, but this one was not.

I would have loved to stay another day in the park but the itinerary was to move on to a place called Planet Baobab. The trip took longer than expected so we got there at dusk missing seeing these amazing Baobab trees. Each one is so individual and they really do often look like upside down trees. Luckily there was just enough light the next morning to get a few photographs of these giant trees.

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Baobab Trees 


The next morning we got up early to catch a glimpse before we had to head off again. Some things were quickly becoming obvious to us about the trip. One was that we were always hurrying, early in the morning and usually at lunch and some times in the evening as well. When we would stop at shops every couple of days we had no longer than half an hour to do any shopping or getting money that we would like. It was a bit crazy to say the least. Another thing that was obvious was that the most important place to stop was the liquor store. We were totally amazed at just how much was bought and consumed each and every day. As soon as we would stop at the campground, and the tents were up the first glasses of wine were poured and beers opened. It continued until people crawled into bed. I am happy to say that people did not get really drunk, but for us, it did not make for much meaningful conversation. We had been in Africa for over two months and so were very much in Africa. We found that mostly people engaged in talking about their lives and countries and so it didn’t really pull us very much. Still here we were and luckily we had each other. I am not sure I could have done it on my own. We tended to go to bed early, just to have a break from the group and get up early to avoid rushing. We had our great tent that allowed us to see the stars on many nights which really was great fun.

Our next stop was one we had been really looking forward to and that is the Okavanga Delta which is a huge inland delta area. We had a two -night stay actually in the delta and were taken there in these traditional boats called makoros which are flat bottomed dug- out canoes basically. They are propelled by a “poler” who uses a long stick to move the boat through the water much the same as in Venice. The water in the delta is quite shallow and so this form of transport is ideal. The poler who approached us first, was actually drunk, and so I requested to have another poler. I was not going to be in a tippy boat with someone who was drunk knowing that there could be crocodiles and hippos! I was glad that the person in charge of the polers was fine with us changing and we were introduced to our new poler.

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Our mokoro poler

What a relief that was. The first poler was very belligerent afterwards so I was very happy that I had spoken up. We had heard that it is very important to have a good poler as they basically are the ones who will show you the delta and teach you about the area.

So we finally headed off in our makoro into the delta which is mostly grasses with multitudes of little lane ways heading every which way. I still have no idea about how they find their way. It was a fabulous experience being in the boat and being poled. The fellow who had instructed us on how to be in the, told us it will be like you are being massaged by the river and I have to say at times I felt like that. I had the luxury of sitting in the front of the makoro and just watching the grasses bend as we made our way through. It really was pretty special.

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Boats in delta

We did get a bit wet as the boats do have some leaks, but the polers sponge or scoop out the water regularly. It felt very magical to be heading into the Okavanga a place we had only heard about. As we neared our camping place which was about two and a half hours in, we saw our first elephant on the shore. It’s a wonderful thing to experience them in this way. And being in the boat we could watch for some time and really take in the experience. After this we landed on a small island and began to set up camp. The polers helped us set up for the night. There were at least 15 Botswanans who were part of our camp so we were quite a large group. The overland crew commenced with the ritual of pouring the first wine bottle. I had noticed that part of our itinerary was going on a bush walk but when I asked about it Andre said it was too late. So we decided that we wanted to go out in the makoro again and our poler was happy to take us out. Everyone stayed behind. It was really lovely as it was the late afternoon. As he poled we spotted another elephant on a small island and in a few minutes he walked into the water and began to wade across. This for whatever reason is one of my favourite memories of that time. Just seeing the elephant in its totally natural surrounding and us just sitting in awe of it all. Not long after that we spotted another elephant on shore once again, by a huge palm tree. He was not close but we could see him well. With his trunk up he was shaking the palm tree to get the fruit which was perhaps 100 feet up to fall. Apparently elephants love these fruit. It was really great fun to see him shaking this huge tree. We paddled back appreciating the sunset and came back to the camp feeling so delighted. One of the things that never ceased to amaze Chris and I was how our group would miss so many opportunities to experience where they were. It didn’t make a lot of sense as there was an awful lot of driving to the trip and for us we really wanted to take it all in once we arrived. This was to prove a very frustrating feature of the journey, particularly for me.

In the evening a big fire was built and we had our supper which Andre prepared. Margaret, who was perhaps fifty years old, cooked supper for all the Botswanans which consisted of maise meal which looks like semolina porridge and then some other things in pots that I could not identify. We could not believe, how hard Margaret worked. While the men rested, she toiled on. This is the lot of women in Africa we have seen countless times. Sadly, she did not speak hardly any English so we were not able to communicate.

I was quite embarrassed that evening by our group, just the fact that everyone was sitting around drinking. I wondered what the locals though about us. Our group had been told that we should not give the locals an alcohol as they can drink too much and we needed them to be sober. Drinking is a really big problem all over Africa among the men and we have seen many incidences of this. I really did not want to be associated with this so I found myself wanting to sit with the locals rather than our group.

The next morning we had our bush walk which was lead by some of the locals who knew the area well. They showed us tracks and evidence of different animals in the area as well as local plants and grasses. We could see an elephant in the distance, and so we headed over that way hiding behind some bushes so we were camoflauged. Eventually the elephant decided to run across the field not so far from us. How amazing to be standing there safely and seeing this huge animal run across the field.

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Elephant on our bushwalk

Later on we spotted a herd of zebra and also a wilderbeeste grazing. We stood for some time watching them learning about how the male zebras are always challenging each other. Some of them get fed up with it and just go off on their own. It’s fascinating to learn about these animals and their ways.

Back at the camp, the women had been busy laying out a number of woven baskets and bracelets that they have woven. Margaret, spent hours making rings for many of the women in our group, and then immediately afterward started making supper. I had my eye on a few things and am bringing them home with me. It was great to able to actually see things being made. And their basketry is beautiful.

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Margaret making a ring

In the afternoon some of us headed off in the makoros again to a place where it was safe to swim. Crocodiles will not be in water which has light in it as they need the dark to hide. Eventually the polers took us a place where there was a tiny and I mean tiny piece of land that we could stand on to take off our clothes. I was the last in, but eventually I had a very short dip. Once again I could not get crocodiles out of my head! Chris on the other hand was swimming laps across the open area of water! We were both refreshed after the dip.

The next day we had to organize to leave the camp and make the two hour journey back to where we had started. It would be our last makoro trip, so I totally enjoyed it, though at one point we were totally covered with little midges that seemed to be in the grasses. Still it didn’t take away from the magic of moving through the reeds in the makoro.

Once landed, we had to wait a bit for another boat to take us back to the campground and so we walked around the village where most of the polers live. It was fascinating to see how they construct their mud homes using pop and beer cans in the wall and then applying the mud from termite mounds which are found in many areas of Africa. We have been so impressed with the many ways that recycling happens in Africa.

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Recyled home

The next morning we packed up the truck once again and headed off for Ghanzi in the Khalahari desert. It was one of those very long drives that day. I think we got up at 4am with a leaving time of 5:00am. By this time on the trip, I was pretty insistent that we leave early so we actually had time to spend at our destination. I found as the trip went on I got more vocal about the ways we doing things that really did not serve Chris and I at least, and later we found out that others were not so happy either. I have to say that being on the trip was a bit of an emotional rollercoaster for me often feeling frustrated, irritated and downright angry. Chris as always, was pretty laid back, but there were times that he also felt some irritation. Anyway, back to the Kalahari. We arrived in good time at our destination, which was a bush camp in the middle of nowhere.

There was an optional bushwalk that we signed up for lead by some of the San bushman who live in the area. We didn’t know much about it, but we were always up for a new experience. As we were waiting for them to arrive, a group of young men dressed in loin cloths made from animal skins appeared and started to play soccer in the field beside us. It was quite a sight. Shortly afterward, a number of women also dressed in skins arrived and our bush walk began. It really was a very unstructured wander in the bushes, as they located a number of different plants and roots that they use for medicinal purposes and also for moisture. The Kalahari desert is a formidable place, and one where it is not easy to exist. These people know how to live here. It was fascinating watching the these roots being dug up. They would then explain through sign language and gesture, how they were used. There was also a interpreter who filled us in with the information afterwards. This walk really gave us an appreciation of how the land really does provide everything that is needed even in this very harsh climate.

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Survival in the Kalahari

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Bushman walk

In the evening we were treated to bushman dances, which again was a very natural and unchoreographed performance. The women mostly sung in a group and the men performed the dances. Apparently, the women also dance, but they were needed for singing on this evening. The men wore leggings, much like the ones used by East Indian dancers, but these were made from large seeds from the camel thorn tree, which are like little shakers. Chris has a favourite seed that he carries around in his pocket like this! I think he is getting into balance seeds, much like his balance stones.

It was a really fantastic performance, most of which was dances which were about animals like the oryx and baboon and so on. It was all done around a fire which of course added to the experience. If felt like we were being invited into experiencing a very ancient tradition.

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Bushman dance

Later on we heard that in August they have a three day dance festival where different groups of bushman come from all over and apparently it is totally amazing. This is also on our list to do. We both would have loved to have spent more time there as it was possible for us to experience more of this culture. The man who ran the lodge, had a very good relationship with these people and he did invite us to come back any time that we wish to come. Who knows maybe we will do this in the future.

The next morning we headed off for the Namibian border. We will continue our journey in the next entry.

Posted by danjali 17:43 Archived in Botswana Comments (0)

From Cape Maclear (southern Lake Malawi) to Victoria Falls

July 9th to 17th

We wanted to spend a few days at the south end of Lake Malawi, and so headed off for Cape Maclear. It was quite close to where we landed, but was not very easy to reach. Our first, more urgent task was, however, to get some Malawi money (kwatcha), so we had to make a detour of about 50 km to the nearest town (Mangochi) with an ATM. All went without a hitch and we were well re-stocked with money, or so we thought.

The minibus from Mangochi back to Monkey Bay dropped us at the turn-off to Cape Maclear. Almost immediately, we found a small open-backed truck that was going to go to Cape Maclear, but was full of people and their stuff. I wondered how we were going to fit! We somehow managed to find a wee space for ourselves. Then who-knows-how-many-more people got on?! The trip was only about 17 km in length, but the road was poor and hilly. Chris was perched on the side of the truck and hung on as best as he could. I sat on the floor trying not to crush all the women's feet! It was an adventure! Why else are we here? We got to our destination safely, though each of us knew we would not travel back this way again. Once was enough!

In the Lonely Planet guide, we had picked out a place to stay called the Chembe Eagles Nest located right at the far (north) end of the beach. It seemed like it would be a perfect place to camp for a few days - and it was. We had a small upper campground to ourselves as it was under construction, but it gave us a great view over the lake, and we had no close neighbours. We paid only $10 US a night to be there which was pretty good. We treated ourselves to some great meals in the elegant dining room, so really had the best of both worlds. The managers of the lodge, Mike and Carol, kept the beach as a local free zone, so guests weren’t hassled too much.

One of the first things we did in Cape Maclear was hire a boat to go across the lake to an island where there is good snorkeling. The area is called “the aquarium” and is aptly named. It was a real treat to see the myriad brightly coloured fish, all of them types of Cyclades (apparently, there are over 900 species in Lake Malawi) for which the lake is fittingly well known. I felt relatively safe, though I have to say that I could never quite forget that there are crocodiles, just not - purportedly - there. I could not get out of my head, though, that there might be an exception to the rule! Still I did not let that stop me from getting in the water to see the fish. The next day, we hired a two-person kayak to explore another part of the lake and had a great time, though Chris was very uncomfortable due to the style of kayak which had little back support. We again snorkeled and saw more beautiful fish. It is so unusual for a lake to have such an abundance of colourful fish.

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At home on the water!

Just south of the Eagles Nest beach was the fishing village, busy with daily activity, which we enjoyed visiting as well as just watching from a distance.

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Fishing Village

It was in the fishing village that we met Gideon on a Saturday morning. He invited us to come to the church service which would be starting at 9:00 a.m. the next morning. We were delighted to be invited to the service in what proved to be a humble little church just behind where we stayed, and arrived promptly at 9:00 a.m. only to find that there was just one other person in the church. As we sat there, we watched her engage in praying in a way neither of us had witnessed before. She started with an impassioned monologue to God as she walked back and forth. After a few minutes, she was joined by a man who commenced to do the same thing on the other side of the church. We sat through all this, watching, listening, and really feeling the intensity of their conversations with God. They continued for about half an hour, after which a few more people drifted in for the service. For our benefit, the first man - who proved to be one of the pastors - translated the bible readings and the sermon into English which I am sure must have made the service considerably longer than usual. Some three hours after it started, the service ended. By that time, the congregation had pretty much filled the church but I must admit that I was ready to go! What I found really beautiful during the service were gospel songs sung by various combinations of members of the congregation as well as by individuals, with, at times, all of us joining in. There was such joy and aliveness in their worship. There’s a way that Christianity is so alive in Africa and is practised so wholeheartedly. It's very touching, I must say.

After the service, we met Gideon’s family which was lovely.

Several times we walked through the village. One of the most delightful things in Malawi is how open the children are to tourists. As we walked, they would run up and want to hold our hands and, sometimes, to be lifted up and carried. I had lots of fun taking photographs of them; they would roar with laughter when they saw themselves on the camera's screen. Several times we were invited into people's homes as well. For both of us, Malawi was a place where we felt the ease and privilege of connecting with people at more than a passing, superficial level.

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Cape Maclear family

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Cape Maclear children loving to be photographed

One afternoon we visited the little fishing village beside where we were staying - all we had to do was walk around a little fence which separated the village from the Eagles Nest. Gideon accompanied us as on this visit, which made communication with the people there easier than it might otherwise have been. I took my camera and was happy to take some photos of the children and parents there. I try, when asked, to send copies of photos that I take to the people in the pictures once I am able to print them, though I worry a bit about whether they ever arrive. I hope they reached their destinations. I also gave away the last of my pencils and sharpeners that I had brought from Canada. I asked one of the women to give them to the children as she would do it in a much better way than I could. Such small things are appreciated.

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Gideon and a little friend

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Cape Maclear fishermen

The sunsets were absolutely amazing there. Most nights we sat out on the rocks near our tent and watched the sun go down.

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Cape Maclear sunset

One of the last things we did before we left was to visit Gideon’s family again. This time his father, who is a pastor, was there as well (he had been away leading a service elsewhere the Sunday we attended his church). It was a total delight to meet him. He sang us a song and said a prayer to bless our journey. What a sweet way to end our time there.

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Gideon's family and Dana

That evening, Chris discovered that his hiking boots were missing from our tent. It was a strange that we were in this place where we felt so warmly welcomed and safe, yet the boots were gone. The next morning there was quite a search and some of the local children were questioned, but in the end the boots were not to be found. Amazingly, the owner of Eagles Nest said that we need not to pay our bill as this would just about have covered the cost of replacing the boots, but we didn’t take him up on this offer as we had already settled the bill and had some hopes that the boots might turn up in due course. It was, though, a very kind - and deeply appreciated - offer. Chris was sad to say goodbye to his boots, but luckily found some good ones a few weeks later when we were in Cape Town.

We had originally planned to be in Cape Maclear for only two or three days, but had extended our stay to five days as we loved being there. It meant that we did not get to visit southern Malawi as we needed to get to Livingstone, Zambia, for our overland trip beginning on July 17th. We left Cape Maclear on July 15th in a taxi that was going to Lilongwe. From Lilongwe, we caught a bus to the town nearest the border and then a little mini-van which stopped abruptly in what seemed to be the middle of nowhere. The mini-van driver and other occupants all told us that we needed to get into a taxi that was sitting in front of us and that it would take us to the border. By this time it was dark and I was uncomfortable with the situation but what to do? We got in the taxi and took an immediate dislike to the driver, who drove very erratically. When I asked him to slow down, he just laughed - not the response I wanted. At last we arrived at the border and were confronted with the reality that we needed $100 US for a visa into Zambia for each of us. For some reason I thought it was free for Canadians and we had spent our last US dollars paying our bill at the Eagles Nest. There we were - 9:00 p.m. at night with nothing other than Malawi kwatcha. The border official, a woman, kindly invited us to sit down in her office and called her boss. Luckily we were allowed pay the visa fee with our kwatcha. That was close! I cannot tell you how appreciative I was of that border guard. I think what she did was very unusual. It was a great welcome to Zambia.

We once again had to catch a taxi, which took us to Chipata where we would stay the night and catch a bus the next day to Lusaka and then, we hoped, to Livingstone. It was a bit crazy at the Chipata bus station where we went to organize our ticket for the next day. All the competing touts tried to get us to buy a ticket for their bus. Before we did this, someone directed us to a guest house close to the station. There, the manager had the brilliant idea of getting one of the bus's ticket agents to come to the guest house and sell us each a ticket. It worked and we were set up for our 5:00 a.m. departure. Needless to say our sleep was short but all was working pretty well.

Our trip to Lusaka was quite easy and within seven hours we were there. We had already heard that some buses for the Lusaka-Livingstone stretch were better than others, but when we arrived in Lusaka sadly discovered that the best bus was fully booked. We took the next best option, but it was less than perfect as we were once again in the section with three-person bench-style seating. We knew that meant we would be pretty cramped for another seven hours at least. And that turned out to be true. On the trip, though, we got talking to our fellow passenger, Kalenga, who had retired a few years ago. It was actually great sitting beside him and hearing a bit about Zambia and his life. He had travelled all over the world as part of his work. He had been in charge of the Zambian side of the Victoria Falls Park which people come to visit from all over the world. Before we parted that night, we made plans to meet him the next day.

We met as planned, and Kalenga took us on a guided tour of the falls. It was great to hear about how they had developed the area making it accessible to, and safe for, tourists. Victoria Falls were gorgeous. They are huge and very impressive. We had to wear a double rain coat to go along the walkways across from the falls as it is constantly raining due to the spray. There is one stretch called "the knife" that crosses a narrow ridge. Walking over it is an amazing experience as you get totally soaked! We were there for sunset so we enjoyed the amazing colours in addition to the sight of the falls. Kalenga told us that when there is a full moon many people come to the falls, and that then there can be a moon rainbow. I would have loved to have seen that.

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Kalenga and Chris

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Victoria Falls

We will continue our journey in our next blog.

Posted by danjali 14:00 Archived in Malawi Comments (0)

Lake Malawi by Boat (July 4 - 9)

We arrived at Chilumba at about 5 p.m. in the afternoon. We knew that our ferry was due to arrive at midnight with our boarding time being 1:00 a.m. Soon after our arrival, we met Justice, the booking agent for the “Ilala”. He offered to keep our heavy backpacks safely in his office until we boarded. That was relief. We sat on a small beach in front of the office and watched the sun set which filled us with delight. As it became darker, we noticed all the little fishing boats, hollowed out canoes holding just two people, going out into the lake with lights on. I thought that the lights were to see where they were going, but later found out that the lights were to attract fish. All the lights bobbing out on the lake made a lovely sight!

We invited Justice out for supper. He took us to a very simple little café where we were served beans, vegetables and rice. It was wonderful talking to him - his English was very easy to understand. After supper, he invited us back to his home to meet his wife and his nephew, Dunno, who was staying with them while completing his high-school studies. Justice had to go back to tend to his job, but Chris and I stayed to visit longer with his wife, whose name I cannot remember, and Dunno. We learned a lot about conditions in Malawi and how difficult it is for young people to get a good education. A few days later, we were to find out that it is not unusual in that area for classes to contain more than 200 students taught by one teacher, so you can imagine how little individual attention each student gets. Dunno surprised us by knowing about Saskatchewan, Regina, Saskatoon and the fact that our province is a major wheat producer! Well before midnight, he took us down to Justice's office.

The “Ilala” docked at its expected time, and we boarded after saying our goodbyes to Justice. It was such a sweet way to begin our stay in Malawi. We felt truly welcomed and this feeling was to continue.

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Justice, Chris and Dunno

The “Ilala” had a few different classes in which its passengers could choose to travel. We opted for the first-class deck which meant that we would actually sleep on the top deck in our sleeping bags. We each rented a mattress so that we would be comfortable. I had fantasized sleeping under the stars ever since I had heard about this ferry trip. We had the whole large deck to ourselves on the first night and - as it turned out - the rest of the trip other than one night when we shared the deck with 30 to 40 other people. The one thing I had not realized was that the ferry's lights would stay on all night, which greatly interfered with my ability to star-gaze.

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Our deck on the "Ilala"

After a short sleep, we went down the restaurant and had a fabulous breakfast which was followed in times to come by many meals that we both found delicious. Over our five days, we started to feel very comfortable with the crew, who were great at watching our backpacks for us. We thoroughly enjoyed a beautiful trip down Lake Malawi which is huge, both wide and very long. Its maximum depths are around 2100 feet.

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Scenery along Lake Malawi

As we explored the ferry, we discovered how lucky we were to be able to travel on the first-class deck as the economy classes were much more cramped and uncomfortable, and did not have the beautiful views we were able to enjoy from the upper deck. The “Ilala” is pretty much the only major form of transport on Lake Malawi. As many of the villages on the shore of the lake do not have road contact with the outer world, the ferry carries everything into, and away from, them.

As most of the places that the ferry stopped did not have jetties, the two lifeboats - each supposed to carry a maximum of 22 people - were lowered whenever we anchored. Everyone who wanted to either leave or board the ferry was then carried in them. Every time, panic to board them seemed to set in. People disembarking would throw their bags and other belongings into one of the boats, then push and shove their way to the ladder or climb down the sides of the "Ilala" to get into it themselves. At one point, when two women fell into the water, I could not look any more. Most Malawi men know how to swim but the women generally don’t. Luckily, the two who fell in were dragged back into the boat. It was scary to see just how heavily they loaded the boats, so that there were only a few inches of clearance above the water. The whole operation became particularly dangerous when the water was rough. I found myself starting to worry about how we were going to get off the "Ilala" when we reached Likoma Island which I knew did not have a jetty.

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Small boats loading

We had some really lovely days just hanging out on the deck watching the beautiful scenery. One afternoon, I could swear that I was hearing music coming from somewhere. Chris was on deck soaking in the experience of travelling on Lake Malawi. I went on a search and discovered a large group of people on the deck below were singing gospel music - and as they sang, they swayed or danced. Often I heard people refer to this as “dancing for God”; earlier that day, we had seen an electric piano being loaded onto the ship but didn’t know then that this group of gospel singers was travelling to Likoma's neighbouring island to attend an event there. I spent at least an hour taking in this lovely experience and then went to find Chris so he could share it too. It was one of those special days though the lake-water was rough enough for some people to start getting seasick. Luckily Chris and I were spared this discomfort!

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Gospel singers aboard the "Ilala"

Normally the "Ilala" trip takes three days from the north end of the lake to the south, but it so happened that this particular trip was extended as the ferry needed to double back from Likoma Island, which is in the middle of the lake, to Nkhata Bay to pick up passengers who had been attending Republic Day celebrations on the mainland. This gave us an unexpected opportunity to stay on Likoma, where we arrived on the morning of July 6th. It was not clear when the ferry would be back at the island - we heard everything from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. on the 7th. We were assured that we would hear the ferry horn and that would warn us to get back to the anchoring area. We left our backpacks aboard in the dining saloon, just taking daypacks with us.

As luck would have it, whilst we were sailing from Nkhata Bay to Likoma, I met a young woman, Natalie, who was living on Likoma Island and who invited us to stay in an extra room in her house. She was travelling with her friend, Jose. Before they had left Likoma, they had arranged for their own small boat to transfer them from the “Ilala” to the shore as they, too, were unwilling to risk the ferry’s boats to get them to land. I can’t tell you how happy I was to accompany them! The sea was very rough that day and it was even scary in their boat never mind the ones which were completely overloaded. We heard that, years back, one of these boats had capsized during loading, and eleven people had drowned.

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A full boat!

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Likoma beach

Our time in Likoma was a blessing as ordinarily we would have anchored there for only a few hours and would not have been able to land on the island to explore it. Our first hour ashore was spent on the patio of Jose’s house drinking coffee and hearing about what Jose has been doing on the island. She had first come to Likoma Island some eleven years previously and had fallen in love with the place. She had worked as a psychologist in her own country, Belgium, for many years, but found that she was drawn to doing something that was, for her, much more meaningful. Through the following eleven years, she was able to raise enough funds to set up three pre-schools on the island. These schools now have over 600 two- to five-year-old students attending. Chris and I were very inspired by her work and decided to visit one of the nurseries located near where we were staying. We arrived unannounced and were totally delighted to see all the children in different classes with their teachers, singing and dancing, and learning English as well as their own language.

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Nursery school

The teachers were amazing in their capacity to teach in a way that was obviously fun for the children. The headmaster invited us into his office and told us a bit more about the school and the principles that they aspire to follow. All the teachers have been trained there, so it is completely locally run. Both Chris and I were deeply impressed by Jose’s understanding of how to create a project like this that, every step of the way, respects and benefits the local community as a whole. We also met John, a Likomian who is her “right hand man”. He has the difficult task of balancing the needs of Jose as the manager with the ways of the community. I was inspired hearing just how skilled he needed to be to negotiate between staff and Jose who had her standards and, of course, is accountable to her funders (based mainly in Belgium).

Our visit to the nursery school was one of those numerous occasions when we had tears in our eyes!

On our second day there, John took us on a walk to the southeast part of the island which was a lovely way to experience more of Likoma. We passed lots of locals and walked on some beautiful beaches with water that was crystal clear and a beautiful turquoise colour.

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John and Chris

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Lake Malawi clear water

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Local brick-makers

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Local lizard

We stayed with Natalie who is also from Belgium and who had originally come out as a volunteer several years before. On one of her visits, a situation came to light whereby, in one of the families on the island, a woman had died of Aids, leaving behind a three-day-old baby. The grandmother of the family, who was already looking after a number of other children, suddenly found herself in the impossible situation of being unable to afford to feed this new little person. The family approached Jose with their difficulty, which ended up with Natalie - with the family's blessing - taking over care of “Lucky”, who was found to be HlV positive. At the time, it was unclear whether he would survive for long, but now, looking at this beautiful, very chubby healthy little boy, it was hard to imagine how sick he once was. A miracle has happened along the way. Lucky (well named!) has been found to no longer be HIV/Aids positive! The challenge now facing Natalie is that she has been told she cannot adopt Lucky as the Malawi government wants huge sums of money to start the adoption process and she doesn’t have the funds. When we left Likoma, she was going to have to leave soon for Belgium, and Lucky's grandmother would have to take over caring for him again. Natalie has been supporting the whole family, so their financial burden has been alleviated. What really touched me was just how much Lucky’s family wants Natalie to be his adoptive mother. Hopefully some way will open up for this to happen.

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Natalie, Lucky and Dana

We really enjoyed staying with Natalie and sharing time with her and Lucky. It was an amazing experience to be on the island and get a taste of the very laid back existence there. Chris managed to watch another couple of World Cup games on the TV with some of the locals. Needless to say, I missed that opportunity being a very poor sports fan.

After the second night’s game, John told us that he had heard the "Ilala's" horn so he escorted us to where the ferry was anchored offshore. I am really glad that he heard it as we didn’t! We waited for a few boatload tranfers to be completed in an attempt - not very successful - to avoid the pushing and shoving and overloading. John, very kindly, came over with us to the ferry and ensured that we boarded safely. We really have experienced such great kindness and care in Malawi.

Not long after we were back on board, we snuggled into our sleeping bags on our very own deck again. We were relieved to find all of our stuff safely in the dining saloon. The almost-48 hours that we had spent on Likoma added so much beauty to our time in Africa. Lucky us!

The next afternoon, Chris and I were sitting on deck when the ferry’s purser approached us and told us that they wanted to give us a cabin for our last night on the ferry. We were completely surprised by this as the cabins were at least three times the cost of the first-class deck. We gratefully accepted, and so slept the last night in the cabin. I must say that I probably slept better than I had on the deck. We docked at Monkey Bay, our destination at the south end of Lake Malawi, at about 5:00 a.m., but were permitted to sleep until sunrise before we left the boat. Sadly, we missed saying goodbye to everyone on board as they had all gone ashore by the time we woke up and packed. Normally the ferry would dock on a Wednesday and then re-commence the trip up the lake on Friday, but because of the just-completed extended trip (the Likoma-Nkhata Bay repeat leg had added almost two days), the crew had only hours before starting their next voyage. We really got to be very fond of everyone over those five days and felt very well cared for.

We will continue our with our stay at Cape Maclear in the next blog entry.

Posted by danjali 11:02 Archived in Malawi Comments (0)

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