From bush to sea to desert in Namibia

Entering Namibia we were just starting to get into the procedure of border crossings again, after the long break in Zim. But down here it’s so easy. Immigration, customs. Stamps, smiles, thank you. Drive to the other side. Immigration, customs. Stamps, smiles, thank you. And then we usually look at each other, smiling with a slight buzz of excitement as we realize we are now in the next country, woohoo! And this region is very nice – neither Botswana nor Namibia has required visas. We won’t need one for South Africa either so next time we’ll have to buy a visa will be in Mocambique.

Divundu was the first town after the border and it was already late afternoon so we decided to try and find a place in the area. We found a pretty cool place, Rainbow river lodge, that had nice campsites right by the Okavango river, decent ablutions, wifi (well, somewhat working), free fishing  and a group of overlanders that we could hang out with. We spent two nights there but as Brian didn’t seem to catch anything (fish usually don’t bite during breeding season but he thought it was worth a try), I was too tired from my cold to get much computer work done and the overlanders left, we then moved on.

Coming to Rundu we had quite a few campsites to choose from but wanting to keep the rates down as much as possible we decided to go for the most anonymous looking one. And it was, arriving at Camp Hogo it felt more like we had taken a wrong turn and ended up at somebody’s small farm. But we were wrong, Sarel and his wife (who’s name we unfortunately forgot so we call her Tanny) did indeed run a small campsite and were the sweetest people and we had a good time chatting with them and playing with their dogs. They told us that the river, which was about 20 metres from the main building which was a deck, a bar and then their house, floods every year and the water comes all the way up into the bar. They used to have to move to Rundu for two months every year but now they had raised their house and was hoping to be able to stay there. But as you never know what the water levels are going to be like, they would just have to wait and see.

Our plans to only stay one night soon changed as Brian had a look at the shocks and found that they had once again, on one side, broken through the metal plate above completely. He would have to go into town the next day and make a plan for that, before we could go anywhere. As if that wasn’t enough, we woke up the following morning and saw that we had a flat tyre! My heart sank at the sight of it. That had been one of my biggest fears all along the trip, getting a puncture, since it would be potentially dangerous and also costly, maybe having to buy a new tyre. I was very relieved that the puncture didn’t happen on the road as we were driving, but that the air had gone out slowly over night. But would we have to buy a new tyre or could it be fixed?

Brian figured he would be able to fix the puncture himself, but first it was the shock mounting plate. So he went into town with Sarel who took him around to different mechanics until they had eventually managed to get the metal plate welded back into somewhat what it used to look like. Meanwhile I was writing and prepping blog posts and editing photos. Brian returned and we spent the afternoon there, Brian working on the shocks and I doing laundry. It was then time to fix the puncture. I mixed soapy water and assisted by driving the car back and forth, while he ”washed” the tyre, looking for bubbles to figure out where the hole was. But after me moving the car three times and him using three mugs of soapy water, he eventually gave up with a very confused look on his face. There was no hole to be found anywhere on that bloody tyre. ”Now I’m really confused” he confirmed. He then leant down and just stroked the inside of the rim with a wet hand and – bubbles! It was the rim that had a crack in it – it wasn’t a puncture! As much as we were relieved to have figured this out, we were still confused. Brian had never heard of a steel rim cracking before. But clearly that was the problem this time. The crack didn’t seem to have damaged the rubber at all but air was clearly leaking through it.

The following morning we packed up camp, said goodbye to Sarel and Tanny, who gave us a big bag of just ripened guavas from their tree for the road, and headed into Rundu. Sarel had phoned a mechanic he knew so he was expecting us and it was all done pretty quickly. The guys took the wheel off, removed the tyre, welded the rim and put it all back on again. And they only charged us 50 NAD for it, so we really appreciated that. On the road again! And still no real puncture, touch wood…

Our next stop was Etosha national park. We  had decided to do a full day in the park, but drive through it from one gate to another so that we could camp outside the park as camping inside was quite pricy. (Here in Namibia we’ve come across something we haven’t seen anywhere else so far on the trip, that you sometimes have to pay for the campsite AND for the people camping.) I went into the reception to pay our park entry fees and managed to get them down slightly by telling the lady that Brian was a Zimbabwean (there’s often a SADC discount). The entry was 150 NAD for us and the vehicle, cheaper than any park we’d been to so far and I almost wanted to jump over the counter and hug the lady when she gave us our permit. 150 NAD to spend a full day in a national park full of beautiful animals and awesome landscapes – now we’re talking!

Having all the roads on Tracks4Africa on the gps we could easily make our route as we went along, trying to estimate when we would have to start heading for the exit gate so we wouldn’t be too late. We saw numerous nice things, a lioness resting in the shade of a small tree, several elephants and giraffes and lots of gemsbok. We also saw a big herd of what we thought were tsessebees, but could have been red hartebeest. Together with the game viewing, the park obviously also offered beautiful scenery with both bush and salt pans. As we were still in the wet season of the year the park wasn’t its characteristic dusty self as you might see in a lot of photos, but still quite dry since there hasn’t been a lot of rain this season. One great thing was when we drove out to a salt pan view point and parked the car in what felt like the middle of nowhere – unless you turned around and looked at the bush behind you of course. But looking out ahead, there was just this vast pan stretching out as far as we could see. I started walking away from the car and after just a few steps I was almost overwhelmed with the silent intensity of the place. I felt so alone, like I had just landed on another planet. A planet of nothing but grey, salty land and blue skies. Amazing.

We went onto a loop road and thought it was pretty uneventful – until we stopped in a little open space framed by tall bush and Brian all of a sudden swore and looked at something in the bush. Just behind us, by the road we were just about to go down, there was an elephant roaming around in the bush. Far enough for us to get away but we were definitely in its space. It couldn’t be seen easily, as the bush just about covered it completely. We quickly assessed the situation and realised we should probably turn around to have a quick escape route planned in case the elephant charged us. We turned around as quickly as we could and watched the elephant’s every move. It noticed our presence but didn’t seem too worried about it. It made its way out of the bush, across the road and into the bush on the other side. We might be able to go down that road after all, we concluded as the elephant moved on quite quickly. But just as we started rolling down the road, there was another elephant right next to us… And then we spotted several more, just inside the bush. It must have been a group of 10-15 of them, all grazing their way through the thick bush.

Being a horse lover I naturally also like zebras and Brian sighed when I asked him to stop for yet another photo. He had no idea what he was in for. Ahead there was a water hole where you could stop and watch the animals. We have never seen so many zebras in the same place before. There must have been at least 200 of them, some fighting over water, some moving in our out and some standing around sleeping. And as they were standing in the area where you could park, we slowly approached them and as they didn’t seem to care, we parked right next to them. I so wished I could have jumped out and taken a photo of our black and white car amongst all these black and white ”horses”! But I wasn’t allowed to leave the vehicle of course. But it was so awesome just sitting there. This is exactly what I had been longing to do – stopping and watching the drama of nature happen in front of you rather than just snapping a photo of a grazing animal through a car window as you drive past. Here we could sit and and watch everything happening, the fights over water, the mothers looking for their babies, the kudus shyly trying to make their way to the water without getting kicked out. Needless to say, I was shooting away and had hundreds of zebra photos after that.

On our way to the exit gate we made a stop at the Okaukuejo lodge and indulged in some ice cream. We left the park and that night we ended up in a small but well organized campsite in the mountains. That night I tried my first koek sisters, a traditional afrikaans dessert. Brian has been talking about it and I couldn’t deny it, it was quite yummy – but just the sugar rush a dessert should be I guess. It’s basically deep fried bread dough dipped in syrup! That night I woke up freezing and shaking, needless to say a night in the mountainous part of Namibia can be quite chilly – even in summer!

Now it was time to check out the Skeleton coast. All we knew about it was that it got its name from ship wrecks and/or the skeletons of beached whales, apparently.We soon learnt that it wasn’t just a matter of driving to the coast and checking it out, though. According to the guide book it divided into three sections and it seemed the southern most one would be the easiest to access so we headed for Henties bay just north of Swakopmund. Arriving there on a Sunday, the place was pretty dead, to say the least. And what a place… The coast around here is just sand, and not nice, soft desert sand but grey, rough gravel. With the winds coming in from the Atlantic it seems it’s overcast almost every day. And the winds are strong. Add to this tall waves that don’t make swimming appealing at all, and German style architecture making the towns looking a bit out of place and you might have an idea of what a strange place the Skeleton coast is. We quickly left Henties bay and arrived in Swakopmund in the afternoon. As this was also pretty deserted, due to it being Sunday, we just drove around for a quick look and then tried to find somewhere to camp. We phoned around to some of the backpacker places in the town but went for the cheapest option, a caravan park outside town. Not as ”white trash” as it may sound – this was actually a spa hotel with a huge campsite that could easily host 500 caravans in high season. This was difficult to imagine though, as we were almost the only ones there. Strong winds were rolling up from the coast and the other campers, a family with a small car and a tent, and us all sought shelter from the winds by camping behind the ablutions. The typical overcast weather made it feel like it was evening earlier than it was and the whole place was somehow depressing. Freezing from the strong winds we realised there was no plan to try and cook on gas and we weren’t too hungry so with shaky hands and chattering teeth we made some soup with the water we had boiled that morning and put in the Primus flask before quickly hiding in the tent. Yet another cold night in Namibia and we woke up to… the exact same weather. Just a tad brighter than what we saw before going to bed. Yay. How can people live in this? we thought. They say Swedish winters are depressing, but constant overcast must be worse!

In the morning we went to the NWR office in Swakop, as it’s usually called around there, and got some info on the possibilities of driving into the sand dunes and what not. We were given a free permit and told where to go. There was a so called ORV area, Off road Recreational Vehicle area, between Swakop and Walvis bay so we thought we might check that out while driving south. We were also hoping to see some ship wrecks along the way but there weren’t so many, sadly. However, the road was a crazy sight in itself with the desert dunes now coming closer on our left. We decided to go and explore the dunes for a bit. As there were no other vehicles seen around the dunes and not super clearly signposted where you were allowed to go (it’s one thing looking at a map and another looking at the dunes!), we hesitated a bit at first but eventually left the big road and had sand under the tyres. We easily went up one small dune and looked at the next with a slight string of adrenalin shooting through. Should we? We did. And coming up to the top of the dune we soon regretted it. It was steep on the other side. Properly steep. Were we gonna be able to go back? We had a tiny area to turn around in and tall dunes in every direction. We couldn’t see the road or anything else anymore. We quickly ruled out the option of trying a seemingly smaller dune first, in another direction, as you never know what’s on the other side. It could just make the situation worse. It took us three attempts of driving up that dune – with lots of time to picture having to walk back to the road, wave down a vehicle and ask for the rescue of an overland vehicle in the dunes, driven by people who definitely know better but went there anyway – before we finally reached the top. Phew!! We drove halfways down the dune back towards the main road, stopped and had some tea on the tail gate, trying to act as if nothing had happened.

In Walvis bay we drove to the Pelican point, a thin peninsula shooting out from land just south of the city. It turned out to be quite a tough drive past salt factories and through thick sand – and the weather was as always out here depressingly overcast. But as you’ve eventually made it halfways you might as well go and see what’s at the end of it, hey… To our surprise there was a lodge out there when we finally reached the point – a small building next to the light house and it all looked pretty uninhabited (which could just be because it’s low season I guess). And there were lots of seals. Have you ever heard a seal colony chatting? They sound just like cattle! Barking and grunting. They were lying on the beach in big groups and didn’t seem to worry about the presence of our car at all. I thought I’d try walk a bit closer to them to get some better photos, but then they hurriedly crawled away so I didn’t wanna stress them but kept my distance. There were lots of flamingos too.

Being low season, this area of the coast was fairly quiet but there were a lot of cars equipped with fishing rod holders driving around with the rods sticking up in every direction (we called them orcupine cars) and there was the occasional quad bike roaming around in the dunes. That evening some guy was out driving in the dunes just inland of our campsite and Brian stood there watching him for a long time. As I saw the glimmering in this eyes I said to him ”I know we can’t really afford any activities right now but I can see how badly you want to do this, so do it”. I quickly thought to myself that if we can just produce the cash, he could go quad biking and I could go horseback riding. It would only be fair! And that was something I had really wanted to do on this trip.

Brian couldn’t resist the temptation so we headed off to Dune 7 Adventures the next morning. Telling the owner the story of our tight budget and how I would just wait around while Brian went quadbiking, the guy eventually offered me to ride on the guide’s quadbike, which is normally only for kids. Leaving for the dunes I immediately knew it was a good decision – this was a lot of fun, but I would have struggled to drive myself! As the guide said, ”Speed is your friend but speeding is your enemy”. You have to go quite fast and not hesitate to accelerate up the steep dunes, because then you will roll. I probably would have. Both hesitated and rolled, that is. Brian did really well, of course. And he thoroughly enjoyed it. It was just us three on two quad bikes and 45 minutes meant we still got to go quite far into the desert. There were just dunes in every direction and it was very beautiful. Brian and I noticed some really blue dunes at the horizon and thought we were hallucinating. What was that?! As we stopped on top of a tall dune to look at the view we realized we were looking at the rolling clouds coming in from the sea, meeting with warmer air and forming this strange phenomenon that almost looked like a tsunami out of this world. Despite the guide’s several attempts of tracking the highly venomous snakes and spiders living in the desert sand, we didn’t see any and I can’t say I’m too disappointed about that.

Just by heading inland the few kilometers or so by the dunes, the climate was very different to the coast. The typical sun blastering heat of the desert. Namibia has the absolute school book image of a desert. It’s even more deserty here than in the Sahara! (In fact, most deserts in the world are rocky, not sandy, which explains things.) It’s just exactly what you picture when you picture a desert, rolling dunes of golden sand. From Walvis bay we drove in towards Windhoek, but didn’t make it all the way that afternoon. We camped at a deli/farm stall/campsite outside Usakos, which was basic but perfectly fine – and the biltong was freshly cut and tender and yummy for the road the next day. Reaching Windhoek we had already decided to follow the mainstream crowd and stay at Cardboard Box Backpackers as we knew they were cheap. And we weren’t disappointed, for 75 Nad per person, cheap for being Namibia, we got the campsite, free wifi and pancakes and coffee or tea for breakfast! And there was a nice pool, a pool table and lots of nice people to chat to. We straight away bumped into Polish-Australian Kamil, a pilot whom we had met in Maun, Botswana. It was fun seeing him again and we spent a lot of time together chatting over a couple of beers. We spent a few days at this place, needing the break from the roads, doing lots of online work and enjoying the atmosphere. We were also waiting for a decision from my brother, who might be coming down to join us for a short while and as he might be coming to Windhoek we weren’t sure if we should stay or go. My brother had been saying already during our preparations that he’d love to join us in the car for a couple of weeks or so, as he’s never been to southern Africa and riding with us would be a fun way of getting to experience it. He wanted to come and visit in Zimbabwe, Botswana or Namibia to get the proper bush and safari part of the trip. However, due to different things he was very delayed. But eventually we got a decision from him. He was gonna come down! I was so excited I didn’t know what to do. But he would only make it to South Africa so we left Windhoek.

Sossusvlei are those famous, red dunes in southern Namibia that I’m sure all of you have seen in photos at least once. I had high hopes for this place, having seen loads of beautiful photos from there. It was definitely a must-go in Namibia for both of us. We camped at the NWR campsite in Sesriem, which is right by the gates to the Sossusvlei area. As we arrived in the late afternoon, we still had some hours of sunlight and wanted to get some sunset photos so we headed in through the gate without even looking at the campsite first. Brian had done some reading online and had found out that there are different ways of experiencing the dunes. While the park staff will tell you to climb Dune 45 at sunrise and watch the sunset from the dunes around Dead vlei, a lot of people in online forums were recommending the opposite. And this is always tricky for us overlanders. We don’t have much time, usually only a day or so, when on a tight budget like we are. Do we trust the park staff, who should know what they’re talking about, or the people that have been there and experienced it? We decided to go for the latter and not having enough time to drive all the way to Dune 45 by sunset that evening, we ended up just driving around the nearest area, enjoying the sunset over the mountainous landscape with springbok and gemsbok roaming around.

Back at camp we made spagetti bolognese for dinner and went to bed early, setting the alarm for 5 o’clock. The gate would open at 5.45, about an hour before sunrise, and we wanted to be there then. It wasn’t too hard waking up in the dark, we were both excited to go and couldn’t help but feel like it was a bit of a race. We were not alone at the campsite and packing up camp we kept an eye on the other vehicles. After packing up the tent and quickly boiling some water for tea and coffee on the small Primus stove we drove off and were hoping to be the first ones by the gate, but were third in line. Heading into the park we kept in line as a long convoy and we were curious to see what the others were planning on doing, Dune 45 or Dead vlei? Most people seemed to follow the advice of the park staff and we continued down to Sossusvlei, arriving there about 45 minutes later as the sky was now just getting brighter but the sun was still below the horizon. Although we were now alone, it still felt like a race against time – were we gonna make it to the dunes by sunrise? It was still a 20 minute walk. We quickly grabbed the gps, the cameras and a water bottle and headed off on foot. I don’t know if you have ever tried walking in thick, soft sand when you’re in a hurry, but I honestly hate it. Especially before 7 o’clock in the morning. Tired, frustrated and hungry I struggled up those dunes, following in Brian’s foot steps, with the heavy camera bag over my shoulder. My only relief was that it was still cool, that early in the morning. We reached the Dead Vlei and noticed a bunch of people on a taller dune, called Big Daddy, who must have been there even earlier to admire the view. But I was quite happy being down in the Dead Vlei, ready with my camera for when the sun would just come over the rim of the dunes and give the dunes around us that magical, red glow that I had seen in all the photos. We waited, and waited. Nothing happened. No magic. Looking up behind us we realized the problem. Clouds. Crap. We just looked at each other, realizing we had worked our butts off all morning to get here, only to be met by clouds. And then a few ice cold little rain drops started to fall. It was so ironic. There we were, on our one day in Sossusvlei during our 6 month trip through Africa – and it was raining in the bloody desert. Great.

But we waited around and the clouds soon started moving away and the dunes with the dead trees in the vleis were still a pretty awesome sight. The other people came down the dune but the place was big enough to make us feel like we almost had it to ourselves and we spent more than two hours in there walking around, taking photos and filming, before walking back to the car.

Lüderitz was our next stop, a town right by the coast, where we were planning on visiting Kolmanskop, a small village that was abandoned in the 1920’s. But on the way back towards the coast we made a stop on the Garub plains, where we knew we might be able to spot some wild horses. That’s right, wild horses. There are a lot of different theories on where these horses came from but there are about 150 of them roaming free in the area since quite some time back. These days the area is also protected and the government has realised the value of the wild horses as a tourist attraction so when there is a drought, the horses are being fed supplementary food. There is also a water hole and a shaded viewpoint nearby, where tourists can watch the horses as they come to drink.

As a horse lover, spending lots of my spare time at the stables, this was obviously irresistable to me. My shoulders sank as all I saw by the waterhole was a few ostriches, a couple of gemsbok and two jackals. Would I not get to see any of the wild horses? I was a bit surprised at my reaction – normally wildlife like the beautiful gemsbok would get my full attention and plenty of exposures on the memory cards, but now I just looked at them and sighed. All I was interested in now was the horses. We waited around for a bit and it was quite entertaining studying the communication between the animals around the water. In the binoculars we suddenly started spotting small dots at a far distance. They must be horses! But it was really far away by the mountains by the horizon. But then… ”There are a few coming our way now” Brian said, as he was looking through the binos. Yay! And sure enough, a few small groups of wild horses graced us with their presence that evening. I was shooting away, but sad to realize the viewpoint was just too far away from the waterhole for me to get any really nice portraits of the horses even with my telephoto lens. I was happy to see that Brian was also enjoying watching the horses and the interaction between them as the water created joy, playfulness, territorial rivalry and ”ranking” between them. Eventually we concluded that we had to make a plan. I desperately wanted to return to the horses again. So we decided we would continue to Lüderitz, spend the night there, visit Kolmanskop in the morning and then spend the afternoon with the horses as we were anyway coming back east again. I could hardly wait to go back – what photos might I get in the daylight? Would they be there during the day? Did they have other water sources out in the plains? Would I be able to get closer to them?

Kolmanskop is this deserted town where the sand dunes had moved through the houses over the years. What a photo opportunity! Adiel, our friend in Zimbabwe, had recommended this place to us and we’re really happy she did as it only had a short paragraph in the guide book and we might have missed it otherwise. Brian was laughing at me as I started jumping in my car seat as we drove in, the camera in my hands already. The only problem was that we didn’t know there were guided 45 minute tours at certain hours during the morning and we were now 30 minutes late for the last one that day. Luckily we were allowed to also walk around on our own, but we were only gonna have an hour and a half before they were going to close. I could hardly focus on what the guide was saying as we joined the tour, my trigger finger was too itchy to start exploring the town. As soon as the guide said the tour was finished, I rushed out of the room (which was in a less interesting building) and Brian just shook his head smiling and followed me out, but he was also really excited to explore this ghost town. We spent the next hour and a half walking around from house to house, looking at the sand filled rooms, checking out the few pieces of interior left in there. It was such a bizarre sight and so beautiful in a way. How nature takes over when the humans leave.

Back at the viewpoint by the wild horses’ waterhole I excitedly noticed some of them were already there drinking, and it was other ones than the evening before. We stood at the viewpoint for a while watching them but then I decided to try and move closer. I slowly worked my way down from the viewpoint towards the waterhole, keeping an eye on both horses and gemsbok. The ostriches started running away, wings held high, as I approached them, and the gemsbok were watching me suspiciously but luckily the horses didn’t seem to mind. I kept walking, slowly in a zigzag pattern not looking straight at them, to try and communicate my peaceful intentions. As I had come halfways from the viewpoint I decided it would have to be enough so I sat down. From there I had a much better view, more on the same level as the horses. Brian was my scout, surveying the area. About 100 metres behind the waterhole there was a hill and it was impossible for me to see what was behind there, but Brian could signal to me whether there were more horses on their way in. Except for one gemsbok getting a little too curious about me (I don’t quite like the idea of their horns piercing straight through me) I felt perfectly fine sitting there and I must have been out there in the blasting sun for quite a while as the different groups of horses would come and go. Eventually I had to walk back up to Brian to get something to drink, some shade and grab the rest of my memory cards, but I had a wide grin on my face. I went back down a few more times and it was so much fun seeing them slowly getting used to having me sitting there and getting to watch their behavior. A couple of tourists stopped by at the viewpoint at one stage. They didn’t stay for very long though. They must have thought I was crazy.

Eventually I reluctantly surrendered when Brian suggested we’d leave. We spent that night at Klein Aus Vista, outside the small town of Aus, a campsite set in beautiful surroundings in the mountains. We immediately started a fire but it still took a couple of hours before the potatoes, carrots, spinach and steaks could be eaten and by that stage I was freezing with heat stroke, wearing both my Tierra fleece and my shell jacket while Brian was sitting their in his t-shirt. The next morning we set direction for the Fish River Canyon. This was a place we had only heard about once we came to Namibia – and it is the second largest canyon in the world after Grand Canyon in the USA! I can’t believe we hadn’t heard more about it before. We decided to check out the canyon from the northern part of the national park and then drive down to the hot spring in the southern part. Coming in during the afternoon we started off by driving along the canyon, checking the view from viewpoint after viewpoint. Stunned by the almost surreal landscape we were also happy to have the place completely to ourselves. We agreed that it would have been very cool to do the famous hiking trail, a guided five day hike where you get to see the canyon from the bottom. (This is only done between April and September though, because of the risk of flash floods during the rainy season.) We threw rocks into the canyon and wrote our names on a rock that we placed on the slopes. As I was about to take a photo of Brian he said “Watch out, there’s a big scorpion behind you” so I jumped high in the air and was happy I wasn’t closer to the edge at the time…

As we made it to the main viewpoint we weren’t alone anymore as there were three overland trucks coming in. They had obviously planned to enjoy the main viewpoint by sunset, just like us. We had to wait for the sun to start setting for quite a while but once it did, it was as always in Africa, very fast. The mountains didn’t quite turn red and glowy as I had been hoping for, but it was still beautiful. We then headed back to the campsite in Hobas.

The overland trucks were camping in the same place so there were plenty of people and we had tents right next to the cruiser. But as Brian bumped into one of the overlanders we were invited to join them around the fire so that was really nice, we met some interesting people that night. As their guide and cook, TJ, apparently always makes too much food, they pretty much ordered us to have some or collect some leftovers, so I went and got an empty tub and filled it – perfect for lunch for us the next day! Very appreciated.

The overland trucks usually have terribly early mornings so they were all gone by the time we woke up (thanks for the book you left on our chairs, whoever you are!). We didn’t have to stress as it was only about 70 km down to Ai-Ais. The road was gravel – as is normal all over Namibia – but pretty alright most of the way and through some gorgeous mountainous landscapes. We reached Ai-Ais by lunch time, not really knowing  much about it other than that there would be a hot spring. As we had just paid for camping and had lunch, another overlander vehicle pulled in and it was two Australian friends, Ben and Natalie, that we had bumped into at Kolmanskop. In fact, they had approached us there and told us they had already seen our cruiser in Etosha and in Sossusvlei! So this was now the fourth time we were in the same place in Namibia. We spent the afternoon together, mostly chilling in the swimming pool which was heated by the hot spring. The hot spring was 60 degrees, the pool only 45…! It wasn’t refreshing going into the water in the heat, but it was surprisingly refreshing coming out of there. Ben and Natalie left for Hobas as they were doing the canyon route the opposite way to us and we parked in a campsite.

The following morning was the first and probably the only time during the trip that I was quite frustrated there was no cold water in the showers. Getting up at 7 it was already pretty hot out and I wanted to have a cold shower to keep cool in the car as we’d travel, but it turned out the cold water was probably the same temperature as the swimming pool. We left Ai-Ais planning on heading for the South African border and camp around there. But as we just left a tiny little town, with about 150 km to go to the border still, we started hearing some very weird noises from the car. Brian turned into a lay-by and after a quick check-up he summarized the situation, not being quite the communicator that I am, with ”We’re gonna be here for a while.” Oh. Okay. It turned out the wheel bearings in the front right wheel had collapsed and we had simply not heard the noises from it earlier since Namibia has so many corrugated gravel roads. It was only now that we came back onto tar that we realised we had a big problem. Brian started dismounting the tyre and taking apart the wheel bearings by the side of the road. It could have been a fairly easy fix, just a matter of tightening them as he had done earlier on the trip, but this time it was completely screwed up. He couldn’t get the nuts back on the threads. We were far from anywhere that might sell the spares we needed and we were now stranded in a lay-by outside a tiny town in Namibia. It was our first official breakdown.

It was Thursday afternoon and we were only picking my brother up on Saturday in Upington in South Africa so we had some time, but the question now was what to do with the car and how to get it fixed. Without being able to put the lock nut back on we couldn’t go anywhere, even slowly creeping to the nearest mechanic, if there was one in town. We were stuck on that lay-by. Where we gonna have to leave the car there and hitch hike into town? And what if there was no one there to help? Brian kept working on the threads and I made us sandwiches and assisted in any way I could. The hours went by. Around 17.00 sometime a car pulled in and the man said ”You guys must be having a very bad day because I saw you here earlier today and you are still here”. He was very helpful and went into town to check if anyone could help us fix the threads but without any luck. As it was now getting closer to sunset, we were really trying to figure out what to do. But Brian kept working tirelessly on the threads and called his dad for some advice. Eventually they agreed that one option could be to borrow a lock nut from the other tyre so that there would only be one on each side. And then, finally, the lock nut went onto the threads. After I don’t know how many tries, and grinding bit by bit to make it fit. We sighed with relief, now we would at least be able to keep driving carefully until we reached a proper mechanic. But by the time Brian had finished up and put the tyre back on, after working on it non-stop for 8,5 hours, it was now around 22.00 in the evening. And we were in an area far from the tourist activities  so there were no campsites or b&b’s as far as we could see. We had asked the helpful man if he thought it would be safe to sleep in the lay-by and he said he could tell the police in town that we were there and that they could patrol the area a bit extra. But then we thought, maybe we can sleep by the border? They will have security guards there and they might let us sleep in the parking lot or something. So we decided to move on but did 60 km/h on a 120 km/h all the way. As we reached Ariamsvlei we stopped at an open fuel station and filled up and found out the border was open 24/7. So then we thought, now that we’ve come this far, we might as well go to South Africa. We reached the border just before midnight and this border crossing was a bit weird since it was 17 km between the borders so we left Namibia one day and entered South Africa the next… Driving through from one side to the other I realised how tired we were as we started singing Fur Elise in bird voices. As the paper work was done we asked if there was anywhere we could sleep and they said we could sleep just outside the gates where the big trucks park. So we joined the trucks and parked by the side of the road, put the tent up, had a cup of tea to try and normalize the situation a bit, brushed our teeths and crashed in bed.

Max - April 6, 2013 - 6:53 am

Wow! Long post! It is getting harder and harder to find enough time to be able to read through a full post, but it is nevertheless very satisfying when I find time to do it!
Namibia sounds and looks like an interesting country to explore! I really appreciate that you added so many pictures. The one with the two dried up black trees in the dessert is really beautiful! I’d buy that or sponsor you or something if possible to get my hands on that! The one with the cruiser just on the edge of the canyon is really cool!
On a side note it sounds like it’s pretty much necessary to have decent mechanic skills. Those problems with the shocks and wheelbearings could really be a huge problem for some. But Brian seams to be stubborn enough to get through every time! Good work man!
Also, didn’t you start out with brand new tires as you left Sweden? It looks like you have been wearing down those threads! But on the other hand, you have been on the road for quite some time now, and those tires have been through quite a few kilometers!

All the best!
//Max

Anna - April 9, 2013 - 11:26 pm

Keeping things short is usually my biggest difficulty… :) But here on my own blog I allow myself to go into as much detail as I want for all of you who actually endure reading it and seem to enjoy it :)
Namibia was awesome. Go there!
Please remind me towards the summer (when I’m back in Sweden) and I’ll organize a printed poster for you of the Sossusvlei photo you liked! :)
Yeah, I’d say mechanic skills are good to have on a trip like this, but it depends on what kind of trip you’re after – a lot of people manage with little or no knowledge of cars… Like me, for example, but then I had Brian. :) And he’s such a car geek – he wanted the challenges and hardly got any on this trip! :)
x
Anna

Ali Kush - August 1, 2013 - 1:36 am

Hi Anna & Brian am kush from kenya and am realy impressed with your world trips since it a great adventure, your pictures in your sites realy makes me feel like I belong there, If only I could av been financialy stable, by God I would join you, and still one day if God wills al be enjoying those adventural times with you, thanks lots 4 satisfying ma soul, may God bless you, nyce times, lav u guys.

Travelling on roads and on water in Botswana

Although Brian spent five years at Plumtree, right by the border, he has actually never been to Botswana before and neither have I. We were both looking forward to it, except we  knew it’s pretty expensive to travel there. Our first stop was Francistown, just on the other side of the border. We searched the gps for a campsite and found a place called River Lodge and they apparently offered camping too. It seemed quite fancy (we were taken in a golf cart from the reception to be shown the campsite on the other side of the premises!) and sure enough it turned out to meet our expectations of Botswana, being a bit pricy. Long gone are the 5 USD per person camp sites in this region as we were used to from eastern Africa…

One night and filling up with fuel and doing some grocery shopping in Francistown, then we headed west. We wanted to visit the Makgadikgadi salt pan and drove to Gweta where we spent one night at Planet Baobab. It was a cool, slightly quirky and different place. We had some time in the late afternoon so we enjoyed a dip in the big swimming pool before starting up a fire and having a braai with steaks, boiled sweet potatoes and roasted butternut, carrots and onions.

From Gweta we headed off towards the pans but had done zero research beforehand and had no idea what to expect. All we knew is that we were in the rainy season and that the salt pans would be a little greener than usual. The gate to the Nxai pan (yes, it has a click sound in it!) came before the Makgadikgadi so we decided to turn in there and speak to the park staff to find out some more info and then maybe go to Makgadikgadi after. But it was already late morning so we got a bit stressed realizing how big these parks are and how little time we had left that day. The guy at the gate office told us Nxai is better than Makgadikgadi and we decided to take his word for it. We thought about camping inside but the camp was privately owned and they charged something ridiculous like 270 pula per person per night. To sleep in your own tent! After complaining a bit to the poor guy at the desk – who obviously didn’t have anything to do with their rates – he eventually sighed and offered us to camp in the parking lot next to the office. We thanked him and said we’d come back to the gate by the time the park closed.

Heading into the park it was just vast bush land in all direction and we quickly realized we wouldn’t get to see much wildlife as the grass was tall. It was simply the wrong season if you wanted to get the “real” experience of the park. But soon we were pleasantly surprised when we started spotting quite a few gorgeous gemsbok (also known as oryx), which neither of us has seen before. They’re truly one of the most beautiful antelopes if you ask me.

We headed towards the pan area to see a place called Baines baobabs. Not knowing much beforehand we had no idea who this Baines might be but figured it must be some special baobabs worth seeing. And sure enough, as we entered the pan we could see some major sized baobabs on a little green island in the middle of the salty gray flatland.  But how would we get there? We tried to follow the most recent tracks we could see on the ground ahead but ended up driving around in the pan quite a bit, reluctant to just cross the open areas as there was water and mud, and rather stay around the edges where we had a good grip. Eventually we had to make a run for it and go across. Was this going to be the first time we got stuck during the trip? And would there be anyone there to pull us out in that case? Most likely not. We’d have to dig ourselves out and it could get messy, with the merciless sun as well. But we made it across with just a few skids in the mud and eventually reached the Baines baobab island. Just to find another overlander vehicle parked just beneath the trees. ”Why did you come from that side?” they asked surprised and we realized we should have gone the other way around, which was much easier. We were invited to have coffee with this nice Austrian couple who had rented the car in Johannesburg and was now touring Botswana for a month. It turned out Baines was a guy called Thomas who had painted the baobabs during a long expedition on foot in 1862. The trees are believed to be around 3 000 years old.

It’s amazing how just some simple facts can make you feel quite enlightened and having learnt about Baines we took off to see some more of the park. We had told the Austrian couple that we hadn’t seen so much wildlife yet but that was about to change. As we came around a bend on the island we spotted two elephants pretty far away. Then one showed up maybe 100 metres away. Then another turned up in the bush maybe 50 metres away. After that we just saw elephants everywhere it seemed as we continued driving. A bit tired from the sun and the heat we soon set direction back towards the gate. Arriving there between 3 and 4 in the afternoon we figured we didn’t have to spend the night in a car park but could push on for Maun, our next stop about 1,5 hours away. So we said cheers to the guy at the office, pumped up the tyres again and went.

Maun is a bit of a tourist hub for people wanting to go to the Okavango delta or the Kalahari. In the Lonely planet book we found a place desribed as a bit of a party place where backpackers, bush pilots and locals mix. As it was Friday we thought it could be fun to meet some people so we headed for this place, Old bridge backpackers. And boy, was the guide book right. Surveying the crowd in the bar and chatting to some people we had soon met some travellers, some locals and a couple of pilots who had just arrived looking for a job in Maun. Oh, and they were right about the partying too. It didn’t take long before the locals had taken us under their wing and challenged us to games of pool. The place reminded us a lot of Smuggler’s, our old favourite place in Vilanculos, so we felt quite at home.

We had a nice little campsite and as always when we spend more than one night somewhere, it was so nice not having to pack up camp everyday to drive somewhere. We did the whole thing, table and chairs, the big Primus stove out and even the awning to get some shade. Unfortunately I started getting a cold so I was quite tired for the rest of the weekend. We had been thinking about going on a mokoro trip in the delta (dugout canoe) but hesitated when we saw the prices (sorry I keep mentioning about prices and money all the time, but that’s a big part of a trip like this, especially towards the end of it). We figured we might be able to do it cheaper somewhere less touristy. So we just chilled over the weekend as I tried curing my cold. There was wifi but only by buying vouchers and trying some just to do some necessary emails I realized it was quite expensive, so no blogging at that stage – plus my head was heavy and groggy and pretty worthless at the time.

We then drove around the Okavango delta and up to western side of it. Again, we had done very little research and made the mistake of heading for a campsite without checking our options. As we turned off the main road it was another 20 km through the bush, crossing rivers and everything. As we finally got there it turned out to be a fairly posh bush camp with safari tents on stilts in the delta. The campsite wasn’t anything special though, on the contrary, so we regretted not having looked at some options as the managing lady charged us the highest prices so far in Botswana. Having come all the way out there we didn’t quite feel like working our way back through the bush that evening.

The following morning we went out on a mokoro trip but decided to only do a half day. I had a terrible runny nose and wasn’t looking forward to sitting in the sun but at the same time I was really excited to do something completely different to everything else on the trip so far. Petzi, our guide, started by pointing out that a mokoro capsizes easily. Ok cool, thanks for letting us know, considering the amounts of hippos and crocs in the water. I made sure to sit dead still as he pushed us out and we were gliding through the water. It sure was quite wobbly but I soon got used to it and relaxed. And that’s when I realized how nice it was. Gliding silently past water lilies and reeds, listening to fish eagles crying around us.

And I realized it wasn’t so different from the gondola trip we had done in Venice! Except a bit different after all. No crocodiles in Italy as far as I know. And the surroundings a bit different too, of course. And the boat, from the massive gondola with painted ornaments and velvet seats to a narrow carbon fibre canoe with plastic chairs. But still! For once I was very relieved we didn’t see any bigger wildlife. The idea of pushing the mokoro over to keep it between us and an agitated hippo, treading water with crocs lurking around, didn’t appeal to me. Petzi did a great job guiding, clearly knowing everything worth knowing about every bird species in the area and most plants too, characteristic to the delta. All in all it was a very cool experience.

Family, friends and elephants in Zimbabwe

Finally back in Zimbabwe! Arriving there I think we were both just very happy to be back, but also relieved everything had been going so well so far, that we had reached our goal (getting there in time for Christmas), excited to see family and friends over the next few weeks and also to get to drive around the country a bit.

The border, Chirundu, took quite a while since we unfortunately arrived just after a couple of bus loads of people. As we stepped out of the car we were straight away surrounded by some men, looking all official with id cards and what not, wanting to ”help us” make the process quicker. It was all a way of making money and we told them we didn’t want to pay any bribes. We managed to shake them off after a while, I went inside and went around doing the customs processes for the car, while Brian waited in line with our passports for immigration. Almost sleeping with boredom and frustration we eventually got our visas and stamps from a really funny guy behind the counter so we left with a smile on our faces after all. I wish all border officials were like him!

We were now well in time to meet up with the family for Christmas – we even had a few days to spend before they would get to the northern part of the country so we decided to go to Mana pools national park. After neglecting the safaris through eastern Africa we were now all stoked up, planning on spending several days in the park and just enjoy it. It would be the first time in Mana for both of us and all we knew about it was that it’s a fully open park where the animals sometimes roam through the campsite and where you can go fishing in the Zambezi. I was so excited, imagine getting to spend several days in there! But sadly the excitement was crushed quickly when we arrived and were informed of the prices. We managed to get them down quite a bit by Brian claiming to be Zimbabwean, but it still landed on 70 USD for entry, car fee and camping and would have been another 10 USD per person per day if we wanted to go fishing. Nothing hair-raising compared to east Africa but we realized it would add up to quite a lot if we were gonna stay there for almost a week. So once again we weighed our options and decided to go for the cheapest, easiest one. Quite disappointed we decided to only spend one night in Mana and then head straight for to Doma (where the family was gathering for Christmas) a few days early – where we would after all be able to relax, go fishing and possibly spot some wildlife – for free.

It still turned out to be a very eventful and fun almost 24 hours in Mana, although the famous Mana elephants were ever absent (only saw one in the bush as we left the park). We set up camp maybe 100 meters from the river and were the only ones there except for a a South African family with kids a bit further away. We cooked a coconut chicken stew for dinner and shared a bottle of wine. I had been jumping around screaming as I was stirring the pot on the tailgate since there was a rain spider (also known as Kalahari Ferrari because they move so fast – not actually a spider but a sort of a cricket that seems to want to attack you but all it’s doing is running for your shade to get out of the light of your head torch – do I need to tell you I don’t like them much?) that was running around my feet (once I freaked out and jumped and accidentally kicked my shoe off and it landed in Brian’s face – oops – but he’s so nice and considerate helping me treat this phobia by just sitting there watching me, hey?!) and I very much appreciated getting to finally sit down by the table, eat and relax. We had some lights on the back of the car but otherwise it was dark, except for the South African family’s fire burning. We stayed there for a long time, just sitting talking and enjoying the evening. And just as my pulse had reached its normal beat after the Kalahari Ferrari dance I saw something at the corner of my eye, just coming into the light. I looked over my shoulder to the left and there was a big hyena slowly walking past us, looking at us. Less than 10 metres away. I have heard about people who, when they get a fright, turn into jelly and can’t do anything, but I’ve never had that reaction myself – until now. I turned to Brian and said in a sleepy voice ”Brian… There is a really big hyena right there…” The lack of urgency in my voice meant it took a second before he realized what I had just said, but then he turned around, clapped his hands and shouted and scared the hyena away. It took off and ran into the dark. Watching it moving away, my state of shock released and I burst into tears at the same time as I was laughing.

I know it would have been way worse with an agitated elephant or a lion but a hyena looks much bigger less than 10 metres away than they do from a car at a distance, let me tell you!! The hyena lingered around our camp, its eyes shining in the dark, waiting for us all to go to bed so it could come out and search for leftovers. It had obviously smelled our cooking and was looking for some treats.

In the morning we would have some hours to drive around in the park before heading  for Doma and we both woke up, excited, before 06. A group of vervet monkeys were busy going through the South African family’s campsite as they were still asleep. A group of buffalos had spent the night about 50 meters away and now started getting back up on their feet and move away. We had breakfast and packed up camp and leaving the campsite area we met a staff vehicle and a guy told us there was a lioness with cubs about 3 km away. We followed his directions but didn’t find them, despite driving back and forth through the area a couple of times. As we later saw the vultures scoff on a small kill, we figured the lioness might have taken her kids for a hunting lesson, taking down one of the many baby impalas.

As we were heading onto a smaller slightly muddy road to go and see the Mana river mouth we slowed down as there was a tree growing across the road and we weren’t sure we could get under it with the roof tent. It was all thick bush on both sides, with a big puddle of water as well, so we had no choice but to slowly go under the tree. As we’re about to start Brian suddenly slams on the breaks. There’s a big hippo just left of us in the bush. We’re in between the hippo and the water, which is always a very bad idea. Hippos are very territorial and the worst reaction is usually caused by cutting off their path between their swimming pool and their grocery store. It’s unusual to see Brian as tense as he was now. He told me a friend of his had once had a hippo charging his car. Its sharp teeth had gone straight through the door, lifting the entire door off the car. We now had to either try the crawling in the mud under the low tree or try reverse out of there. The hippo was suddenly gone (how can such a massive animal hide behind some leaves?!) and we decided to try move forward. Problem was that if the hippo would then reappear, looking less happy, we would have to quickly maneuver our way back, reversing under the low tree. We just made it under the tree and the hippo had moved a bit further into the bush so we quickly drove away from there, wiping the sweat off our foreheads.

A bit later we stopped by a small tree just by the road where some beautiful stark looking birds were making an awful lot of noise – which usually means there is a snake around. Brian soon spotted it where it was lying underneath the tree. I saw a part of the body, then another part of the body, then the head a bit further away. How long was this snake?! It was dark grey and easily more than 2 metres long. Most likely a black mamba, the most poisonous snake in Africa. Brian tensed up again, and told me that I must just notify him if the snake would start moving towards the car. Some snakes are known for going up into the engine bay, who knows why – maybe the heat of the engine attracts them, or it’s just a good hideout. It’s really hard to find them in there and they can sometimes come into the car from there, and you don’t wanna have a black mamba looking at you as you step into your car! I stared at the snake, trying to figure it out as it started moving around. It would be on its way up the tree one second and on its way back down the next – it was so fast! Suddenly it went out onto the road and was coming straight for the car at a speed I’ve never seen a snake move before so I screamed and Brian reversed a few metres in the blink of an eye. The snake got spooked and turned around back into the grass and we quickly drove away from yet another pulse raising situation in Mana pools.

As we got to Doma, a safari lodge run by Brian’s second cousin Gordon, we were the only ones there and the family would only turn up a few days later so we spent some time fishing on the lake and going to town for some errands with Ephert, the manager. His name could just as well had been Effort because he is such a nice, devoted and hard working guy.

It was sooo nice to enjoy the comforts of the lodge after four months on the road. Having our laundry washed, food cooked and a room to ourselves. And I think what I appreciated the most was having constant access to a toilet and shower. Being able to use it whenever I liked, not having to keep a lookout for somewhere to stop for a wee or arriving at a campsite after a long and sweaty day just to find out there is only ice cold water – or the showers don’t work at all…

Soon the day came when it was time for the family to arrive and we were so excited. We hadn’t seen Brian’s folks and sister and her husband and their little daughter for just over a year and we hadn’t seen the rest of the family for over two years. It was so awesome to see them all again. Brian’s niece was only three weeks old when we last saw her and had now turned into the cutest little toddler. The youngest member of the family, Teign, was now three months old and the oldest member present was auntie Sheila, who’s around 80. Imagine what she has experienced and lived through in this country. And we’ll just have to wait and see what country Teign gets to grow up in.

So we spent a good two weeks together, celebrating Christmas, eating good food, playing games, fishing and relaxing (see photos in the last blog post). It was quite sad having to leave Doma again but at least we were gonna get to spend a little more time with Brian’s family. We all drove down in convoy to the southeastern part of the country, the lowveld, where the family used to live back in the day, to visit some other relatives who are still there.

We spent New Year’s at a lodge called Chilo. We were all staying at the self catering side of it and now we really got to show off our well eqipped cruiser. It turned out the self catering kitchen was lacking a lot of things, or it was things we had forgotten to bring. ”There are no chopping knives here” was the first one. ”But we have that” I said and went and got our knives from the car. ”We forgot to bring curry for the potjie!” ”Don’t worry, we have curry.” And then there was potatoe peeler, cutting board, chutney… I probably went to car ten times to get things we needed and everyone was laughing, joking about how we seemed to have everything you could possibly need,  but at least we didn’t have a microwave in there. The last day I suggested we’d make smoothies of all the leftover fruit. ”Well, don’t tell me you guys have a blender?!” someone said. ”Uhm, yeah… We do” I said and so we had smoothies.

We spent New Year’s Eve together with the guests, the managers and the staff of the lodge. Just as we had all sat down to enjoy dinner at this beautifully set table, the power went out. How typical. But nothing to get upset about in Zim, as it happens several times a day usually. Someone got the generator running and we could soon dig into the delicious food. After dinner we all drove down to the Save river bed, which was almost completely dry. A big bonfire kept any potential visitors, elephants, hippos and crocs, at bay and we had a very good time, sitting in the sand listening to music from our car radio.

There had been quite a drought in Zim lately but the new year started off in the best possible way. On New Year’s day’s evening a thunder storm rolled in and it started pouring down heavily. Luckily, the impala potjies that Brian’s great uncle Clive had been prepping for dinner had already been simmering on the fire for several hours and apart from some added rain water we could enjoy yet another nice dinner.

After New Year’s we had to say goodbye to Brian’s family, who was now heading back to Mocambique. It was a great feeling though, being able to say ”See you in Vilanculos soon!” rather than knowing we wouldn’t see them in another year or longer, as before.

Brian and I stayed with his second cousin Glen, his wife Judy and their two little gorgeous girls Jade and Rayne, who all live in the house where Brian and his family used to live, for a while longer. One evening we made a visit to beautiful Sunset rock. You drive up onto a rocky hill in the middle of the bush, make a fire and enjoy the sun setting over the vast landscape. I think everyone that goes that gets a little enchanted by that place.

We also went into Gonarezhou national park for a couple of days. It is one of Brian’s favourite places on earth and not too far from the Save valley conservancy where we were staying. Gonarezhou means Home of the elephant, and we did see quite a few, including having our first mock charge from a bull who thought we were a little too close to him – or maybe just wanted to play a prank on those stupid humans in their cars… We saw it coming but going move – we were just behind another car (a safari vehicle from Chilo lodge.) I watched the elephant as it turned and started spreading its ears and I went “Brian?” to have him confirm he was seeing the same thing. But he was just quiet so I went “Brian?! BRIAN??!!” and it was pretty much at the same time as the clients in the safari vehicle started squeeling and Thomas, the guide, drove off and we followed. Quickly I realized, crap – photos! Completely mesmerized by the performance of this massive bull elephant I had totally forgotten about that but managed to raise my camera and snap a few shots as he just decided to turn off to the side, after running straight towards us.

As we drove out of the park after two nights spent in ”Gonas” I disappointingly said to Brian ”Keep a lookout for animals still, because it might be a while before we get to see wildlife again!” Brian just looked at me with a smile and then I remembered. We were going back to Glen’s house, in the conservancy, two hours drive and we’d be back in wildlife territory. And then I was immediately in a better mood. As I’m sure I’ve mentioned before I’m a proper nature and wildlife geek and I really enjoy asking Glen, who’s a professional hunter, all sorts of questions. Nobody knows the bush and its animals like a professional hunter. During our stay in the conservancy this year I was lucky enough to see giraffes, zebras and lots more – but I missed out on a pack of wild dogs drinking out of the water hole just outside the room early one morning… After that I made sure I was gonna be notified if anyone saw the dogs again, but with the rain coming in they moved further into the bush and were nowhere to be seen.

We now realized we had plenty more things we wanted to see and do in Zim but only 5-6 days left before our visas expired! Luckily we were able to have our visas extended, free of charge, for another month at the immigration office. Phew! So we then went on to visit old friends of Brian’s, Justin and Adiel. We chilled at their house and went into town and saw their families. It kept raining and the days passed and before we knew it we had been there for a week.

There wasn’t so much to do in the rainy weather but there was one thing we could do. During that week me and Adiel became somewhat regulars at the neighbour Theresa’s house. Theresa takes care of abandoned baby elephants. She’s been doing it for 20 years and has had many elephants during the years, most of them moving on to work for tourism companies and such. But these days she has four elephants and they aren’t going anywhere. It was a tremendous experience getting to meet these four girls, Chetora, Mungwiza, Kimba and Jinja. A little scary at first, due to their size and not really knowing what they’re going to do since I can’t read them like I’d read a dog or a cat… But Theresa spends a lot of time with them, getting them used to being around people and learning how to behave nicely. ”The more you train them, the more freedom you can give them” she said. ”The young are very much like kids, once they’ve started learning they’re eager to learn more. You can break them the way you’d break in a horse for example, but I prefer to teach them.”

It was inspiring and heart-warming to see Theresa’s obvious love and respect for these animals. “You have to know their next move” she said. “You have to read them. They read our minds, so we need to read theirs.” With Mungwiza’s trunk gently feeling my body there was no doubt in my mind they can read us in a second, sense our energies and what mood we’re in – and almost know what we’re thinking even. Suddenly she stopped and lifted her foot. She had a big thorn in her foot! I bent down to help her pull it out. “Don’t worry, she can do it herself” Theresa said. And Mungwiza slowly put her trunk to her foot and pulled the thorn out and then raised her trunk towards me to give me the thorn – as if to say “Look! I had a thorn in my foot but I pulled it out all by myself!”

And they were in fact very much like people with their very own individual character. The two younger ones were playful and sometimes needed to be told not to get pushy or too close. And there was talkative Mungwiza, who now and then would let out this monster rumble noise that you could almost feel more through your feet than actually hear it – elephants way of chatting to one another.

I got a little stressed by the fact that we were just lingering and not really doing much at all. Shouldn’t we be moving on? But as I started thinking about it, I realized it’s not often that you can go and stay with friends like this. Usually you have to make a plan long in advance and then you only have the weekend or so to hang out, before it’s back to work for everyone. But now we could come visit and stay as long as we were welcome to and just take every day as it came. I realized it was quite a privilege that I should rather just appreciate and enjoy.

From the lowveld we eventually packed up and started heading west, stopping at the Great Zimbabwe ruins in Masvingo. It was interesting seeing the ruins but not as cool as I had been hoping it would be. Since these ruins gave name to the independent country in 1980 it also felt like a lot of the information and the little nearby museum was quite political.

From there on we headed onto Bulawayo where we, once again, ended up staying much longer than we had first planned to. During just over a week we visited both family and friends, got to see some of the life of people in town and were very well taken care of.

We also visited the National Museum. A friend of the family we were staying with, who used to work at the museum, volunteered as our guide. But we had only been in there for maybe 10 minutes when the power went out! We kept walking through the massive building, trying to look at a few more exhibitions where there was enough daylight coming in through the windows but eventually we gave up. Brian and I made another visit a few days later though as there were quite a few interesting things to see there, the second largest mounted elephant in the world for example, reaching 3,5 m!

We obviously also made a visit to beautiful national park Matopas/Matobo hills, where you find extraordinary boulders piled on top of each other all over the place. Being a bit of a history geek I have always been very fascinated by rock paintings and there were some fantastic ones in the caves there. We also went up to look at the grave of Cecil J. Rhodes, from where we had a remarkable view of the landscape just before sunset. And in the game park we saw rhinos!

As we packed up our things in Bulawayo we knew this was the end of a luxurious break and we were now heading back out on the road. After being spoiled  for so long, it took us a few days just to get back into travelling mode. But as the day came we were quite excited to keep going and looking forward to moving onto Botswana, starting the second and last leg of our wayawaya trip!

But there was one thing still to do before leaving Zim. On the way between Bulawayo and the Botswana border is Plumtree, the boarding school where Brian spent five years of his life. He had not been there for 10 years and wanted to go and see it. I also wanted to see it, after hearing so many stories from that place. “Don’t go”, some people said, “it has deteriorated badly and it won’t be fun to see”. Brian knew this, but still wanted to have a look. “Back to school”, he said and we drove through the gate, both of us with some butterflies in our tummies I think. For me it was interesting to see the school but as I’ve never been there before, it wasn’t easy for me to see how much it has changed. For Brian it was a bit of a shock. We drove from area to area (the school premises is a massive area with classrooms, dorms, dining halls, workshops, sports areas etc) and he told me what it used to look like. He described it as well kept buildings and immaculate lawns but all we saw was broken glass in almost every window, overgrown lawns and sports fields, swimming pools covered in water lilies… It was very sad to see and Brian was clearly disturbed. I think he knew pretty much what it would look like but it’s always hard seeing it for real.

Still happy he went though, we both took a deep breath and headed for the Botswana border.

Ken Boaler - February 14, 2013 - 7:58 pm

Hey cool trip by the look of things.

I knew Brian at school, was wondering if you have any other pictures of Plumtree I would be interested to see them.

Thanks.

Anna - February 15, 2013 - 10:25 am

Hi Ken! Sure, we took quite a few photos of Plumtree. Will try edit some and put them on our facebook page, or we can email you some if you want but it might take a while, might have to finish the trip first..

Les Guys - February 19, 2013 - 11:23 am

Hey guys.

I enjoyed reading this post!!

Anna - March 18, 2013 - 4:49 pm

Great, happy to hear that!

Beautiful views in Malawi and lunch over the grease pit in Zambia

So, we’re back after a bit of a break from everything during the holidays. A break from driving, blogging, cooking from the back of a car, sleeping in a tent. The past few weeks have been spent with family and friends in Zimbabwe and it’s been absolutely awesome. I’ve tried staying online for more updates but wherever we’ve stayed the internet access has been a bit unreliable and with precious family time you don’t want to sit alone in a corner too much.

We made the decision earlier on the trip not to go to Uganda and Rwanda, as was planned originally, and it was a very hard decision to make. I spent quite some time thinking about it afterwards, wondering if we would regret it, wondering if we will ever get to see those countries now or if we blew our chance. But as we got to northern Zimbabwe and were waiting excitedly for the rest of the family to arrive, I got a message from overlander friends we had met earlier, saying “We wish we were with our families now.” And then I just knew we had made the right decision, to push on and get to Zim for Christmas.

We have now said goodbye (and “See you in Mocambique in a few months!”) to the family and are visiting friends, still in southeastern Zimbabwe. Here’s our update from Malawi and Zambia.

How nice it is down here, going from one country to the other – nobody even comes out to look at the car at the border, just papers on the desk, stamps, done.

Our first night in Malawi we wanted to get all the way up on the Livingstonia mountain range and despite the road being a crazy zick zack rough gravel road winding up the mountain side, we made it just before dark. We had heard about both camps up on the mountain, Lukwe and Mushroom farm, and as we couldn’t choose we decided to do one night at each. We started off by going to Lukwe and were blown away by the awesome views. Feeling a bit lazy we decided to spoil ourselves with a chalet that night and we had a good dinner with delicious fresh veggies from the garden, sitting overlooking the valley and lake Malawi far below. We were accompanied by two German backpackers, a French guy visiting his brother in Malawi and Hauk, the owner, and we had a good chat with them long after the sun had set.

We really did spoil ourselves and slept in properly the next morning, only stepping out on our little verandah to admire the view around 10 o’clock. We got ready and went for a walk, wanting to check out the nearby waterfalls. Hauk’s two dogs came with us and clearly knew the way (one of the dogs apparently used to take tourists to the waterfalls, until the locals complained it was doing their job). Arriving at the entry gate to the falls we paid the 300 kwacha per person to go in and three young boys volunteered as our guides. That was lucky because there is no way we would have been able to find our way through the bush to the different sites where you can see the falls and a big cave behind one of them. We did some serious hiking through the thick bush with steep climbs, knee bending passages and non existent paths to get there. I was just waiting for the moment when I grabbed a vine for support and it would turn out to be a snake… But luckily that never happened and we made it to all the sites and back, with a refreshing splash bath in the fresh water pool on the mountain side in the end.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The drive to Mushroom farm was long and hard. About a kilometer or so. It felt like a good day’s drive that day as we were already spoiling ourselves. Parking at our spot at the Mushroom farm’s campsite required a bit of planning – the road down was steep and the spot was right on the edge with a marvellous view that I just didn’t seem to get enough of. If it wasn’t for the patience testing road to get there, I could have seen myself spending quite a bit of time on that mountain.

Mushroom farm was run by Dutch couple Hannes and Claudia and the place was quite similiar to Lukwe. Here we met three British girls working at a hospital in Blantyre and a British couple working with conservation in east Africa.

It was time to leave the mountain and go and explore the lake. We had been recommended a place called Makuzi so we decided to go there, although there’s an abundance of lodges and camps along the shore. We were happy we did because Makuzi turned out to be really nice and had apparently been rated one of the top 5 places to stay in Malawi. That might sound like it is a posh, pricy place and sure, you have to pay a bit to stay in the sweet little chalets with ensuite bathrooms, but camping wasn’t more expensive than anywhere else and we had a good spot on the lawn with a nice view of the lake. We got there in the late afternoon and I just couldn’t wait to get into the lake for a swim. We set up camp, I jumped into my bikini and tried to convince Brian to come with me and eventually I managed to get him into the water just as it was getting dark. (I don’t know when the diver turned into such a landcrab?! He never wants to swim!) I was just in awe with this lake – I haven’t experienced anything like it before. It looks like the sea with its size and waves (except you see Tanzania or Mocambique at a far distance), it’s got the white sand beach like the sea – but it’s fresh water. Clear, warm fresh water! Nothing like the cold, dark, murky lakes back home. It was SO nice.

Sadly it was now Brian’s turn to get sick from something he had eaten, but opposite to me he got really sick really quickly and then it was over. He was just feeling quite weak the next day. I desperately wanted to enjoy the beach for a while that day and Brian sat sleeping in a chair in the shade while I went for a swim, read my book, went for a swim, read my book, went for a swim again. I really liked lake Malawi and especially what I saw of it from Makuzi. I think it had something special to it for me, having grown up with the dark, murky, cold lakes in Sweden. It was like a paradise version of the lakes I would go swimming in every summer as a child. It would have been really nice doing some acitivites by the lake, going fishing and going horseback riding, but since Brian got sick we never got around to doing anything.

Splitting up the stretch down to Lilongwe into two days we found a place called Sani on the gps and decided to camp there. Sani couldn’t have been more of a contrast to Makuzi. It was an abandoned lodge that looked like it hadn’t had seen any guests in many years and the main building had burnt down. The beach was far from the calm, child friendly bay at Makuzi, here it was a steep drop off right into the water with fierce waves splashing ashore, seeming even more dramatic with the heavy winds that day. We were showed to the beach by a woman who hardly spoke English and was busy chasing away a dozen kids that were of course very curious of us. As the weather was really bad, Brian was still feeling a bit rough and there wasn’t much else to do we went for a walk having a look around, I practiced a bit with the sling shot Brian had made (for monkeys at campsites) and then we climbed up into the tent and spent the rest of the day there watching series on the computer. To our surprise a man turned up in the evening, introduced himself as Samuel and explained that he had been in town when we arrived and was now wondering whether we wanted to have dinner at the restaurant. “Restaurant?!” we thought, not having seen anything that seemed to be up and running at the abandoned and deserted looking lodge. We declined his offer with pictures flashing by our eyes of a shabby little place that would just make us sick again. But who knows, maybe there was a proper restaurant with really good food! We just didn’t want to risk it. In the morning Samuel came back and said they had now prepared hot showers for us. We walked over to the bathroom where the showers didn’t work and found two big buckets full of water, one with cold and one with steaming hot water, for us both. We then really felt that these guys were trying their best with what they had to keep the place running and we really appreciated it.

In Lilongwe by lunch time we stopped to do some grocery shopping and coming into the shop it was clear we were now close to Brian’s home – he just walked up and down the aisles smiling as he found products he always used to eat or drink but haven’t been able to find in Sweden. The shopping took two hours but not because of the time we spent in the shop. The card payment network was down so Brian walked to the nearest ATM, which didn’t work, so he walked to the next one which turned out to be like 2 kilometers away, while I waited by the shop.

The whole money thing is always a bit confusing and comical – just as we have gotten used to the currency in one country, how much it is compared to USD, SEK etc, how much things usually cost, what the bank notes look like and what not – we leave and have completely new money to get used to all over again. It’s always very confusing the first couple of days, then we start getting the hang of it and then we leave… And in these countries you’re talking in numbers that would give you completely different stuff back home. The groceries that day cost about 40 000… Malawi kwacha that is!

A bit delayed we decided not only to push on to the border but see if we could even make it into Zambia before the end of the day. The drive there was pretty quick and the border crossing was smooth. We now had the option of camping somewhere around Chipata, the first town on the other side of the border, or push on towards South Luangwa national park where we wanted to go. We decided to push on and thought we might arrive there around 7 pm. But we didn’t know the road there was under construction and we had to go on a winding diversion road at low speed through thick bush most of the way. Along the way we stopped and pulled a big truck out of the ditch and finally arrived at Croc Valley camp just before 10 pm… The guards came walking through the camp and we were shown to a place where we could put up camp, just by the river. (The river bed was almost dry due to the lack of rains so far.) The three men were really sweet nodding their heads and each one repeating every thing we said. ”We sleep on top of the car” we said. ”On top! On top! On top! No problem. No problem. No problem” the three men replied. And they said that the elephants had been in the camp the previous night so we must make sure to lock up all fruits and fresh food well, but not to worry. ”The elephants come here sometimes, but that’s why we’re here” they said with a big smile, sling shots dangling around one wrist and a torch around the other. In the dark we could just see that we were close to the river bed, but not what was in it. As we went to bed we heard the hippos grunt nearby and some hyenas call at a distance, but the elephants didn’t come to visit that night.

Brian spent pretty much a full day doing some maintenance on the cruiser together with the lodge’s mechanics while I did computer work. Looking out over the river bed we kept an eye on hippos and crocs. Suddenly there was some noises and rumbles in the bush on the other side. The elephants were here! Amazing how such huge animals can hide in the bush. We watched them, a big group, walking along the river and eventually a few of them ventured down the banks and spent hours in the riverbed feeding and having mud baths. As we were once again a bit stunned by the prices to enter the national park (South Luangwa, which we were right on the border to) we decided to be happy with the encounters we got at camp and decided to leave the next day.

There was apparently a road, called ”the detour”, from the Croc valley area down to Lusaka but it was known to take much longer than it normally should and by now we also heard it was a big mud puddle so we had no choice but to go the same way back, to Chipata. But there we found a nice place, Dean’s Hills View just outside of town where we camped one night. On tv, there was a relief concert for Sandy in New York and Brian and I sat glued to our chairs enjoying it. I couldn’t remember when we last watched tv.

There was still some work to be done on the cruiser so we planned to go to the mechanic in Chipata first thing in the morning. The plan was to spend maybe an hour or two there, go do some grocery shopping and then start heading south. But the hours passed and the mechanics had to go get the spares needed. When I got hungry I cooked us some lunch at the back of the car – over the grease pit. We ended up spending the entire day, from 8.30 to 17.30, at the mechanics before the cruiser was finally ready to go… I was sooo bored by then but it was good, we got new bushes for the rear shocks and the tension bar bushes replaced.

So, it was 18.00 and we drove around in Chipata, discussing our options. We really didn’t feel like staying another night in the town, but it would be stupid to drive south that late in the evening, having to drive in the dark and all. We still went for the stupid option. It was only about two hours to the place where we were planning on camping that night. It was a really weird feeling leaving Chipata – the routine of waking up early in the morning, packing up camp and head out on the roads for a days drive had obviously set in by now and leaving in the evening felt really strange. But the drive went very well and we got to the next campsite without any hassles.

That night was one of the less exciting campsites. We found a place on the gps that was called Zulu Kraal Camp – but it wasn’t a campsite anymore, if it had ever been. We camped in a garden with toilets where the water didn’t work and looked like they hadn’t been used for 10 years. As we we woke up in the morning a donkey was acting guard, standing two metres away from the car watching us.

From there on we reached Lusaka and found a much nicer campsite; Eureka Camping Park, with some zebras casually strolling aroun. As we went for a walk around the place we also found some horses in stables – and some more zebras. They went in and out of the pastures as they were small enough to walk under the wooden fence and had come to scoff on some of the horses mealie stalks. It was weird seeing a wild animal in a pasture, next to a horse… We met a guy there and started talking and it turned out he was Swedish, working in Zambia. He told us a group of overlanders with The Pink Caravan (Rosa Bussarna) was arriving that evening and he was there to say hi since he used to work for them and knew some of the people. It was quite fun and interesting to see these two giant pink buses pitch up and park in the middle of the campsite and out came loads of people – speaking Swedish! – starting to set up camp and cook dinner in a very organized way. We just stared at them, a bit amazed by the whole thing, but still so happy to just be the two of us and the way we can just do whatever we feel like everyday without a whole bunch of people to adjust to. We went over to chat to them and had some beers before heading for an early night in our own little tent.

 

Max - January 17, 2013 - 1:50 pm

Looong read! Didn’t get around until now.
Love that picture of you, Anna, cooking over the grease pit. But it was really small on the cellphone.

Nic - November 4, 2013 - 9:51 pm

Thanks for the info!
How far is Mushroom Farm from Lukwe?

Anna - November 5, 2013 - 9:24 am

You’re welcome! Are you travelling in Malawi now? Mushroom farm and Lukwe are not far apart at all – only a kilometer or so!

From the foot of Kilimanjaro to the beaches of Zanzibar

As we had just left Amboseli we were advised to cross the border at a smaller border called Tarakea just outside Oloitokitok (no, I didn’t make that name up!) rather than going back up to Namanga, which is the usual crossing. This was probably the easiest border crossing so far – hardly even worth mentioning!

Doing so we came into Tanzania on the eastern side of Kilimanjaro and we had some spectacular scenery as we drove in, since Kilimanjaro isn’t the only mountain in the area. We did a quick stop at the waterfall in Marango – nothing too impressive but a sweet little well run park around it and oh, how nice just to stand in the fresh, cold water from the mountains after a few hot hours in the car!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We found a few different campsites on the gps and could just pick and choose, not knowing much about them. We went for Elephant motel in Same and just as we came into the little town we saw a wedding convoy. Great, we thought, we won’t get there today… We had seen the exact same ceremony before and knew it can cause great delays. It’s basically a long convoy of cars (with one extra decorated for the bridal couple) and they all drive at slow speed zickzacking across the road so nobody can go past… We spotted the turn off to the motel – and the first car of the convoy turned in there! So we just sighed and laughed, joined the wedding convoy as the last vehicle and drove in zickzacks across the road. We waited as all those cars parked and all the people – dressed up so nice for the big event – had come out, live band and all. We had a look around and wondered if there was even gonna be space for us to camp or eat, but we were told the wedding party was only there to take photos in the park by the motel and have some drinks and were gonna leave in half an hour or so. A few hours later most of them, including the bridal couple and their super sweet little kids, were still there so I don’t know how well it went gathering all their guests in one place. Brian and I enjoyed a tasty dinner in the motel’s very colonial style restaurant, having a few different mount antelopes looking down at us from the walls as we ate, before going to sleep parked in the pathway to the toilets (there was only campgrounds for ground tents, we couldn’t drive in there). A camping experience with some slightly odd details but still quite alright.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We had been recommended a place called Peponi (above) from the German couple we met in Nairobi. They told us they had been able to leave their car there while going to Zanzibar so we thought it was a good plan for us as well. Peponi turned out to be one of the best places we’ve stayed at so far during the trip – beautiful surroundings right by the beach, well built facilites with a nice finish, super friendly staff and good food. And not very expensive at all, so great value for money. There we met the South African couple Allison and Richard, who were travelling from South Africa to England. We spent a couple of days together, including a great Dutch oven dinner, and exchanged some good-to-knows about north and south.

It was a dhow that was going to take us to Zanzibar and we now had to try and find somebody else that might wanna share it with us, to split the costs. We got help making some phone calls to nearby lodges and we waited a couple of extra days to see if anyone else would show up, but it was very quiet all around so we ended up having to pay the entire fuel bill ourselves. 130 USD but with a discount 110. Ouch!

We headed down to Pangani far earlier in the morning than what can possibly be good for you to catch the dhow, which took between 3 and 4 hours across so naturally we slept most of the way there. Somewhere around about the middle of the sea, no land in sight, it hit me that we were now on a little wooden boat way further out than we usually go when we go on dhow trips in Mocambique. We were now at open seas. No security equipment as far as I could see, probably no cell phone signal. The guys driving the boat weren’t exactly wearing captain’s hats and radios if you know what I mean. I quickly pushed away all sorts of those thoughts to the back of my head and luckily the sea stayed calm and the trip went without any mishaps.

We were dropped off in Nungwe on the northern tip of the island. We decided to head straight down to Stone town to be back in the north for the weekend. Upon arrival with a taxi we picked one of the places mentioned in the guide book, Flamingo Guest house, and were showed to a tiny room with a mosquito net covered double bed so tall we could dangle our feet sitting on the edge and a tiny ensuite bathroom, all of it set on the roof of the building with a nice view of the neighbourhood. Quite nice!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We headed out exploring Stone town and me coming back after a brief visit 8 years ago, I didn’t remember how small it was. We looked at the map and wondered if we would make it to a certain place on foot that afternoon and found that we had walked past it within the next half hour! So we easily walked around getting to know most of Stone town, me obviously totally in love with this super photogenic place. I wanted to take Brian to Monsoon, probably one of the most known restaurants and where I had been with my friends before, but despite being low season it was packed and had no space for us so we had to settle for the not as charming Archipelago next door.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The following morning we went on a guided city tour. Nothing makes you feel more like a tourist, hey, but we had been recommended this by Allison and Richard at Peponi, who said it was quite nice and interesting. We met with the guide Abdullah (who turned out to be the same guy who had guided Allison and Richard!) and it was for sure interesting, from finding out the early history of the town to discussing the situation there today. Unevitably we dove into the dark past of eastern Africa with the slave trade and colonization eras. Sitting in a small cellar, with chains still attached to the floor, that had kept thousands of men and women waiting to be sold on the slave market (after being beaten to test their strength) was quite emotional and a stark contrast to the paradise like views and problem free relaxation the island otherwise offers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

That afternoon we headed back up to Nungwe and its beautiful white beaches, big resorts packed with Italians (very much like the Russian invasion we saw in Nuweiba, Egypt), small backpacker inns and beach front restaurants. We were a bit surprised when we saw masais everywhere. Weren’t masai a people of the inland savannahs, originally nomadic but thesedays villagers and cattle herders? What were they doing on Zanzibar? All these guys walking up and down the beach, trying to get tourists into the resorts and restaurants or selling masai art. Ah, tourism. Of course. Many tourists don’t worry about where those men are from, they’re just part of their exotic African experience. And a masai, all dressed up in his warrior gear and accessories, is obiovusly more exotic than a Zanzibari in jeans and t-shirt.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As we were sitting having a beer at Wave restaurant we got a phone call. It was Rob Roy, who we had spent two weeks together with in Egypt waiting for the ferry and then travelled to Ethiopia with – he had caught up with us! We thought he was only in Kenya but had mentioned in a message that we would be going to Zanzibar. And it turned out he was on his way through northern Tanzania and saw the sign for Peponi. He was on his way somewhere else but decided to turn in there as he had heard about that place and was quite surprised when the first thing he saw in the car park was our car! But he came in the same day that we had left in the morning, so we weren’t there… But now he called and said he was gonna come out to the island and we were looking forward to seeing him again and catching up on everything that happened since we split up in Ethiopia.

Brian and I hung out with a group of American/Canadian volunteers working in Arusha and managed to get completely sun burnt  which is quite ironic since we’re always so careful in Mocambique and shake our heads at the stupid tourists that lay out in the sun on the beach there – it’s like we totally forgot we were now even closer to the equator! Who’s stupid now… We spent the day walking along the beach, going for a swim, laying in the sun, sitting in the shade. By the afternoon we were so restless we didn’t know what to do. There was no car to work on, I didn’t bring the computer or any books or anything. We just looked at each other and laughed as we ended up at Wave restaurant having another beer because we didn’t know what else to do. We had been talking about going snorkelling with dolphins but were told it’s a much greater chance of seeing them from the south of the island (which I did during my previous visit) and then we just couldn’t be bothered spending more money. It was weird, we kind of wanted to just relax at the same time as it made us totally restless. Rob Roy eventually turned up in the evening and it was great seeing him again. We took turns going through what had happened lately while having dinner at a place a bit further down along the beach and then the volunteers turned up and we had a good evening.

The next day was our last day on the island and we went snorkelling just from the beach for a while. I found a little shop that had a book shelf with second hand books that tourists had left behind and there were lots of books in Swedish so I bought two. Reading Brunstkalendern by Emma Hamberg was a good dose of easily digested Swedish lives and dramas that I really enjoyed so thank you, whoever you who are who left that book on Zanzibar!

It was hard saying goodbye to Rob Roy – again – as we left him on the island and went back on the dhow, again having to pay the full amount for the dhow since there was nobody to share with (Rob Roy had to go back to his motorbike in Dar es Salam). It was nice being reunited with the cruiser at Peponi and Brian dove straight into the owner mr Dennis’s, grease pit to do a bit of maintenance work. Being spoilt the last few nights not having to fold up and pack away the tent, we decided to leave it closed one more night and try sleeping in our hammocks for the first time. They’re really cool, quite comfortable and covered with mosquito nets on top. I just forgot one detail. The fabric is so thin you kind of need to lay on something for the mozzies not to get through to you. So I woke up in the morning with not five or ten mosquito bites but literally like 50 on my shoulder blades, that had been tucked against the hammock. Brian helped me put some hydrocortison on, shaking his head saying ”You think you’re bullet proof until you get malaria”. He has had it so many times and he stills talks about it like one of the absolute worst things, and when he does that, I know it’s for real. Let’s see if Malarone can handle this attack! Malaria has an incubation time of 1-2 weeks I think, so we will just have to wait and see…

We had been planning on visiting Lake Tanganyika after being at the coast but since Zanzibar had made a big dent in both the budget and the time plan (still aiming to be with the family in Zimbabwe for Christmas) it felt like quite a stretch to make it all the way across to the lake. To make it worth it, going fishing or doing something there, you also need more than one day, so we decided to skip it and compensate with more fishing in Zimbabwe when we get there.

Heading for Mbeya down by the border to Malawi we made our first stop outside Morogoro. Although we were welcomed by a very professional and nice man it turned out the campsite was just a forest and we paid to wild camp pretty much. But it was nice, setting up camp just underneath a big baobab tree and having the place to ourselves. However, this was my first (and hopefully only!) you-have-eaten-something-bad-and-gonna-feel-like-crap day. It started with nausea in the evening and I knew straight away it wasn’t just gonna go away, I was gonna get sick. The problem was it was like my body couldn’t decide whether to get rid of the bug upwards or downwards so it got stuck in the middle with the most awful, painful stomach cramps that I’ve never experienced before. They lasted from the early morning to the following afternoon and I honestly would have rather just gotten really sick straight away and had it done and over with! But we moved on and Brian drove as slow as he possibly could over every speed bump, holding my hand as I cramped and cried and he quietly pointed out some wildlife as we drove through Mikumi national park (the highway runs through the park) that I could just lift my head long enough to see before I fell back asleep.

We came to Iringa and I sent an sms to my friend David back home in Sweden since there is where he spent his fist 7 years of his life and he was happy to hear from us. We spent a night at the Kisolanza Farm house, a nice campsite and a cool restaurant (and old mud house that they built a roof above) where I had to really restrain myself from diving into the spicy meatballs, pasta with basil and fresh home grown vegetables after not having eaten anything for more than 24 hours.

In Mbeya we camped in the parking lot of a Christan center, a pretty uneventful place except for the fact that the watchman came past and showed us a note with a picture of a dog where it said he would let it out at night and we must not move around in there without him. We wondered what kind of beast this was, but I later walked past the dog pin where a sweet looking dog was lying sleeping. We made sure to be in the tent by the time it was let out though,taking the watchman’s advice seriously. As I fell asleep I started dreaming some weird stuff where I was screaming – but in real life it apparently sounded more like a horrific howling – and the dog came running to the car barking like crazy… So Brian was busy trying to shut us both up before we woke up the entire neighborhood.

It was a bit strange coming into Tanzania, knowing how close we now were to Mocambique, to home. We could literally be there in a few days if we wanted to. Instead we would move on, driving through another six countries before getting there.

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Other reads!

Here are some other blogs from our fellow travelers that we met back in Aswan, Egypt.

Here you can read Hannah and Diarmaid’s excellent blog post of their experiences in Aswan. It’s true, hilarious, sad, upsetting and honest all in one.

Rick had a good daily blog going on – he has actually just recently made it to South Africa and is near the end of his trip – and he mentioned us here and there in text and photos as we travelled together through Ethiopia and Kenya if you wanna have a look!

Ray and Avril also took daily notes and went into detail about the circus going on as we were all trying to leave Egypt for Sudan…