Monday, December 28, 2009

Heading into Ethiopia

Hi all,
I am in Nairobi, having just checked out of the youth hostel and waiting 2 hours till we are picked up for our flight into Ethiopia.
We went in Nakuru national park and spent Christmas day there, starting with a huge breakfast at Nairobi and then driving into Nakuru. After setting up our tents we spent the afternoon doing a game drive around the park. We went to Nakuru 4 years ago and we were shocked at how much lower the lake was and also how few flamingoes there were compared to then. We were not disappointed though by the wildlife. We were lucky enough to see 4 groups of lions over this day and the next as well as buffalo, zebra, gazelles, monkeys and hippo. I had a very close encounter with a baboon who decided, while I was cooking the toast for the groups breakfast, to run across my lap and steal the loaf of bread. It was a large and agressive male and gave me quite a shock. Unfortunately no one was filming or we could have won next years funny home video!
After Nakuru we spent our last night of the tour at Lake Navisha. The camp site was huge but was very full and we couldn't get an upgrade to a room like we hoped. It was surprisingly cold and we spent the afternoon vegging out. That night it poured with rain for 5 hours and our tent leaked, resulting in 2 wet, cold and unhappy campers by the morning (none of the kids tents leaked). It was a relief to head back to Nairobi and the relative comfort of the youth hostel (while basic, it is clean, dry and has good beds). Unfortunately we were not here in time to attend a Church meeting there at our Church but the pastors wife, Tabitha, met us at the end of the tour and spent the next 2 days with us. Pastor Jeremiah is in Liberia helping a new assembly that has started there, so we missed seeing him but got 2 know their 2 gorgeous kids, Osmond (Ossy) and Nicole. Last night we all had dinner at the carnivore restaurant, which was lovely.
We catch the plane to Ethiopia this evening and start the next leg of our journey.
Love to all, Kathie

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas eve

It is the night of Christmas eve and I am sitting in a camp ground in Nairobi, It is quite cold and raining here, not what I expected for Christmas in Africa. We have one night here then off to Nakuru national park in the morning for an afternoon game drive. We spend the night at Nakuru then head into Navisha the next morning for our last night on the tour (finishing back in Nairobi).
We had a fairly yukky day today! We drove from Arusha to Nairobi, a distance of only a couple of hundred kilometres but it took 11 hours due to an unbelievable amount of roadworks! Unlike Australia, where the system is to work on a 10km stretch of road at a time, here you dig up 200kms of road, make a detour dirt track full of potholes you could hide a truck in, then go on Christmas holidays. I doubt we had over 40kms of drivable road today!
In contrast yesterday was magical! We stayed in a lovely guesthouse near Ngorongoro Crater that had big, soft beds (who can tell I'm over camping) and hot showers, all for only $30 extra (the rest stayed there in tents). We left early in the morning and headed for Ngorongoro crater.
First sight of the crater is breathtaking! It is about 20kms across with walls over 600m high (and a very steep drive in and out!). The amount of wildlife was breathtaking and I nearly developed RSI from taking photos and film!! We saw elephant, buffalo, gazelle, ostrich, wildebeest, zebra, baboons, monkeys, hyena, jackals, lions, hippo, cheetah and rhino.
Anyway, I better finish up as there is a queue for the internet here. I wish you all a very Merry Christmas tomorrow and my love to all, Kathie

Saturday, December 19, 2009


I am in a tiny internet cafe in Stone Town, Zanzibar, having just had a very good lunch at the Indian restaurant next door. We have been up on the north coast of Zanzibar for 3 days at a little hotel right on the beach. As is typical in most of Africa, we only had power and water at certain times of the day but it was in a wonderful location and had inbelievable views. We went on a sunset cruise on a dhow, a traditional sailing boat, on thursday. Yesterday we went to the southern tip of the island and went out and swam with dolphins then went to a forest with Colobus monkeys, only found on Zanzibar. They were amazing! The monkeys were very curious and when we stood still they climbed down and started touching us. One reached down and started searching my hair for things to eat but luckily came up empty.....we didnt want to leave them.
We went on a spice tour on wednesday when we first arrived and saw how they grow and harvest many spices and fruits. One of our guides climbed an unbelievably tall coconut palm....which was a bit scary to watch!
I am living on a staple diet of seafood, mangoes and coconut at the moment....very hard to take!
We were a bit sad that we didnt get to see anyone from our Church while in Malawi but loved our time there. Malawi is often called the 'waem heart of Africa' and I can see why.
Tomorrow we catch the ferry back to Dar es Salaam and start our journey to Arusha in northern Tanzania. From there we will travel into Ngorongoro crater, which is a game park, to see more of Africa's amazing wildlife, then on to Kenya a few days later.
My time is nearly up. My love to all, Kathie

Saturday, December 12, 2009

At Lake Malawi

Hi all,
we arrived in Malawi 2 days ago after 3 long days of travel across Zambia.
I phoned Pastor Nelson before arriving at Liliongwe but unfortunately he was unable to meet us and where we are staying, at Kande beach, there is no assembly. We are hoping to meet up with some people at Chitchimba which is where we go tomorrow for 1 day and night.
Kande Beach is on the shores of Lake Malawi. The camp we are staying at here is stunning, right on the beach. We have been swimming a lot as it is very hot and the water is clean, fresh water with a sandy bottom. Last night there was a bit of a storm so this morning there is even surf! Most of our group has gone off on a guided walk around the village this morning. I would have loved to have gone but my knees aren't up to it.
Our tour group is a great bunch of people, many from Australia. We are all getting on very well and having lots of fun. Our tour truck/bus is a bit rough around the edges but the guides have been great. We changed drivers and guide at Victoria falls and were all sad to see Justin (tour guide) and Phillip (driver) go. We now have Judah (guide) and Temba (driver). A few of the tour group finished at Victoria falls as well and we picked up some new people.
After Malawi we have another couple of long driving days, crossing Tanzania to Dar es Salaam. We catch a ferry from there to Zanzibar for 4 days.
I had better go now, love to all, Kathie

Monday, December 7, 2009

Just crossed into Zambia

Back again.

The Okavango Delta was amazing! We were taken into it by traditional dugout canoes called Mukoros to our bush camp under the most awesome old tree on an island in the middle of the delta. Our polers (canoe drivers) were our guides too and stayed with us for the 2 days. We went swimming in the pristine waters, went by canoe to see hippos, went bush walking and saw many different animals (elephants, hippo, zebra, crocodile, antelope, etc). Our trip back by canoe was more relaxed as it was earlier in the day and not as hot. We had a hiccup going back to Maun as the truck broke down resulting in a 5 hour wait under a tree....but such is life!

Our next destination was Chobe national park. The camp ground was lovely and that evening we went on a cruise on the river and saw nearly 100 elephants come down to drink. One group alone had nearly 70 in it. I will never forget the spectacle of seeing such a large group of wild elephants. We went on an early morning game drive the next day and saw other animals including lions.

Next stop was 2 days at Victoria falls on the Zimbabwe side. It is a small town and has a lot of character. The first night we went out for dinner as a group to saw goodbye to those leaving (including our driver and tour guide) to a place called 'Bomas place of eating'. It serves traditional Zimbabwe foods including game meat. I ate warthog, Eland and buffulo.

We went for a helicopter flight over the falls which was breathtaking and then went on a cruise in the evening. In the afternoon we went to a craft market and bought lots of souveniers. They were desperate for sales and very pushy but it was an interesting place.

This morning we went down to the Victoria falls national park to see the falls from ground level. They are truley amazing to see and it is still at a reasonably low level.

Monday, November 30, 2009

In Botswana

Hello all,
we have just arrived in Maun in Botswana and will be heading for our camp soon. Tomorrow we are taken into the Okavango Delta by dugout canoe for 2 days, camping in the bush of the delta. We crossed the Kalhari Desert yesterday and today, a long, hot drive and I'm am profoundly relieved to be in airconditioning for a few minutes!
Last night we arrived at our campsite late. The usual campsite closed down a couple of days ago and they booked this one at the last minute. It had no facilities (here's a shovel and toilet papaer, there's the bush!) and it was raining while we were setting up camp but the site was pretty and our tour leader cooked up an amazing meal for us all.
The trck we are in looks like it has seen a few kilometres but has character! It is amazing how quickly the tour leader, Justin, and the driver, Phillip, can set up the camp kitchen and have everything organised.
The 20 people on the tour consists of our group of 7, a couple from USA and all the rest are Aussies...including half from Brisbane! Considering it is a UK based company I was very surprised.
I had better go now as this is very expensive.
Love to all, Kathie

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

In South Africa

Hi everyone,
I am writing this in an internet cafe in Cape Town.
We had one day in Johannesburg where we went on a tour of Soweto, the Apartheid museum, Nelson Mandela's house and the Hector Peiterson memorial. Man's ability to inflict pain and suffering on their fellow man never ceases to amaze me. The museum brought me to tears but I am glad we went as it was important to understand the past of this country to be able to understand her present and future. Johannesburg is a city scarred by her past but struggling to get her feet and move into the future. It is not a pretty city but is certainly and interesting one.
The trip to Cape Town on the Shosholoza Meyl train was brilliant! The train is a bit rough around the edges, needs a coat of paint but has the most amazing ambience. The staff were great and the cabins and beds were comfortable. The dining car served meals either in the car or in your own cabin and they were basic and good value. There is something old worldly and romantic about train travel that I loved. We had 2 adjacent cabins with Evan, Tamru and Wubi in one and Jemma, Magno, Clive and I in the other. The 'boys' had an epic game of 'Killer Bunnies' that lasted 7 hours! We read, talked and drank coffee brought to our cabin while South Africa went by our window...not a bad way to spend a day!
Cape Town is amazing! It is one of the most beautiful cities I have ever seen and has a wonderful vibe. We went up the Table Mountain cable car the first afternoon here. It is breath taking! There is a pervasive silence at the top of the mountain, broken only by noisy tourists. There are 360 degree views of the Cape area. We were all developing RSI from taking photos!
Yesterday we went on a day tour around the Cape of Good Hope. Every corner in the road delivered another breath taking panorama....think Great Ocean road then multiply it by 10!
Today we went for a drive through the Stellenbosch winelands....not that we were interested in the wine but the countryside was spectacular. At a butterfly farm we saw beautiful butterflies by the thousands and I had a very friendly velvet monkey take a shine to me and climb onto my shoulder for a ride around the enclosure. We stopped at one winery that made cheese as well and bought a heap of gourmet cheeses, some italian and french breads and home made ginger beer and had a picnic lunch under some trees in the Stellenbosch valley..mmmmm!
Tomorrow we are planning to do all the stuff around town....township tour, waterfront shops, Bo Kaap district, green market, etc.
The one damper on all this has been some monumental issues with Visa's for Magno. I had assurance from the UAE consulate in Canberra that Magno could get a temporary Visa to go into Abu Dhabi and Dubai in the Abu Dhabi airport but they refused him entry amd he had to stay in the airport for the day. We have spent the last 5 days trying to get a visa for him to enter Dubai on our way back and so far we have had no luck. Everyone keeps passing the buck. Also we were told that there was a Malawi consulate in Cape Town that we could get a Visa for Magno at as he cannot get one at the border like we can (he has a Brasilian passport, we have Aussie passports). It has ended up with Magno having to fly back to Johannesburg tomorrow to go to the Malawi consulate (which is now there) as we arrive back there on saturday and the consulate will be closed.
Anyway, I had better go. I am not sure when I will be able to get back online.
Bye for now, Kathie

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

1 week to go!

It's down to one week till we go! I went to the bank this morning to organise the US$ cash we are taking and it suddenly hit me that this time next week we will be at the airport ready to embark! Time to check lists, pack bags, check lists, charge batteries, etc.
We are having a family Christmas lunch on saturday so we can share it with Hannah (who isn't going on the trip).
Cheers, Kathie

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Hi, I thought I would check that this is working!
I sent our passports to Canberra yesterday to the Kenyan embassy for our visas. Next week, once they get back from Canberra, they're off to Melbourne to the Ethiopian consulate! It has taken me weeks to figure out which visa's we can get at the borders and which we have to get before we travel. Malawi is the only spanner in the works....we can get our visa's at the border but Magno (on a Brazilian passport) can't. Unfortunately there is no Malawian embassy in Australia and the nearest is in Japan. Luckily I found out we can get it once we are in South Africa as none of us were keen in posting our passports to Japan 5 weeks before leaving!
Anyway, enough waffle, ciao for now!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

A recent photo at our daughter, Jemma's, wedding. Left to right: Tamru, Clive, Magno, Jemma, Kathie (me!), Wubi, Aaron, Evan, Hannah and Jean (my mum). May 30th, 2009
On November 19th, 2009, we leave Australia to begin our journey through Africa. We are flying to Johannesburg (via Singapore and Abu Dhabi) then travel overnight by train to Cape Town the next day. After 5 days in Cape Town we return by train to Jo'burg and join our tour group with a company called Kumuka. The next day we leave Jo'burg on a 29 day overland trip (Kumuka's 'Africa in focus' tour) driving through South Africa, Botswana (Okavango Delta and Chobe National Park) then into Zambia at the border of Zambia and Zimbabwe to see Victoria Falls. After 3 days there we travel through Zambia into Malawi, where we will spend 5 days (and visit some of our Church assemblies there). Tanzania is next with a drive across to Dar es Salaam on the coast. We catch a ferry across to Zanzibar for 3 days then back to Dar es Salaam before driving across Tanzania to the Ngorongoro crater national park. On Christmas day we cross the border into Kenya, visiting several lakes and parks before arriving at Nairobi. Two days later we fly into Ethiopia where we will spend 3 weeks traveling by road up into the highlands, visiting our adopted sons extended family and seeing the beautiful Simien mountains. After a flight back to Jo'burg we complete our trip with 3 nights in Dubai on the way home!