Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Final Week in Africa

Angela writes:

Upon returning to our “home” campsite at Jungle Junction (JJ’s) in Nairobi, Kenya we were welcomed back with open arms from our “old” riding friends Claudio (http://transafricabiketrip.blogspot.com/) and David (http://africabybike596.blogspot.com/), the South Africans who we had met up with in Dar and again in Arusha.  We did miss having Dom around but were comforted by seeing his motorcycle that hadn’t left yet.  It was nice to return to a familiar place and see some familiar faces.  Jungle Junction is really a motorcycle utopia where 50 or more overland travelers come and go every week, exchanging route tips, motorcycle details and visa information.  There are so many interesting conversations to join in on and so many different people to meet, from all over the world, who have amazing stories and adventures to share.  Chris Handschuh, who runs JJ’s, is always friendly, hospitable and a wealth of information.  He’s part mechanic, part philosopher, and part comedian, with the heart of an adventurer, he consistently has enough time and energy for all his needy guests. This week Chris helped us organize the crating of our motorcycles so that they can start their long journey back to Canada.  From Nairobi they are going to get trucked to Mombasa, Kenya on the Indian Ocean then they will be loaded into a container, onto a ship, where they will sail to Toronto. 


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As I mentioned above, Jungle Junction is meeting place for overland travelers from all over the world.  It is here that we had the fortunate coincidence of meeting up with Margaret (www.ridingtoextremes.com/index.htm), an accomplished Iron Butt Rally Rider who’s also featured on the Horizon Unlimited Achievable Dream DVD series.  I met Margaret once before at a BC Horizons meeting back in 2008, three months after I started riding a motorcycle. She had just completed the “48 Plus” riding her motorcycle to all 48 lower US States, plus Canada and Hyder, Alaska in under 10 days! I was so inspired to meet such a determined and successful female rider when I was just starting out and I think it is amazing to have run into her again at the end of this motorcycle adventure and to again be inspired. She is picking up her motorcycle at the airport today and will soon begin her solo journey to South Africa. It is such a small world, and it just keeps getting smaller. 



For Daryll’s 40th birthday Margaret joined us for steak lunch at a local Mediterranean restaurant.  I was going to have the 20 or so odd staff members sing Daryll Happy Birthday during dessert like they did for another birthday boy (4 years old), but by then we were absolutely stuffed. As we finished off our drinks, we started to hear the sky rumbling with thunder.  We suspected that we would have at least another hour before it started raining so we started our 15 minute walk back to Jungle Junction.  Well we were wrong, and half way through our walk the sky opened up on us big time!  The dirt track we were following turned into slippery mud, and cars drove by us splashing us with huge puddles.  We were drenched.  At the top of one steep hill we decided to take cover with some locals in a car wash and it also gave me the opportunity to check on the laptop I was carrying under my jacket. While in the car wash it started hailing – I guess this is pretty normal weather for being almost at the equator.  Then the carwash guy says that he wants to recycle the water in his car wash apparatus which means that the shower jets started squirting water and the big blue spiny brushes started going round and round.  It was kind of like being in a carwash nightmare without the protection of a car around us, but we laughed, moved off to the side and waited for a brake in the rain.  When we finally got back to Jungle Junction we realized that the yard was starting to flood and our tent was slowly getting filled with water.  We hurriedly moved clothes, gear, sleeping bags and mats inside and rented the last room in the hostel.  It was a good thing that our flight to Paris was booked for Tuesday, 2 days later, as this is how long it’s taken for our tent to dry out – a VERY good thing since our tent is now inside our bike crate sailing to Canada for the next two months! 

Tonight we are on our way to Paris, France via Dubai where we’ve already booked our luxury (well for us 2 star is luxury!) hotel rooms.  C’est la vie!

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Friday, June 24, 2011

Start of a New Adventure

Daryll writes:

When we left home 10 months ago, Plan A was to travel up North Africa, cross from Egypt to Libya, then on to Tunisia and take a ferry across to Europe.  Well that plan went south when Gaddafi decided to go into hiding and resist western forces.  Plan B went into action and we luckily had our Carnet’s amended before leaving Canada to include Syria.  Our intention was to take a ferry from Egypt to Jordan, then on to Syria, Turkey and into Europe.  That proposed route plan didn’t last long before Syria erupted with civil protests and riots and now full scale unrest and all foreign vehicles weren’t being let into the country.  Luckily, we had already thought of Plan C, which was to take a ferry from Alexandria, Egypt to Venice, Italy.  Seemed easy enough till  mid May when the ferry company that runs this ferry decided to cancel this sailing as it apparently did a loop via Syria and considered it unsafe to sail.  There was a Plan D which most of the overlanders that we had met were taking - a ferry from Egypt to Jordan, then on to Israel and another ferry to Greece.  This was now the only way out without having to fly both the bikes and ourselves out of Egypt.


While waiting in Uganda to get our gorilla permits, we did some soul searching and decided that we needed a break or needed a holiday from the holiday.  It is pointless continuing when you are doing it for the sake of it and not enjoying every minute of the day.  A change is needed.  This is a common phenomena and most travelers go home for a few months before returning and continuing their trip.  However most overland travelers that we have met so far are of the retired kind and have that flexibility with their time.  We still need to think about our careers and settling down again.  So instead of leaving our bikes here for a while till we take a break, we have decided to end our motorcycle trip here, 10 months after we left Vancouver and 44,473 km later and ship our bikes from Nairobi, Kenya back to Canada, Ontario to be specific.  Yup, that is another entirely different blog post.  Though our bikes are going back to Canada, we haven’t finished off our travel plans. We have booked our flights to Paris on Tues. June 29th before meeting friends in Germany, visiting Angela’s family in the Netherlands and making our way to the UK.


In speaking with a few of the travelers here at Jungle Junction, the place we are staying at in Nairobi, they had asked if it was a tough decision to make and to the contrary, we both were on the same page and are super excited to be off the bikes for a while.  I’m sure that once we are in Europe, we would long to be riding our bikes again, but for now, it feels good to be starting a whole new adventure sans bikes and being able to backpack for a few months.  We have enjoyed every minute of every day so far and don’t want to taint the rest of that motorcycle trip by being unhappy and forcing ourselves to continue.  We will still continue to blog about our travels, so hope you will still follow along. 


Angela writes:

Along with the issue of “How do we cross into Europe?” I’d like to note some of the other challenges that riding from Nairobi, Kenya to Egypt presents.  To start with travelling through Northern Kenya leaves one to the mercy of armed bandits.  Three weeks ago we learned about a couple that was travelling in their Landrover towards Ethiopia where an attempted robbery ended up with the guy being shot in the jaw.  Their vehicle is currently sitting here at our Jungle Junction Hostel/Campground.  I’m not saying that this would necessary happen to us but the stress of this possibility would weigh heavy on us as we struggled to eat up the kilometers on our motorcycles.  Especially while we would be attempting to cross the Dida Galgalu Desert where the road is apparently an endless washboard of dirt and lava fields that shatters your body and vehicle for hour upon scorching hour.  Not somewhere that I would want to outwit or outrun poverty stricken, armed and frustrated people.   Secondly, travelling north would have had us crossing the country of Sudan which on July 9, 2011 is scheduled to break into two countries – South Sudan and the Sudan – due to a referendum.  Although newspapers report that the split is meant to be a “peaceful” event we would have found ourselves right in the middle of the country on split day.  I hope this division does go as peacefully as planned  as the people in the Sudan are supposed to be absolutely lovely. The third challenge that personally made me ill was the fact that we would be crossing the Sudan and Egypt in the middle of summer, July/August where the temperatures are generally 50 degrees Celsius.  As we discovered while riding though Baja, Mexico I do not do well in this kind of heat as my body and brain completely shuts down. This journey for me, at this time of year, would not be enjoyable in the slightest.  Along with the other challenges of travelling in Muslim countries during Ramadan (starting Aug 1 this year), dealing with rock throwing children in Ethiopia, and organizing ferries that only sail weekly in the Sudan and Egypt there just didn’t seem much time for the wonderful part of our adventure – safely riding our motorcycles across the world. 

I am painfully going to miss hoping up on my bike every morning, in the comfort of my familiar riding gear and having the freedom to ride down any continuous road of our choosing.  I am however looking very much forward to seeing family and friends in Europe and getting to explore a whole new area of the world – in a whole new way!

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Thursday, June 23, 2011

Ride Back to Kenya

Angela writes:
After leaving Rwanda we spent about 4 days getting back to Nairobi, Kenya.  As Daryll explained in his earlier posts the pavement on the roads was dangerously grooved which made for some tough passing, brutal speed bumps and slippery surfaces.  The drivers in Uganda and parts of Kenya were also horrendous so even though the roads on the way back were familiar to us, we always had to pay very close attention and stay alert to all traffic. The worst part was the transport trucks coming towards us that decided to pass someone while using our lane.  I think they assumed that we could just hit the shoulder and get out of their way, like all other smaller bikes in the country seem to do regardless of the amount of people/animals/vendors using the shoulder at the time.  The trucks just didn’t seem to realize that we were also traveling at 100 km/hr towards them and that we were fully loaded motorcycles.  Sometimes we could slow down enough to let them complete their asinine passing and then shake our fists and swear at them to show our frustration.  Then there were times however that the passing was so close that all we could do was focus on getting out of danger – priority number one.  At one point Daryll stopped dead in the middle of the highway while a semi-truck was coming towards him to show the driver that we were not moving from our lane and that he would have to maneuver back into his to get by us.  The truck was traveling uphill at about 20 km/hr at the time so the speeds weren’t too dramatic but it was really funny because the truck driver was so mad and we were all yelling, gesturing and swearing and all the other truck drivers in their proper lanes surrounding him were laughing and supporting us.  Oh good times! 

Another annoyance that happened on the way back through Uganda was being stopped by some army guys in the middle of a desolate marsh.  As Daryll and I approached a “Police Blockade” sign standing in the middle of the road, we didn’t think too much of it as these stops are quite common.  The only difference with this one was that these guys at the side of the road were dressed in army fatigues and one was actually curled up on the ground napping.  The situation just seemed unusual and unprofessional.  They did not carry radios or clipboards or even seem to have their own transportation out of the area.  Anyway Daryll stopped and talked to an army guy and I talked to a different army guy and neither of us turned off the engine on the bikes.  With a big toothy grin my guy says “Are you a journalist?” I said “No, no, heavens no, I’m a tourist”.  He says “And what did you bring for me from your country?” At that moment Daryll had finished a similar conversation with his guy and started taking off which allowed me to get off by answering “oh, my husband is leaving.  I’d better go” rather than have to search for some token to give him.  I then took off behind Daryll without issue.  I do think their “road block” was an abuse of power though to solicite “gifts” and it was just sad to see army guys reduced to this.       

On the border of Uganda and Kenya I did have a nice conversation with a young 22 year old guy named Mabonga.  He was actually a fixer, who I normally just ignore, but he was super nice and he told me about how he was working to save money to go to college to become an Agricultural Project Manager.  He taught me about the different crops in Uganda (beans, potatoes, cassavas), the growing seasons and about the education system.  He explained to me that sometimes he has access to the internet when he is at his friend’s house and when his friend can afford to pay the bill.  Then he tried to convince me that Daryll and I should move to Uganda and open a school to teach computers because there are so many people willing to learn in Uganda and that labor in the country is very cheap – he was quite ambitious.  When I said to him that I wanted to live in Canada because I would miss my Mom otherwise, he said that I was old enough to be away from my Mom.  I laughed and said to him “but I like my Mom” and he said “Well you should just have her as a friend on Facebook!”  I laughed so hard!   

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A Hotel in Rwanda

Angela writes:
 As we entered Rwanda we got a whole different vibe from the country compared to any of the East African countries we’ve visited so far.  After a thorough check of our luggage from the border patrol, we needed to go to Immigration and Customs.  Lately our experience at borders involves pulling over onto any garbage-filled dirt patch that would allow our bikes to balance on their side stands.  We were very impressed that in Rwanda they actually provided flat, paved parking spots, delineated with painted lines!   As we approached the window we noticed that it was the cleanest, most organized Immigration office that we have seen in Africa and that the office even had computers! All papers are stacked neatly and nothing was littering the floor! Prior to arriving at the border, we had applied for our Rwandan visas online and had received our permission response within hours.  At the window we presented our permission print out, paid our $60 each and had our visas and passports back within 15 minutes – good thing too as a bus load of people arrived just after us and had to line up for their passport processing.  I did observe however, how straight and lovely the lineup of people was to get into Rwanda without pushing or people standing more than 2 abreast.  It was a wonderfully organized sight. As was the money exchange counters set up at the Rwandan border.  Normally there are groups of loud-mouth touts waving fists full of money at us.  This border experience was just so pleasantly timely and civilized! 

Immediately after crossing the border Daryll and I had to start getting used to driving on the right side of the road again.  It was a bit of a trip but the habits came back very easily.  As we passed the lush, green, hilly tea fields beside us, we observed the signs that read  “Welcome and drink Rwanda tea!”  There were also numerous signs reminding readers that “Corruption is wrong.  Only you can stop it”.  As we passed through the villages along the way to the capital city of Kigali, many people young and old, gave us hearty waves and thumbs up.

Upon our arrival in Kigali Daryll’s trusty GPS lead us to the hotel we were looking for and he went in to give it a look.  As I was waiting with the bikes parked on the side of the street, a curious but polite mob of onlookers gathered around me pointing at the bikes and talking only to each other.  They seemed shy and I suspected that their English might not be great as nobody was talking to me directly.  I quietly asked a guy beside me if he spoke English and he said “a little”, confirmed they were speaking Swahili to each other, and then he also told me he also spoke French.  After that he and I communicated in broken French and English. A boy selling laminated maps came up to me and tried to interest me in a map of Rwanda. When I told him I already had a map and pointed to the map outlining our trip on the side of my pannier, he pulled out his detailed map of the world and the crowd urged me name and show them on the map exactly each country we had visited.  I explained that it was 25,000 km from Vancouver to the bottom of Argentina.  When one guy didn’t believe me that we had rode our bikes that far, I brought him over to the odometer to show him the 62,000 km on it.  Eventually Daryll returned with a thumbs-up for the hotel and we continued to engage the mob that now started blocking the street  as they parked their motorcycles beside us, in the middle of the road. This brought some angry honking from a Mercedes driver  and finally the attention of some army guys in the back of a truck. We realized it was now time to move it along.


Since South America most of our traveling nights have been spent sleeping in our tent.  Upon arriving in Kigali we did check out one campsite but it wasn’t very nice so we have opted for staying a couple of nights in hotel (sigh of relief). Our room cost $50 a night and let me tell you folks it’s just the basics but to me, it’s so much lovely luxury!  It has running water, hot water, a flushing toilet, electricity that works (so far), a mosquito net, a wastebasket, a chair and table, a mirror, a bright window that actually opens, toilet paper AND soap, a locking door, pillows, a soft, clean mattress and a complimentary buffet breakfast.  I will never take these luxuries for granted again!     

The Kigali Memorial Centre

The next day we decided to go and visit The Kigali Memorial Centre.  It had been built to commemorate genocide around the world and to explain the 100 days of genocide that had occurred in Rwanda in 1994 where 800,000 people were systematically massacred.  The exhibits explained the history and conflicts behind the slaughter, showed the atrocities performed on the victims and told heroic stories of civilians who risked their lives hiding the persecuted.  One statistic suggested that if the amount of money spent on evacuating diplomats from Rwanda during the genocide had been redirected into preventing the genocide, the mass killings would never have occurred. There were displays of crude weapons and hundreds of crushed human skulls. Our Lonely Planet told us that the amount of dead and decaying bodies in the streets of Kigali was so great that dogs had to be killed en masse as they had developed the taste for human flesh.  After we were finished the displays inside the Memorial Centre we were invited to walk the gardens outside the centre where more than 250,000 victims of the genocide had been laid to rest.


As we walked outside we noticed a group of about 100 or so local college students carrying huge baskets of flowers who had come to pay their respects.  In my head I calculated that their ages at the time of the genocide would have been about 4 or 5 years old. Not too young to have been effected or to have lost someone close to them.  We let the students go into the garden by themselves to give them some privacy and waited until they came out before we tourists decided to go in.  Some of the girls leaving the graves were crying so hard they had to be supported by people walking on either side them and one girl in particular haunts me with her crying because she couldn’t catch her breath.  The visual sorrow of these kids was just too much for me to bear and my tears turned on like a tap.  By the time our morning tour of the The Kigali Memorial Centre was over, Daryll and I were both physically and emotionally exhausted. That day we had planned on visiting 2 other genocide memorials in churches about 30 km outside the city (as seen in Long Way Down by Ewan and Charlie) but we were simply spent.  After returning to our hotel and having a good rest, we did decide to go for a walk around the city and went to see the hotel featured in the movie “Hotel Rwanda”.  The real name of the hotel in Kigali is called “Hotel des Mille Collines” located on top of one of the beautiful rolling hills of the city, surrounded by lovely gardens.  It was very peaceful to see.   

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Monday, June 20, 2011

Tracking the Mountain Gorillas of Uganda

Daryll writes:

On our ride into the Overland Camp on Lake Buyoni which is also Uganda’s deepest lake at 6,200m, we met a German rider (Rita) on a Transalp.  She had visited the gorillas the day before and had warned us against taking our bikes as it had taken her 5 hours to do just 100km, over and above the fact that it rained heavily in the area the night before and the roads would be all churned up by now.  Together with our permits, we also arranged for a driver to take us to the starting point of the hike and once we were on the road, we were glad that we paid the extra.  We were in a little 4 wheel drive Toyota and Able the driver was very good in controlling the vehicle from sliding over the edge of the steep cliffs as we headed towards Bwindi National Park.

There are around 700 Mountain Gorillas in the wild and 345 of them live in the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest in Uganda.  The other half live in Rwanda and roam between the borders of Rwanda and the DRC.  Due to poaching and encroachment of their habitat, they are slowly disappearing.  We were up at 4am, had our staple breakfast of oatmeal (which is getting old now) followed by coffee and were on the road by 5am.  We finally got to the briefing point at 7:30am and had to wait around so that we could pay and get our trek briefing from the guides.  Only 8 people are allowed to see a particular group/family per day and you are only allowed an hour with them.  The family that we were allocated to was the Mashia Group, so we set off to find them with a guide in the front and a ranger with a loaded AK-47 picking up the rear.  Charley the Ranger was a friendly guy and had advised us that he was there to protect us against the wild mountain elephants as well as from the gorillas if they attacked.  He was only allowed to fire warning shots in the air though in case of an attack and could only fire open an animal if the animal had a human in their clasp.  Interesting information.


Prior to us setting off with our guide, 2 trackers set off 2 hours earlier to find the specific group and radio their location in to the guide.  At the briefing, we were warned that we could find the gorillas within an hour of hiking or it could take up to 8 or 9 hours before they were found.  As we climbed the hills leaving the little village of where we had started behind, I silently hoped that we would stumble upon them within a few minutes of entering the forest.  It’s not called the Impenetrable Forest for no reason.  As we followed our guide, we entered a thick mass of jungle.  I couldn’t see beyond the person in front of me.  The guide cut a path using his machete as we moved forward.  We stopped for a few breaks, but they were kept short as the guide had heard from his trackers and the family was close, so he wanted to push on.  Once we got to the trackers, all radio’s were turned off and you could only hear the machete cutting down the branches to make a path for the 8 enthusiastic tourists.  As we got closer, you could hear the chomping sound of a gorilla feeding and as the branches in front of us were cleared, the mighty male silverback came into view.  It was incredible seeing him in his natural habitat.  He knew that we were there as he turned around suspiciously a few times.  This particular silverback was in a fight with another male and hence the scars and bruised on his face.  After a few more tears of the foliage around him, he was on the move again and we started to follow and find the rest of his family.  A mother feeding on the ground and her baby high up in the tree.  Normally a male will eat up to 30kg of foliage a day before resting.  We followed the group deeper into the forest and it made it difficult to maintain a proper foothold as the undergrowth was wet and mushy.  The trees around us were thorny and at times, I was forced to hang up to the prickly branches just to stay upright.  Suffice to say, I have several bruises on my hands.  This is as close we we could get with an unobstructed view.



We watched the family for our allocated 60 minutes and then it was time to say goodbye and head back down the mountain.  I was so looking forward to seeing the gorillas as I hadn’t come this way on my previous trip to East Africa and this was going to be the highlight for me.  It didn’t disappoint and despite the huge expense of the permits, it was an absolutely amazing experience.  I would do it again in a heartbeat.  Probably this time, get the permits in advance as compared to just turning up.
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Daryll writes:

The traffic entering Nairobi was horrendous.  We arrived on a Saturday afternoon thinking that there won’t be as much traffic as compared to a weekday, but we were wrong.  There was mini-bus taxis trying to cut us off, motorcycle taxis trying to squeeze into every gap possible and will pass us on the right when we were trying to turn right.  The dust in the city was unbearable.  I had my visor open so that I could get some air flow on my face as we crawled along in traffic, but instead of getting some cool air, all I got was a mouthful of dust.  Several of the roads were under construction and the detours were actually a dusty gravel side road.  Thank god for the GPS and it pointed us in the right direction to Jungle Junction, a must stopover for all overlanders.

Chris the owner used to be a troubleshooting mechanic for BMW Motorcycles and lived in Nairobi before deciding to go on his own and open a hostel/camping/workshop of his own in one of the nicer suburbs of the city.  He also stores vehicles for travelers that have returned home before continuing their trip.  The yard was filled with some very expensive toys.



We also met up with Tom, Pat & Chris who had arrived a few days earlier and were having Chris look at a few items on their bikes.  Our time in Nairobi was purely business as well.  We needed to get our visa for the Sudan before we could move on.  Dom on the other hand was making arrangements to have his bike flown home as Nairobi was the end of his trip. 

Even though Nairobi has a bad reputation and has been nick-named “Night-Robbery”, there is a lot of money in this city.  We walked to the nearby mall and it seemed as if we were back home complete with a Walmart owned chain supermarket and a food court.  There are also a lot of expats that live here and you know when labor is cheap when you see all the expats being driven around.

After saying a sad farewell to Dom the night before, we set off early in the morning to try and avoid the traffic congestion to get out of the city.  It wasn’t that bad after all, but our early start hadn’t been a good idea after all.  As we climbed out of Nairobi, we road into a cloud of thick fog.  My visor was misting up badly and I was forced to open it, but I could only have it open for a minute before I had to close it again because the cold air against my eyes caused them to tear.  I couldn’t see after all.  As the sun burnt the fog off, the road heading west was one of the worst paved roads so far.  Combined with the heat and the heavy trucks that use this route, the road had formed troughs in each lane the size of car tires.  These troughs were fine when we had an open road in front of us as we could just sit in them and ride along comfortably.  It got tricky though when we came up on an 18 wheeler semi or a slower moving vehicle and needed to pass.  We had to slow the bike down, so much so that our passing vehicle got further away from us, then gently ride out of the trough, speed up to pass the vehicle and then immediately brake to slow down again so that we could gently go back into the trough.  Very tricky around corners.

As soon as we crossed into Uganda, we left the southern hemisphere and crossed into the northern hemisphere, but that did last long as we crossed back into the southern hemisphere the very next day.  The last time we had crossed the Equator was back in Ecuador. 


We skipped Kampala as we heard that the traffic here was worse than Nairobi.  We were able to find a ring road that by-passed Kampala completely and were quiet happy with the few extra kilometers that it took us.  I couldn’t bear sitting in congestion, breathing in buckets of dust in this heat.  Yes, it was getting warm again.  The main reason to come to Uganda was to see the mountain gorillas and as we hadn’t pre-arranged permits, we made our way to another well known overlander stopover – Lake Buyoni Overland Camp to see if someone could help us get some permits.   We asked around the campsite and were in luck when the reception guy found 2 permits for a days time.  We were off to see the Mountain Gorillas of Uganda.

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Friday, June 3, 2011

The Ngorongoro Crater

Daryll writes:

The Ngorongoro Crater was formed 4,5 million years ago when the volcano erupted and then caved in on it’s self.  It’s called the Ngorongoro Crater Conservation Area as the Masai are the only tribe that are allowed to live on the rim of the crater raising their domestic animals in close proximity to the deadliest predators.  All the endangered animals in the crater are also closely monitored and the rhino in particular are counted daily.  There are only 21 rhino in the crater; 40 lions; 8 cheetah; 40 elephants together with several wildebeest, zebra, hyena, jackal, fox, water buffalo, hippo; springbok and other game.
We camped on the rim of the crater the night before and at 2300m, it was a cold evening and morning.  Day 4 started with us descending into the crater and I will leave you with a photo summary of the day.






We did the tour with Tropical Safari’s and they were excellent.  The cook and driver/guide were great ensuring that all our needs were met and that we were always happy.  I highly recommend them.  In total, between the Serengeti and the Ngorongoro Crater, we saw 31 lions, which included 6 male lions; 6 cheetah; 2 leopards and 1 rhino together with elephant and water buffalo (all of the big 5).  If you ever want to go on safari, these 2 parks are the place to be.  We had an incredible 4 days of game drives and I would do it again in a heart beat.  It was a magical experience.
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The Serengeti

Daryll writes:

The campground (Masai Camp) that we stayed at had a tour office on site, so we enquired to get an idea of pricing.  We were going to shop around, but quickly found out that there weren’t many tourists around enabling us to join a group.  As we spoke to the sales lady, she had suggested that we may have to wait a few days in Arusha before more individual tourists showed up so that we could form our own group.  As we were leaving the tour office, a Dutch couple had just arrived and were asking the same questions we had, so kept my fingers crossed that we could work something out.  An hour later, as we were getting ready for dinner, the Dutch couple (Ivon & Martijn) had approached us and asked us whether we were looking for a safari and wondered if we could all go together.  It was going to be a considerable saving for the 4 of us to join up as compared to all of us going it alone.  We settled on a 4 day tour and managed to get a bit of a discount and once we told Dom what we were doing, he finally relented and decided to join us as well. 


Serengeti means “Endless Views” in Swahili and at 14, 751 sq/km the views do go on forever.  It’s not the largest park in Africa, but National Geographic and other wildlife shows have made it hugely popular for the variety of wildlife that survive here and the annual wildebeest migration.


Day 1 was primarily a driving day.  We left Arusha at 7am and passed several Masai communities along the way.  The Masai are nomadic people and still lead a subsistence lifestyle.  We entered the park mid-afternoon for at least 2hr’s worth of game viewing and it was an amazing 2 hours of that.  Within a short space of time, we spotted our first lion laying under a tree and soon thereafter, a pair of lions sitting high up in a tree.  Along the way, we saw the usual of giraffe, zebra, springbok, dik-dik, topi, warthog and a few wildebeest.  After a while, seeing giraffe, zebra or wildebeest aren’t that exciting anymore and the focus is trying to find the cats (lion, cheetah & leopard).


Our driver/guide wanted to get us to our campsite before dark so that we could put up our tents while it was still light but we couldn’t resist spending some time at the base of the tree where we had spotted 2 leopards perched high up.  The light wasn’t the best due to our positioning, but a leopard sighting is a leopard sighting and the pic below was taken just before he made a leap to another branch.


At dinner, Martin (our driver/guide) offered us an option of going and seeing the wildebeest migration; however warned us that it would take up most of the day to drive to the western corridor of the Serengeti to see the wildebeest as they leave Tanzania and migrate towards Kenya in search of greener pastures and water.  It was a unanimous yes to watch the wildebeest migration.  A once in a lifetime opportunity.


2,5 million wildebeest make the annual migration from the Serengeti (Tanzania) to the Masai Mara (Kenya).  Zebra also make this annual migration together with the wildebeest, but not in the same numbers.  As our guide maneuvered the landcruiser through the several herds that all join and form a train as far as the eye can see and more.  The sound of these wild animals grant and snort as we drove through was comical and a few tried to charge towards the vehicle as it moved, but once the vehicle stopped, they chickened out and ran the other way.  There were thousands around us.  The air was filled with dust as they followed each other around and stayed together.


We had about an hour rest that afternoon before we headed out for the afternoon and it didn’t disappoint either.  I have video footage of a croc coming face to face with a hippo.  The hippo won this battle as the croc got out of it’s way – wouldn’t you?


Day 3 in the Serengeti started with an early game drive.  The 5 of us were pretty quiet for the first hour and a half as we peered out the roof trying to spot anything that moved in the long grass.  Our guide would stop and talk to other guides to see if they had spotted something and apparently it was a quiet morning and then we stumbled upon a male lion feasting on a recent kill.

He was extremely afraid and kept on moving further away from us.  It wasn’t till we stumbled upon a pair of cheetah did we realize that he could have stolen this kill from them as this pair had fresh blood on their faces and licked each other clean as cats do.


Some animals stats on the Serengeti.  Together with several other wildlife, it has the following:-
  • 2400 lions
  • 900 cheetah
  • 700 leopards
  • 14 rhino
and all are monitored to keep the poachers away.

Due to slow internet and time constraints, I have yet to upload photos of the Serengeti & Ngorongoro Crater to the Photobucket account.  I hope to have this done in Nairobi.  Stay tuned for more photos.
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Zanzibar - The Spice Island

Daryll writes:

We didn’t want to inconvenience Aisha as she was heading off for work the next day, so decided to head to the beach to camp and arrange our way to Zanzibar.  We didn’t have far to go and the it took longer to both pack and unpack the bikes than it took to ride the mere 2km down the road to the Makadi Beach Camp, a popular stopover for the overland crowd.  The husband & wife team of Lucho & Jo that owned the place were great and reserved us a place on the ferry to Zanzibar for 2 days later.  We wanted to chill out on the beach of the Indian Ocean again.


Despite the warning signs all over the campground, we ventured out to the village to try & find something for dinner.  It was about a 20min walk and was perfectly safe, but couldn’t find anything suitable as Dom is a vegetarian and all we saw was chicken and chips (french fries) so ended up having a few beers and dinner in the restaurant at the campground.


Before we could board the ferry to Zanzibar, Ang visited the National Museum and though it interesting while I sat in some shade and made notes for this blog post.  We are at the tail end of the rainy season in Tanzania and it rains without fail for about 2 hours daily and we got caught in the thundershower on our way to the ferry terminal.  Many of the locals that were on the streets stopped what they were doing and found shelter till the storm passed, but us, we continued the walk to the terminal and arrived sopping wet.  It wasn’t too long till the sun came out again and we had boarded the fast ferry to Zanzibar.  At US$70 return, there were a few tourists, but the ferry was filled with mostly locals, guess there must be a higher charge for tourists.  The ferry left later than scheduled, but this is Africa after all, and arrived 2 hours later in Zanzibar.  The water was calm, so the journey wasn’t too bad.  I remember the last time I had taken the ferry to Zanzibar, I tried to save some money and took the slow overnight ferry and ended up getting sea sick on the way back.  That trip wasn’t much fun.


Once we stepped off the ferry though, all hell broke loose as the touts were all over us trying to sell us a tour and take us to a hotel they knew off and indirectly get a commission off the hotel.  Dom had gotten off the ferry a few minutes before us and had already started taking to a guy that offered to take us to look at a few hotels for free but when the taxi drivers heard him make the offer, they were all over us saying that the guy we were talking to was a criminal and that we shouldn’t go with him.  I had about 3 guys in my face yelling and indicating that we should come with them and I just wanted to get out of there as soon as possible, so I simply yelled back saying that we would find our own hotel and for them to leave us alone.  As we started walking away, the so called “criminal” was still sticking to Dom, so decided to trust him and let him lead us to a place that he knew off.  Stone Town (the downtown part of Zanzibar) is filled with old, run down and dilapidated buildings with narrow dirty pedestrian only streets.  It is a maze if you didn’t know where you were going.  The first hotel the guy took us to seemed ok, but we had nothing to compare it to, so knew off a hostel that the Lonely Planet had recommended and asked him to take us there.  The Jambo Guest House was a lot nicer, the room had a fan and an aircon and included breakfast and for the same price as the hotel that we first saw, decided to stay at Jambo and took a triple room.


For the last few days, Dom wouldn’t stop talking about Mercury’s Pizza place in Zanzibar, so we had to stop there for dinner.  Did you know – Freddie Mercury was actually born in Zanzibar.  The pizza was amazing and with the view of the ocean, it was another remarkable day in Africa.


We spent 3 days in Stone Town and found it to be a photographers paradise with the old decaying buildings and the numerous wooden doors, each with it’s own unique design.  Dom went diving for 2 days while Ang did a Spice Tour and I watched the locals go about their daily routine.  We ended up going out to Indian restaurants for the next 2 evenings as we couldn’t resist the local spices.




I had booked us on the 9:30am ferry back to Dar which wasn’t as busy, but the sea wasn’t that calm either and I wasn’t feeling too well.  I tried to close my eyes and focus on not being sick and the ferry docking couldn’t have come at a better time.  Any longer on that 2hr ferry, I think I would have lost the battle with breakfast.  While on Zanzibar, we had left our bikes at the Makadi Beach Camp, so stayed there for another night before leaving Dar Es Salaam.  That night, 2 South African bikers showed up on a DR and a Dakar.  They were also hoping to get to Ethiopia before returning to South Africa.  As we headed out of town the next day and stopped for a break, we noticed 2 KLR’s pass by and waved.  Both the riders immediately made a u-turn and came back to talk to us.  They were a couple from Durban, South Africa.  Nick and Kristine (www.africa2anywhere.blogspot.com) started their RTW trip in SA and were making their way to Europe to find some work, before continuing across Asia, Russia and then down the America’s.  We stayed and chatted for a bit as we haven’t seen a whole lot of travelers heading either south or north.  We met a German couple on 2 KTM’s in Namibia, and then now these 4 South Africans.  So hope to meet up with Nick and Kristine again.


The campground that we intended to stay at for the night ended up being closed, so we had to continue for another 50km to the next town and decided to stop at a Motel.  There wasn’t any camping around and it was getting late, so decided to bite the bullet and spend the US$26 for a room for the night.  Ang was just too happy to be sleeping off the ground for another night and safely tucked away from the mosquitoes under the mosquito netting.  Our destination the next day, May 28th (our 6th wedding anniversary) was Arusha – the world capital of Safari’s as it is the hub for safari’s to the Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater where we were hoping that we could join up with a few people to go on safari.

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