Poll Star's Wonderings

Friday, November 17, 2006

I've found somewhere!!

Aaaagggh. This was already unfinished and now I’ve lost half the photos I uploaded, which took ages and I’m not doing again. I will sort this out, but not now. You'll notice text where I have more photos to insert and that I can't work out how to rotate photos once I've uploaded them.

Day 8
0 km
Swakopmund
A day wasted is not a wasted day.


Today was what travel agents would describe as 'at leisure', so I was leisurely. I should have done more, but staying in a lodge in Swakopmund isn't really what this trip is about for me. I'm sure the town, beach, museum and aquarium were of interest, but I missed them.

And in any case we went out last night. Night out descriptions can be quite dull, so edited high and lowlights will suffice. All out for dinner, pizza, beer, wine, pool, locked out on the balcony of the bar, mad drunk English woman grinding and dancing, struggling to convince the night porter to let us back in, chucked out at closing time, trying to chill on the decking at 3am and waking up Oliver at the end of it all.

My limited achievements were
  • The last blog post, which took me 3 hours, was a pain in the arse and just got me a bunch of Sorrell abuse. Fortunately I have a new way. Oliver has a card reader, which allows me to transfer from my handheld's memory card to PC and post in a fraction of the time. From now on, I'll have the post 90% written when I walk in the internet cafe. A lot will now be written on the truck and I guess style and content may be impacted by this new approach. (Dad-all this means I don't need you to send that Dell cradle to Melbourne).
    I had lunch
  • Quad biking was as expected-initially lame when stuck in traffic. When I got to the front with Zachi, the banditage began-corners on 2 wheels, few jumps and some power slides. Good fun and it woke me up.
  • I had Dinner
  • I packed.
  • I was NOT last to bed

I failed to buy new swim shorts, having ripped the arse out of mine in the bar of the last site.

Day 9
590 Km
Etosha National Park

We're on our way to Etosha, which is a national park the size of Slovenia-according to Mija and she should know. So it's a very exciting point in the journey. My main focus before we started was on the animals.

I'm having problems writing this as Milly is losing her mind in the next seat, and keeps dissolving into giggles. All while we're listening to Muse on her iPod. Most distracting, and now I've just lost it passing biscuits round the bus with one in my mouth. We have arrived at giggle city and need to know how ostriches have sex-any answers, put them in the comments. It's going to be a long (glorious) day.

Anyway, Etosha. We've not really done much that's animal related yet-not been the plan till now. We've seen animals en route, but not really gone to see them. Plan is to arrive, set up camp, then head out on a game drive for 2/3 hours; if we're late we go straight on the drive and set up camp tonight.

Really hope we make it in time-there's a floodlit waterhole at the camp, where I want to get to as soon as I can when we're done with dinner and stuff. So putting up the tents in the dark would cramp my style. Style which will include taking the box of wine I just bought to the waterhole. They had quite a selection of wine at the petrol station. Still a classy guy.

We've had a sweep on what we'll see first. I've gone with gemsbok-as I’m still proud of mastering the pronunciation.

I've made a first foray into my snack supplies. The notes for the trip suggested veggies brought something to prevent starvation. The food's been so good from Calisto that it took the slightly poor Swakop Lodge breakfast to send me running for the geobars.

Just seen a donkey in the road; Milly is now sketching me-'it's gone a bit wrong already'.

We weren't early enough to set up camp before the game drive, so headed straight out. Within an hour, I managed to break my binoculars-only one side now works. If I don't start controlling my clumsiness and stupidity, this is going to be an expensive trip-sat on my handheld today.

Truth be told, I guess we didn't see all that much and there was some impatience in the group. I think you just have to accept your luck and bear in mind there's more to this than the big five-elephant, buffalo, leopard, rhino and lion.

I was transfixed by the Giraffe 'family' we saw.



Initially they were just wandering around on the road, we were in our truck.

PHOTO Milly get off cd

Then they headed off into the trees and bushes at the side of the road, before eventually drifting out of sight. We probably watched them for about 15 mins. I said family, as Calisto told me the 2 adults were in fact both females. Didn't get a decent picture of the baby I'm afraid.

I also really like the antelopes-which I’m using as a grouping of impala, oryx, springbok etc. (this is almost certainly completely wrong). They're very graceful and their coats are immaculate and very beautiful-it's amazing they are wild animals.

I was straight off to the waterhole once the tents were up and almost immediately we were joined by Zebras.



We also witnessed quite a show from some small birds-needless to say we were unable to identify them. Initially a handful were flying between 3 trees but with increasing regularity their numbers grew. Another small flock would arrive at the waterhole and the main body would leave the tree and merge with them. They'd mass, fly around in formation, execute some tight turns, fly low over the water, pretend to land, change direction to angles where they were barely visible and then all land in a tree, waiting for the next arrivals. It was the same when a few waifs and strays arrived, the collective would fly down to pick them up. As the numbers grew so did the noise of their wings. There were hundreds of individuals moving as a single wave. It seemed like meeting up for a drink after the day's work. There must have been some significance to it, as they put a lot of effort in. Sadly David Attenborough wasn't on hand to whisper the explanation.

Back to camp for dinner, where Oliver made a very nice speech to wish Geete happy birthday from us all. As dinner drew to a close, I was getting twitchy: anyone who knows how I get on the morning of a test match would recognise the impatience to get to the ground (waterhole) as I feel everyone else is fannying about.

Back at the waterhole (with box of wine), there wasn't much action: in the dark we eventually worked out the approaching warthog was actually a Hyena.

Suddenly there was a din of Jackal calls-including a pained and rather lost one from behind us. They wander round the camp.

On the way back, Oliver and I invented a new sport-synchronised tripping over the kerb. I think we scored a 9.1.

Back to normal-last to bed.

Day 10
Stay in Etosha-2 game drives.

Up at 5.30 to head out on a second drive to try and catch some of the more nocturnal animals as well as view other animals before they head for the shade of the woods in the heat of the day.

Early on we came across 3 Impala herds in swift succession.



The first two had one dominant male, resplendent with horns and responsible for all the fertilisation needs of the herd's up to 30 females. Male offspring are kicked out of the herd upon reaching sexual maturity.

The third herd was a 'bachelor' herd, if you're male, not dominant and sexually mature, then this is the place for you. The only way out is to defeat a dominant male and take his herd for your own. It seems they eat, wait and practice fighting.



The park was still quite quiet. We saw a male giraffe out on his own and watched 2 lions from a distance. The male and female were less than 50m apart, but seemed oblivious to each other, as they moved occasionally to a better spot for dozing in the shade. You needed binoculars for a good view, but without them the size and power was still evident.

On the way back for lunch we struck gold. A lion and lioness had a disagreement on the roadside; she went into an underpass and basically barked at him when he tried to follow. Then another lion wandered over and the bus was hoping for a fight. I'm not sure that was ever likely; they just chilled about 15 feet from the bus. I could have sat and watched all afternoon, but brunch eventually won the group over.



There's a group desire for elephant. I'd love to see a rhino, with 500 elephants living in herds across this huge park and the amount of green in the forests, I’m not fancying our chances.

Back to the waterhole after lunch, there was a herd of 30 or so zebras. They are very nervy creatures, they often seem to post sentries during drinking and start to run off at the first disturbance-real or imagined.



The many Springbok were much more chilled and we watched a large lizard doing some digging.

Little to report from the afternoon drive-we saw nothing new, I think the guinea fowl were my highlight. We were, however, given a stark warning of the dangers in the park.



After dinner had my first real conversation where I enumerated the world's ills and the Poll Star solutions. Milly was unfortunate enough to be on the receiving end.

After that, you guessed it-last to bed.

Day 11
260 km
Waterberg Plateau National Park

It's going to be a great day-woke up with the Arctic Monkeys running round my head. 'and you got the face on.'

Anyway we leave Etosha after 2 nights (always nice when we leave the tents up the extra day) and are heading for Waterberg plateau, which Calisto described as an 'animal paradise'. In basic terms, the plateau has fresh water and is verdant; animals wander up there and don't come back down. We'll hike up it later.

As we meandered out of Etosha, my mind wandered over the two days and tourism in general. I was distracted from my reverie by an amazing piece of landscape. You could have built quite some golf course on it: it seemed to already have tree lined fairways and the bunkering would be no problem. Of course any shot out of the rough would be fraught with danger.

Anyway, I was thinking of the what 'Westerners' expect from tourism nowadays (I've clearly become a granddad) and how it's often fairly demanding and pre-programmed. We often head out with a tourism checklist of what we must see and do. As an example, take 'doing' New York. We must do the Empire State, the Met, Central Park, Ground Zero, Brooklyn Bridge and even take in a show. On such a trip we effectively control the experience-what ones sees and does; here, one has no such control, which can be frustrating if you're not careful.

To not come away disappointed there's a need to accept what you get-enjoy the animals you do see, rather than focusing on the mental checklist of what you want to see.

Patience is also essential, the animals aren't signed up to our expectations of instant gratification-a reflection of Africa in general. Psychologically, Etosha was like returning to a different time-a valuable experience in itself. I loved it.

Very rewarding shopping stop in Otjiwarango; I have some new shorts that cost me £2.50-so swimming's back on the menu. They came from Big Daddy's-apparently he's big on fashion. I expect he's also big on the causes of fashion. Probably not the safest town-security guards check your goods and receipt as you exit each store. I'd not seen that before and I've just spelt shop like a septic.

In the afternoon at Waterberg we hiked up to the top, which was not as I had expected. I was not alone in anticipating a flat, verdant oasis of a Lost World sort. It was actually quite rocky and I didn't see any animals, but it had its own less obvious beauty. The views over the miles of flat surrounding land will linger in my memory and it was good to be taxed physically by the ascent.

The way up was quite rocky and steep in places and marked the first time I felt I got value from my hiking boots. We passed a number of termite mounds on the way.

PHOTO TERMITE 809 3 11

And I realised we'd not seen an aardvark yet. As the surface was incomparably more solid than the sand dune, I was significantly less near death when we reached the top.

PHOTO OF ME AT TOP 811 3 11

Oddly the height and attendant fear of falling did not affect me in the usual wobbly way, although it may have contributed to me agreeing to this exchange-

HAT PHOTO milly GOT

I got quite irritable today finding some folk neurotic and faffing-a return to my normal form I guess. In the evening I walked into another tour's camp and then tried to get into my tent through the window. This reminded me how ridiculous I am and sorted me out.

Tomorrow we move on to Windhoek, capital of Namibia, and then the private game farm, where we spend the night. We hope to arrive in time for the feeding of the Cheetahs. After that we cross into Botswana.

By the way, in case anyone's texted or called me on my new phone number, it doesn't work in Namibia. It looks like it'll be back when I reach Kenya at the beginning of December, when England are one up in the Ashes. In meantime I’ll continue to check both numbers from time to time.

Day 12
510 km
Windhoek/Gobabis


Up 5.30, on road for 7-long drive today. Just had a cracking banana milkshake at the day's first toilet/cigarette/fuel stop. Am greatly looking forward to tonight's stop at the marvellously named Zelda's Guest Farm.

So, Zelda's had a little of everything. Magic and mayhem; meat and memories; sleaze and spirit.

Parts were a bit tacky-the plastic plants and china collectables around the bar and restaurant seemed out of place, but our campsite had a swinging seat in the middle. It was like a little piece of Juxon Street in Africa.

We got the tents up just in time to grab a beer before the feeding, which once again brought Road Trip to mind (you'll all watch it in the end). Rather than Tom Green feeding Mitch the python, we were in for Cheetahs and Tornado the Leopard.

I was quite dubious about it to start with-I was thinking zoo and touristy. However, my concerns were assuaged were when it was explained that the Cheetahs had been relocated (so that farmers wouldn't shoot them) and would hopefully end up in a place like Etosha; Tornado was the only survivor from an orphaned litter-so would have died without Zelda's; the meat was already dead, which I preferred, as I found the thought of a group of tourists photographing a kill distasteful. And unvegetarian.

The Cheetahs were up first; they were prowling round their cage and were very impressive, but weren't intimidating. Until the meat went in. The first to get meat jumped about 6 feet vertically in the air. That's how far the back legs were in the air. They fought each other and continued to jump for the remaining pieces until they all had one. If they wanted to, they'd tear you to shreds-mostly they leave humans alone.

PHOTO 816

At no stage did Tornado look safe, like a pussy cat or welcoming. Leopards will even eat their own kind. they're solitary and territorial, during the mating season two males may meet; if one is killed, then the winner and his lady friend will dine out on the loser. The leopard is much more muscular than the cheetah, tho apart from a longer tail, the dimensions looked pretty equivalent: a leopard can drag an animal 3 times its bodyweight up a tree (to keep it away from scavengers). I'd be no problem. It's facile to say how beautiful they are, but they are, with the most piercing and intelligent eyes. Apparently J Lo loves wearing the fur; someone should throw the silly tart in with Tornado. When she's done with her, Tornado could start on the trophy hunters. I'd like to go trophy hunter hunting-I sure as f@ck can shoot better than those morons-tho hitting their brains would need a very accurate shot. Rant over, here's Tornado.

PHOTO 826 4 11

Dinner threatened to get unpleasant-it was a buffet and the veggies were fairly screwed. In the end we had little choice. My vegetarian starter had meat in; I may have eaten some. A combination of vast quantities of wine and Milly talking 19 to the dozen stopped me losing it and kept my mind off it. Nasty moment.

After dinner we played some pool, and Milly was grabbed by sleaze barman and I had to do a comedy saving routine.

Just as things were deteriorating, and I kept drinking, we had a freakish bit of luck. I think sleaze waiter was more interested in Milly's company than mine, but he took us both back to Tornado-Milly asked if we were going to be raped.

He let us put our fingers through the wire of the cage and stroke her, which she loved. You could run your hand along her tail as she walked by, kinda purring. Initially we were quite cautious-only putting the fingers in once the head was past. As we got bolder, we both had the feeling of leopard's teeth brushing against our fingers-her mouth was closed. Really amazing and sobering.

We walked the length of her enclosure-she was behind us. Then in front, we never heard her pass us. If a leopard wants to kill you, it will.

PHOTO Milly GOT

Back to the bar and one last drink; sleaze barman managed to pick Milly off and Corinne sent me after them. After some more time with Tornado, we went to see the 4 Cheetah cubs. Then Pete the porcupine, who nibbled our fingers before we fed him desert cucumbers-Pete was a noisy eater.

PHOTO Milly GOT

I had a great time-all the animals and none of the cheesy chat up lines!

Day 13
516 km
Maun

I'm expecting a pretty quiet day-cross the border, camp and get ready for the moloko trip: we will take hollowed out boats up to the Okavango Delta and then it's the bush camp. No showers. No toilets. No facilities. Kinda Glastonbury with Hippos, Crocs and no bands.

Border crossing took minutes rather than the hours of the previous one and we reached Maun at 2.30. I spent much of the time on the truck focused on not being sick: the hangover, lack of sleep, lack of water, the heat and too much lunch proved a potent cocktail. Still, I kept it all in.

Roger, Geete and myself were the only ones not to take the scenic flight. As if I'm going to look out the window of a plane. We went for a drink and I was very anti-social: I wrote this and yesterday's entry!

Bit of a panic when packing my small bag for the bush camp, as I'll have nothing to wear that doesn't stink when I get back. Ah well

Day 14
0 km
Okavango Delta
APOLOIES-THIS BIT IS ESPECIALLY ROPEY AS I DIDN'T TAKE MY HANDHELD TO THE DELTA
Up early to get the bumpy 4x4 to the place where the molokos live; each one takes two passengers and we had some extras for cargo. Ohna was our poler; I may have been a bit heavy for the moloko as we had to stop so Ohna could bale us out and Milly got soaked.

PHOTO of moloko action 856 7 11

I know Swiss at least will be fascinated by the bush camp toilet facilities. A hole was dug out of sight, but very close to our camp (you don't want to walk a long way at night when the animals are out). There was a shovel, which you took with you when you went: this told everyone else the toilet was occupied, enabled you to shovel dirt on your business and provide some defence against marauding lions. When the hole was full, you asked for another to be dug. Somehow we got through 3-some of the group were clearly full of..........

We took a number of game walks in the Delta, and had close encounters with hippos and elephants in particular. I was fascinated watching the guide tracking the animals and even I knew what this was:

PHOTO me in footprint 840
PHOTO OF elephants 995 and both 6 11.


As you couldn’t venture out of the tents/shade during the day (we left for walks at 5.30 a.m and 5 p.m.) a lot of time was spent playing cards and backgammon.


Day 15
0 km
Okavango Delta

Very like punting-I think everyone tried a moloko. I gracefully poled Milly down to a neighbouring camp; she fell in on the way back-inevitably several people blamed me for her back flip. Ever

We went in pursuit of hippo by moloko and got really close (my better hippo photos are at Chobe), but it was quite something to be so near. And a touch disconcerting. After the hippos, the sun went down:



Day 16
300 km
Nata

Nata is just a stopping point between the delta and Chobe national park where we go on a game cruise tomorrow-crocs and water buffalo should make their debuts. Then the day after we go on a 4x4 game drive.

As we drove through one of the national parks on the way to Nata, we had a crazy half hour. We saw so many animals in about a couple of miles that it was like being at the zoo. Only rather better.

After we slowed down for a couple of giraffes, we came to an Elephant bachelor herd.



We'd barely started again, before there was a tree full of vultures-this was getting very Dumbo. We finished off with a herd of wildebeast. All of this within 15 yards of the road.

After dinner (and group 3's seemingly endless pile of washing up), there was much discussion t of the design of the tour t-shirt (the Nairobi 4 are getting an extra 'all the way' shirt). Looks like being the truck, route map, flags of visited countries, names and nicknames. I'm the bullshirter-the shirt part comes from my t-shirt collection; you can guess the other part. Maja is the Sloven Tourist Organisation.

The new t-shirts will be most welcome: a couple of mine are already pretty much finished. Yesterday's hand washing attempt seems to have only been a limited-my stuff still looks dirty, but no longer smells.

There was an incident at Waterberg that I failed to bring you. This is because I wasn't there, but it is definitely the best thing that's happened that I missed. The campsite at Waterberg had a circular swimming pool: Tsachi told me he saw 4 of our German friends doing circular laps of the pool.

Day 17
306 km
Chobe National Park


I don't seem to get hangovers in Africa-unless a stealth one develops later, I've had another undeserved escape. Milly and I cracked the first beer at 2 yesterday and drank beer and wine till we reached the campsite-we inspired Reine, Oliver and Heirwig to join the inaugural truck drinking session. After tent, dinner and bar (beer, wine and rum & coke), Milly raided the truck for more supplies. Calisto sleeps in the same part of the truck as the cooler, so we were careful to be really quiet; I spoke to him this morning-he was awake the moment the door opened. My apologies were accepted gracefully. It was a 12 hour session by the time we fell asleep.

Fried egg sarnie for breakfast must have helped too.

Just as well I was feeling sprightly this morning-we found a scorpion under Maja and Didi's tent and a baby one under Milly's. They were green instead of the black I’d expected.

Chobe cruise
PHOTO 899 elephant scratching
PHOTO 912 croc
PHOTO 925 Oliver's cold
PHOTO 918 hippos on land
PHOTO 996 cross hippos
PHOTO 930 hippo intrusion rather touristy

Day 18
90 km
Victoria Falls
Chobe game drive

SORRY VERY UNFINISHED BIT


Kudu PHOTO 960
Strange creatures PHOTO 963
PHOTO 965 ELEPHANT POSSE



We took a while passing through Zimbabwe immigration as they ran out of visas-they stamp lots of bits
We went to one of these adventure centres to book our activities
Thousands of dollars

Money exchange
black market
1000 zim dollars is a beer-any currency pegged to beer gets my vote

Day 19
0 km
Victoria Falls

How not to prepare for white water rafting
On the night before

  • Go on a sunset cruise on the Zambezi.
  • Find out the cruise is drink as much as you like.
  • Accept Milly's drinking game challenge.
  • Devise a bodyweight handicapping system. I have to drink 3 for every 2 of Milly's.
  • Decide my best tactic is to get an early lead, then try and hang on to it. Drink first 2 Zambezis (beers) very quickly.
  • Hang on the side of the boat watching the hippos and
  • 'Win' the drinking contest.

    TEAM PHOTO MILLY GOT
  • Get tired and emotional.
  • Make a speech thanking Eddie and Calisto as this is the last dinner with everyone.
  • Let the girls book me in for hair extensions and braiding.
  • 'dance' with Eddie, Milly and the local posse. We do an acapella version of The Lion Sleeps Tonight.
  • Worry Milly's passed out in the ladies; take half an hour to find she's passed out in her tent.
  • Doze off chatting with the group. Crash out. Second to bed-a new record.


On the day

  • Forget most of the above; then remember in pieces as the day unfurls.
  • Be unable to concentrate on the safety briefing.
  • Walk 700 feet down into the canyon, carrying a lot of equipment in the heat: this will bring on the beer sweats.
  • Get in a boat with Oliver, Maja, Milly, Roger and Didi-in this company I am classed as a strong man and have to sit up the front of the boat. We've not got a chance.
  • Flip the boat on rapid 3. Forget to hang on, forget defensive swimming, try to swim upstream to my boat, look scared, get indecisive, start swimming in between two boats, get rescued, exhausted.

The guides have never known a boat flip on such an easy rapid. By lunch we've flipped 3 times; the record for the full day is 6. We've got a chance. I feel I have passed into the shadows.


After lunch we start off worse than ever. From nowhere, we get it on the next tricky 4 rapids-they're back to back, flip at the first, you swim the next 3. From there the confidence flows The toughest rapid of the day is Oblivion-we're the only boat to get down unscathed. We've been laughing at the Germans, who are calling out the rhythm of their strokes-so this is major strike for team spirit.

Oliver's unlucky to get knocked out the boat at a child's rapid (and avoid my attempted diving save), but he's the only afternoon casualty. The walk back up out of the canyon (another 700 feet) is hard, but there's cold beer at the top: despite swearing off the booze hours earlier, I decide it'd be rude not to and have one. And another on the jeep back to town.

Brilliant day and the DVD's a blinder. Awesome dude, pass the Pepsi max.

Day 20
0 km
Victoria Falls


Today was the last official day of the tour, although Oliver, Gitte, Alex and Jessica leave tomorrow, while Maja and Reine flew out yesterday. It's a little sad that there was some bad feeling to finish with. We've all been given evaluation forms for the tour-mine said the guys were outstanding and I believe the guys I've been hanging out with said similar. Calisto and Eddie have been brilliant and worked so hard. It seems they have disappointed some of the group. I can't see how and don't know the details-only someone said they weren't entertaining enough. I think some people's expectations of this sort of trip were way off. Anyway some of us are going to e-mail Wildlife Adventures in support of the guys, and I'll speak to Calisto later to say I'm happy to talk to his head office if that helps.

Didi's friend Karen has arrived and seems really cool; our new truck has also arrived and we've found out there are 9 of us for the trip. I've bet the other 4 are 2 couples, Milly's gone with 1 couple and 2 singles. Once we've met them, there's also going to be betting on who will wear speedos.

It now transpires that we may have Calisto on the leg to Nairobi after all, which would be great. All to be confirmed tomorrow. We will have a new driver I haven't yet met.

The 'Cape Town-Nairobi 4' have had a day of consolidation. Bit of relaxing, sorting out our gear, saying goodbyes and so on. However, one line has been dominating my day-'don't let them dress you up like a giant cock'. Anyone who hasn't seen Spaced should go to Amazon now, where you must be able to buy a complete set on DVD. For everyone else, this is why:



For those, who are now inspired to go for a new look, it takes about an hour and a half and would cost a small fortune in England.

So, that pretty much declares it open season on me: bear in mind the sheer volume of abuse I am going to get for this and make sure the quality of your comment passes muster.

I guess I'm a man of my word: I may have been totally unaware of what I was agreeing to on Friday night, but I had agreed, so had little choice. Anyway, Milly was much more horrified than me at the prospect of her braids, so I was hardly alone in being dubious. I understand it was Corinne's fault more than anyone else. She and Maja had theirs done on Friday (just braiding, in case you're interested), so I only have a team photo with 2 of the architects of my downfall-the extensions 3, if you will.



Day 21
0 km
Victoria Falls

Hopefully one day Vic Falls will return to being named Mosi-oa-Tunya (the smoke that thunders) instead of having the ludicrous moniker that Livingstone thought appropriate because he fancied the queen. Names like Bombay, Ayer's rock and Madras have been thrown into the dustbin of history, so here's hoping.

Anyway, the falls are amazing: Roger, Milly and I had a pleasant 3 hours wandering around the national park in Zim ($20 for some government minister to ship out of the country). Strangely the falls seem to benefit from a lack of government input. They're left in a very natural state and due to a total lack of investment there's no tourist tat-you just walk and marvel at the views. Essentially the government gets its $20 and is happy; so by accident rather than design Vic falls kicks the butt out of the Niagara experience, which is just so tacky.



There is feeling that Zim is starting to turn the corner; I had a long chat with someone (best not to mention names), and we covered election fraud, entrapment of political "dissidents" and that even Mugabe can't last forever. Very much what I would expect to hear; very much what you don't want to be heard saying-hence this was a private one on one chat.

Tourist numbers are up-last year was pretty disastrous, but you still have the sense of a country struggling. I've had more people offering me tourist crap here than in the last 4 weeks put together.
Restaurants have regularly been without basic ingredients and the shops have been poor and empty compared to the other countries.

Day 22
600 km
Lusaka


I flew out of London 1 month ago, it seems soo much longer, but totally in a good way. I can't believe I have so far to go and so many things to see when I have I already done so much and made such good friends.

Another difficult border crossing; another problem with letters being faxed leaves us well behind.

This was the first seriously uneventful day. We got into Zambia, stopped to be attacked by flies at lunchtime, got to camp after dark, tents up, spag bol dinner and a Milly/John conflab on the new group dynamic.

I'm never really relaxed with significantly older people; I admit it's my problem, but like the naughty schoolboy I feel I am minding my Ps and Qs and that the pop culture references, which pepper my conversation, are falling on stony ground. So two retired Canadian couples, who know each other, wasn't quite what I was after. Camp dynamic isn't helped that they are having breakfast 45 min before Calisto said it would be ready. They're nice enough, but......

I am quite excited about the new groups we've got for helping with meals and so on. As there are 9 of us, we've gone with 3 groups of 3 (last time we had groups of 4): the three Karens are one group, 3 retired Canadian guys another and the braided hair posse the third. Sorted.

Tomorrow we drive 400km, then look for a village whose chief will let us camp, visit the school and meet the villagers. I'm trying to think of intelligent, non-patronising, non-offensive questions to ask; I tend to clam up when meeting the locals.

Day 23
413 km
Bush Camp

Had a tasty milkshake after buying a 5l box of wine at this morning's extended shopping stop-our new driver, STANFORD, had to get a yellow fever shot. Great name from drives, but I do miss Eddie-he used to call me Big Man (without me paying him).

We got to the school and had a substantial audience as we set up camp, which was new. Who knows what the kids thought of it-a bunch of tourists setting up their tents in the playground. We did the tour of the classes-basically saying hello to each class; they seemed to enjoy it!

By the end of the day Stanford had endeared himself-he's calling me Big John.

It was the night of the plagues-insects and rain. First during dinner, we were just attacked by swarms of insects. I had to be especially careful not to get any extra protein by eating the damn things. The insects did one service for us-they are excellent weather forecasters. We had a brief respite between them leaving and the monsoon arriving. Everyone else had an early night, Milly and I got the cards out and attacked the red wine. The rain went on for ages, so we just had to keep at the wine, which was pretty light the next morning. We were really lucky: Tom had to move his tent due to actual flooding-we were in no fit state.


Have done some more since, but it seems I can just write and write, so will have to call a halt and get a shower. I think it will be Oz before I can go back and sort the bits I’ve not written up fully.

Monday, November 13, 2006

I'm not dead

but at Vic Falls. I have a huge amount of blog to upload from my handheld, but am in a really slow internet cafe with no USB, so no photo or text upload possible.

I have been to a hairdresser tho.
Everything's brilliant.
When I can upload properly I will. Leave for Zambia tomorrow.

Love

John