Friday, 29 April 2016

Zambia 1

Arriving to the Zambian border control we were again pleasantly surprised to see things were fairly organised still - all customs, immigration and insurance were in the same building with signs! We had been told that the visa was in dollars only, but I had presumed you would be able to pay in local currency.. Well you could pay in local currency but not on a Sunday because the banks were shut and their card machine didn't work, and sadly it was a Sunday! Luckily Rob subbed us the money and 100$ later we were through. Well almost.. This was after paying road tax, environmental tax, insurance and council tax! They do know how to rip the tourists off.. It is the most we have ever paid on a border, and it was all legal with receipts to prove it!

We got through by 2pm and headed to Jolly Boys campsite and hotel in the centre of Livingstone. The site was another quirky place with lots of back packers staying there. The pool was inviting, and the restaurant served fantastic food! It was a good start to Zambia! We met lots of people there, and spent the evening chatting to medical students, local travellers and tourists from further afield, it was nice to get different perspectives of the places we had seen - overriding theme being why did we go to Angola as it is a dangerous country? This to me was strange as it was the one place we have felt safe and saw very few people when wild camping - different stories and histories all had a part to play in other people's perceptions I think!

Mandy's birthday was Monday and we had a lazy start to the day, we bought a cooked breakfast, swam and enjoying the sun and facilities. I had tried to FaceTime my family to wish my Dad a happy birthday with no luck - they were in Northumberland with no wifi! We packed up and moved onto the Livingstone water front lodge and camping where we were to meet Gill and Roger once they had crossed the border. We pulled into the car park, minding our own business, and realised we recognised two faces, Charles was about to say 'I recognise that car my Dad has one the same' and the penny dropped! It turned out to be Charles and Mandy's dad, Nev, and his partner Jenny. What an amazing surprise! They had driven up from South Africa to be there for Mandy's birthday and to see everyone! We were all very overwhelmed, Charles and Mandy especially. Sitting on the veranda with a drink we all caught up, we hadn't seen them since August 2014 so there was a lot to talk about! 

We went to set up camp and swam in the pool waiting for the others to arrive, we thought they would be there just after lunch but it wasn't until 4pm they arrived. Gill and Roger's Toyota turned into the camp with two roof tents and a double cab, something we definitely were not expecting - they brushed it off saying they had hired it after the chance of Rob and Mandy heading back to SA with them if their car had been unfixable in Angola. It was great to see them, hugs all around. Suddenly out of the bushes we heard some voices and as I turned around I realised it was my parents with British explorer hats on. It was a little bit like the BBC3 programme 'sun, sex and suspicious parents' (a British program where unruley teenagers go on holiday, do horribly stupid things whilst their parents watch on in secret.. At the end the surprise them!), luckily I wasn't doing anything embarrassing at the time! I was slightly taken aback and a little emotional but wow what a surprise, 'that's my mum' I apparently squealed and ran over for a hug. They had sneakily booked to come with Gill and Roger about 6 weeks ago, flown to SA with them and driven up! My Mum in a roof tent.. Camping!!! Something I never thought I would see and the reason I couldn't face time them! Feeling very lucky, we all cracked open a drink, lit the cake and sang happy birthday to Mandy and my Dad who share the same day! Braai, booze and catching up was on the menu.. What an evening! 

(Quick selfie of my mum and me!) 

Monday was spent going to see the Victoria falls, we had seen the spray from the campsite so it was exciting to be going to see it. We caught a bus in and because we wanted to go to the bridge between Zambia and Zimbabwe we went to immigration to get stamped out (you could upgrade your visa to a double entry to allow to go out and in again). Walking along the bridge you saw part of the falls and the torrent of water churning down the river! It was awesom and the noise wonderful. Arriving across the the bridge on the Zimbabwean side we went to immigration to find out if we could cross.. They wanted $55 per person to enter, as well as an entry fee for the falls, at that point we decided that was too much. Such a stupid system and they lost out on our tourism! Walking back over the bridge Charles decided he wanted to do the bungee jump, something he had turned down the last time he had been there and regretted it ever since. He tried to get me to do it which I was adamant I wasn't going to, it wasn't until Nev persuaded me to do it I changed my mind, hey you only live once! Feeling rather sick I signed the papers and the disclaimer, got weighed and had my number written on me. During this Mandy also got persuaded to do it so all three of us trooped over to the jump station. 

I had volunteered to go first knowing if I waited I would chicken out. I was starting to feel fine about jumping off a booth into a ravine as they put on my life jacket (worst case scenario) and harness, then ushered me out onto the platform. As they bound my legs together with the rope harness photos and video were being taken, and a safety briefing being reeled off.. I didn't hear a word just nodded and agreed..   Basically just jump. Before I knew it I was on the edge of the ledge and before I could say no they were shouting a countdown and off I jumped, well more like fell trying to fly at the same! Fifty thousand things went through my head all at once, mainly swear words but within 4 seconds I had come out of free fall and could just about open my eyes. They let me do a few bounces and then hang, the scenery was stunnig, even if it was upside down! Before I knew it a man had winched down to harness me the right way an off we went up to the struts of the bridge. Despite my shaking legs I managed to walk along enough to see Charles do his. He was far more up for it than me, doing a swan dive off the platform with a loud whooo at the bottom. Watching him bouncing there showed me how far you do bounce - when you are hanging there yourself you don't realise! I managed to get all the way across the other side of the bridge to watch Mandy, who despite shrieking rather loudly, looked very graceful! We were all very hyped after, adrenaline not yet worn off and I think we were all glad we did it! Going back to our parents was great because they had filmed it all, still cannot believe I did it! 

A celebratory beer and it was off to the falls on the Zambian side, walking back along the bridge Dad haggled for his first African souvenir.. A hippo (which has now been called Catherine.. Apparently not because of the likeness but of my new love for them!) and a photo with the man selling it - getting into the spirit nicely! We walked back through immigration, who didn't charge us as we hadn't got to the Zimbabwean side, and through to the falls. Walking down the steep slope towards it the noise slowly got louder and more pounding, we managed to catch glimpses of it through the trees and spray coming off it. Getting to the bottom the spray rain began, lightly to begin with on the first view point. Words cannot describe what we were seeing, the volume of water coming down, at the speed, with the noise and the rain, but in the heat of the day! Just phenomenal! We walked across the bridge and it was like a torrential down pour, everyone laughing at how wet we were getting, soaked through to the skin but with the stunning scenery and heat it was bizaar. We managed to walk along the falls catching glimpses of its magnitude every so often through the mist, and finally doubled back on our selves to see the top before the water hurtles down. Despite the fact we were dripping it didn't take long to dry off in the sun, and only left a slightly soggy patch on the taxi driver's seats on the way back. 

It was a quick change around before we had to be on the boat for a sundowners cruise, a largish boat with room for the 30 guests, a free bar and food. Grabbing a gin and tonic we headed off all marvelling at how lucky we were to be here with family on the Zambezi river, whilst the sun was going down. The food was lovely, as was the free bar, but most of all the wild life was fantastic! Lots of birds, pointed out to us by Gill, Nev and a young lad Alistair who knew everything about the wildlife (he was telling me they go on safari with the school!), and also hippos and crocodiles. By the time we got off the boat we were all rather merry, and decided an early evening dip in the pool was needed, it was and there was a lot of wrestling from the boys! Typical!

Wednesday we were up early again, not only because we were canoeing but to say bye to Jenny and Nev - at least this time it won't be as long till the next meet up! It was great seeing them, and spending time relaxing with them too. The rest of us were packed off into a bus for a 50 minute ride to the launch site. We were doing a whole days canoeing along the Zambezi with lunch in the middle! We had blow up, two man canoes which were rather yellow but roomy! Luckily we were with three guides, and also the current so it wasn't too strenuous and we could watch the wildlife. In the morning we saw lots of birds, some hippos and crocodiles and by lunch (cold meats and sandwiches), we were all buzzing about what we had seen eager to get off again. The afternoon session was also fantastic, canoeing past beautiful luxury waterfront lodges and smaller island dwellings, we managed to see more birds and some elephants having a bath! What a way to see the wildlife and surrounding area, a really great day! Evening came and we were all fairly shattered, it was shower, braai and a beer!

We were leaving Thursday morning for Kafue national park but before we went Dad and Rob went up in a microlite over the Victoria Falls. They were extatic when they came back having seen it, and also some of the Zambezi national park on the Zimbabwean side. We all wished we had done it, but looking at the video later on was fantastic! They both enjoyed it, saying you could see so much and the geography of the land made so much more sense! Definitely something to do if you go! Cars all packed and breakfast eaten (luckily not but the monkeys)  we headed off, not before a trip to shoprite to get supplies.. Buying for 8 people for three days is hard and time consuming, however we were soon on the road travelling up north. Arriving at the National Park we were too late to go in but were told we could camp there for free and head on in early in the morning. This was Mum's first less luxurious camping experience however she handled it well, I think the rising full moon, stars and well cooked food helped! Dad had great fun chatting to the locals and ended up giving half of his 18 pairs of pound land socks, and a pair of very old trainers he was going to chuck as well as a solar panel charger, away! He had seriously over packed so had found a good cause for things to go to!

The alarm went off very early and we were ready to leave by the opening time 6am however in true African style the gate keepers did not arrive till 7am even though he knew we wanted to be in early. All paid up (a mission in itself - it is good Dad and Gill can add up) we got into the park. It was a short drive through the village and into the wild. We travelled all day but saw very little, some birds, but that was about it, it was a shame but we thought would cut our losses and head to camp, Nazinga plains lodge. They had just reopened and were slightly rusty with everything, but the main camp building was stunning and the camping facilities ok. We had a sundowner on the veranda overlooking a grassy watering hole praying for lions however non came, but again lots of birds. Another braai in the evening, with a few beers was appreciated and the plan talked about for the next day. We woke up to lion growls but they we too far away to see so we packed up, and headed to the main lodge to have breakfast on the veranda (seeing lion tracks 10m from where were camped). The sunrise, birdwatching and bacon provita (a cracker like biscuit.. They are amazing) was great fun and it was not long before we were back on the road again.

Day two in the park was only vaguely more successful, Impala, puku, zebra and again many birds - it was so hard to see with such long grass everywhere. The grass also making it hard to see the tracks of the roads meaning Roger got to do some off roading every so often. We stopped for lunch within the park - provita, cheese and chutney - but drove most of the day, which included a dash for the campsite as the gates were beginning to close. We arrived at hippopotamus bay campsite and met the  manager, Ruth, she got all the paperwork done and we drove out to the campsite which was situated behind the reeds next to the lake. A fire had already been lit for our dinner and also the hot water so all we had to do was put the tent up, cook and relax, Charles spent some time on top of the Landrover trying to see hippos but we could only hear them - they have a low, laugh like call which makes me chuckle every time I hear them. Dinner was chicken, bean salad and curried potato, another successful meal! The early mornings and late evenings had caught up with most of us so it was bed by 10! 

Waking up the next morning we packed up and drove back to the main bush camp for another breakfast overlooking the wildlife. We headed back out into the park to try and spot more animals, and hopefully have a more successful day than the previous ones. Within an hour we saw lots of one species of animal, just not the one we wanted.. Tetzi flies! There were so many - it was unbelievable and they liked to bite us.. It got so bad we had to close the windows, something we haven't done this whole trip. The car was sweltering and we spent more of the day swatting and killing them than spotting animals.. Rob counted 127 dead ones, I think ours matched that. It made watching out for wildlife tricky but it was just hilarious. Walking along the road was a wild dog, something you do not see very often, as it walked back into the undergrowth 4 more were spotted - they are very beautiful with dappled coats, and huge ears! After this sighting we were all hot, bothered and bitten to death.. And wanting a beer. Since clearing out most of our car the top is now free so I could army crawl towards the back to get a cold beer and boiled egg without getting out the car (in fear of being eaten alive due to the swarms of tetzi flies surrounding our car). Mandy had the same idea and it was very amusing watching their car and the parents car pull up alongside each other and quickly exchange the goods! Sadly I had been bursting for the toilet for a while and realised I had to brave it.. I will leave the rest to the imagination but it wasn't a pleasent experience. 

We arrived at Kasabushi camp hoping there would be a relief from the tetzi flies. Luckily they don't like the water so as we arrived they filtered off. We were met by Libby and Andy who showed us about their bush camp which will be open in July. They are the first owners we have met to offer a tour of the place to campers, which is something we often want to do, and they were obviously proud of what they had done. Rightly so, the main camp area was stunning - a circular building with a roof made out of canvas sails - a real modern twist to the norm. The two lodges were in stunning locations on the river, next to a pod of hippos and again were finished to such a high standard. We were looking forward to the campsite! The campsite had been open about a year but it was immaculate - clean and modern toilet block, with pitches by the lake. Little touches such as candles as it got dark and fire wood just were the icing on the cake. The highlight was the shower- the best in Africa I recon - which was almost like a waterfall! Mum quickly decided she was going to stay here for ever, and we were in agreement. Dinner was a mish mash - something we are very used to now.. In my mind I always have a vague idea what we have food wise so when there is no obvious choice I rack my brains and come up with a random dinner! The parents were still impressed.. jacket potatoes, braaied onions, egg mayo, salad and couscous but it was fab! Amazing what you can do with a bit of imagination! The stars that night were so clear, the moon took a while to rise and it was the parents first proper African sky of the trip - you could see all the constellations as well as the Milky Way. We were up at the crack of dawn again for a breakfast boat ride which was three hours of a guided tour up the river. Again another fantastic outing - Andy know so much about wildlife and we saw loads of birds as well as hippos which are fast becoming my favourite animal! We saw up and down stream, and moored alongside a tree to eat our cereal! It was three hours well spent at a fantastic price too! I would thoroughly recommend going to Kasabushi camp, in hindsight I would have spend the three nights there instead of the three different campsites! Getting back we packed up and headed to Lusaka to head towards Livingstone. It was a long day of driving and we arrived at the campsite late..I think everyone was tired but a few beers later and some amazing steaks - well done Charles (alongside an accidentally roasted cucumber), we were all able to relax and enjoy the evening.

For our last day together we wanted to do the last 500km to get back to Livingstone so our parents could cross the border on the Wednesday. Things were going swimmingly until Rob went to pull away and his foot went all the way to the floor.. His clutch slave cylinder had gone (much like ours in Mali and Angola). This was not a problem he said, he could drive all the way without one. So off we went.. About 100km in and Rob had more problems. There was a noise and what we thought was the transfer box, he carried on until more damage was being done so we stopped and it was decided we would tow him.. All the way! Sadly (or luckily depending on how you read the rest of the paragraph), we were stopped at a checkpoint and told it was illegal to tow using rope (luckily because we were tourists they let us off). Whilst we were towing Rob, Roger, who was driving behind, said over the radio that his back left wheel was wobbling (which could have been the noise) .. We pulled over into a lay by with Rob deciding if he could change the wheel baring he would just driving it to Livingstone, a job which would take an hour max. We all had lunch whilst Rob was doing this, however 3 hours, 3 locals and a mechanic later and the cover was unable to be shifted, apparently the wheel bearing had swollen in the heat and affected the rubber seal (or something along those lines). By this time it was 2pm and we knew we would be unable to make Livingstone before dark with everyone sane! It was decided to head to the mechanics, with the boys staying there, and the rest of us go to the camp site. As I said earlier it worked in our favour, the camp site was lovely, we still had some light, our parents could repack their bags and we could eat there. It was a great evening and a lovely end to our time together, despite it not playing out we all adapted and we all were happy, Dad had even written a poem for the week which was very funny and evoked a lot of good memories - he has also written a diary about the week which with some persuasion he may post on here! 

The morning was hard, knowing there was a goodbye looming. We were staying at the campsite but our parents had to get to Livingstone, cross the border and get to Chobe in Botswana before dark! A long drive! We had bacon and provita with lots of coffee and tea for breakfast and before we knew it, It was time for them to leave. Granted it wasn't as hard as when we left the UK but it wasn't easy, there were a few tears, but lots of happiness with the week or so we had spent with them! All of us saying what a great time it had been! Fingers crossed we will see them all in South Africa when we get there. With it being back to the four us, normal service resumed. We had such a fantastic week with them all, we were thoroughly spoilt and being with them felt like a holiday in itself.. We did so much we would normally do and it was great to see this country through fresh eyes! I am so proud of my Mum for coming, she is a reluctant camper but I think we have converted her.. Camping and Caravan club watch out!

The next two days was spend Washing, cleaning the cars and doing the odd jobs that needed to be done.. Charles managed to wire in the electric cable for the fridge Mum and Dad had brought over and we managed to get rid of most of the dust and dead tetzi flies floating about the car! It felt like we had a productive couple of days and touched ground. We have been driving pretty crazily for the last few months so I think we are all looking forward to taking it slow from now on. We all have some pretty big decisions to make. The four of us are splitting up, Charles and myself are heading north to get to Uganda to meet Fred Mutebi, an artist there, and Rob and Mandy are undecided! 

We returned back to Livingstone without any problems, went back to the Waterfront Logde not before heading to Foleys Landrover dealer. We spent a pretty penny all of us.. We needed vaccume pump, air filter, wheel taker offer (that is the correct term I am sure), and Rob needed a few bits! It was odd turning up at the Waterfront again without the family but it felt like it was full circle! I leave this now in happy hour at the bar over looking the Zambezi and the spray of the falls! Zambia you have only impressed so far, and it has been a couple of weeks I will not forget! 

#africa #overlanding #travelling #thisisafrica #zambia 

Sunday, 17 April 2016

Namibia visit 1

I call this blog visit 1 because we are only passing through the top of Namibia to get across to Zambia to meet Charles and Mandy's family on 18th April. We are driving across the Caprivi strip to cross the border, however, it has worked out well this way as it really is something we would not have done if we headed straight to the southern parts of Namibia!  We will visit Namibia again later on in our trip and go down south to see more of the country!

The border to get in was simple, more high tech as well! Coming out of Angola we had our photos taken and all data was transferred electronically, this was a first! It was only the language barrier that caused an issue however google translate came in handy a couple of times along with some guess work and large arm movements! Arriving on the Namibian side our tyres were sprayed, and our feet disinfected.. Charles thought it was because of a recent outbreak of foot and mouth in the southern countries. I can't imagine them spraying our tyres would have done much good considering how dirty and muddy the car is all over but the lady doing it was fantastic, very funny and outgoing which made the experience amusing! We went into immigration and got stamped in (no visa required), but had to pay road tax (242N$ which is about£12). There are about 20N$ to the £ which makes the calculations quite easy! Getting through to the customs was also simple and we were out driving on the left hand side in no time - This is the first time since England we had driven on the left hand side and it very strange! The boys were extatic they could now use the mirrors correctly and I was just happy I wasn't on oncoming traffic duty any more when overtaking!

Coming out of the border there was a pick and pay.. Again another South African thing.. Charles and Mandy were in heaven! Before we knew it our basket was full of beer (Windhoek a local Namibian beer) and various ciders.. Hunters and Savannah with other treats including biltong and crisps. The prices were so cheap, a six pack of cans came to £2. We decided we may like Namibia! I am pretty sure we have visited a supermarket every day since being in Angola and Namibia., the novelty of getting all your food in once place has yet to wear off! Leaving there we headed to a camp site, I hadn't been very well over the last few days.. Sore throat and a cold (in the heat in Africa?!), so some rest was needed! We arrived at a lovely little place which was being done up for renovation but the facilities were really nice! Rob instantly got aquatinted with the animals there, picking up and holding a goat which gave him so much joy, along with a duck who couldn't wait be let go!  Tent went up at 3pm and I went to bed until the smell of the fire being lit dragged me up! Dinner was another fire and sadly for myself again an early night! Everyone had agreed that a day of rest was probably needed, so we spent the Sunday at the camp site.. I was feeling slightly better but was looking forward to not having to sit in the car all day! Washing was done - sheets, clothes and other bits and bobs, car was cleaned and re-packed. Things you don't get a chance to do when driving non-stop. It was nice to be able to get things sorted out and fixed - the boys spent the evening with their heads under the bonnets, it seems that since the Congo the cars have decided to give up a little with new rattles and things coming loose every time we turn on the engine! Around lunch time we headed out to the shoopping mall - things have got very Western again! Our clothes have taken a bit of a beating what with the mud, hand washing and wringing out, so we found a cheap clothes shop and stocked up on basics and also on some slightly smarter clothes too. The prices were unbelievable again, I picked up two vests, some shorts and a dress for £10. It is nice to now own clothes that are slightly smarter especially when you go out, driving is fine is scruffy clotthes because they just end up muddy and sweaty, I just need somewhere to wear them now!

The boys could smell the KFC there so we decided to give it a try. Sadly, like most of Africa, when ordering food you must have at least 3 choices - normally they don't have the first two choices and this time was no different! They had nothing but chicken strips and snack burgers. Undeterred we got some of each! It was ok. KFC like but the boys were happy and we were all very full! Heading back to the cars we finished putting washing back and lit another fire. Evening came around and it was pork chops and salad for dinner. The meat since Angola has been really nice, you can buy actual cuts of meat instead of chunks of what ever they pull off the animal! It is welcomed having meat on the plate. we even had some feta cheese and ice berg lettuce! Living the high life now!

(The owners of the site had a parrot which, as we were leaving plucked up enough courage to come and perch near us!)

After relaxing for a few days, and working out how many km we had to do before Livingstone, we decided to press on. The roads so far have been pretty perfect, tar and open - you can see the livestock before it jumps onto the road in front of you! Since southern Angola there has been a lot more farms, something we haven't seen really since Togo and Benin. This is the same in Namibia - lots of agriculture and farming going on - it seems to pay well here also as there is a lot more farm equipment and good irrigation systems. Lots of livestock as well, next to the roads it is common to see heards of cattle (really beautiful colours), goats, horses and donkeys.. You just have to watch out for them on the road - I can see why driving at night is dangerous! The sky is back to the very blue colour it was in Morocco and the clouds look like marshmallows for miles around! It really is stunning. The general accomodation is still the same, just more well kept and often had a reed fence around each housing unit. It looks a lot smarter and tidier than huts just everywhere. There has also been less rubbish, we have even seen recycling bins in some villages!

The first day we did about 150km to get to a small village, and the second doing about the same distance to a river lodge! We had read on iOverlander that it was stunning and the pitches were rather luxurious (camping standard). For £10.50 each pitch got its own shower, toilet, sink, BBQ and seating area - we chose two adjoining and went in search of the bar! The place had wifi so it was time to chat to family, and then friends in the evening which was really lovely!

We travelled about another four hours down the Caprivi strip and arrived at the Negepi lodge. We had been recommended it by two people and the place was just fantastic! Right by the river, the camp spots and little river lodges were spread out across the site. The main hub had verandas over looking the river with hammocks and wooden animals dotted about. The river was very swollen and crossing the normally dry road to get into the camp the water came up to our bonnet, the boys loved it! The rains, we were told, had not fallen here but in Angola a few months ago but the water had now finally come into Namibia! Funnily enough in Angola we had been told there had been very heavy and unexpected rains at about that time. The afternoon was spent in the national park on a game drive. This was my first ever so I was very excited, however I wasnt the only one!

Within the first few minutes of being in the park we had seen a wilderbesat and then some elephants. The elephants were different to the ones in Burkina, a lot bigger and darker gray! The animals just kept coming, next to the water hole we saw a  heard of sable which are very rare, Charles was extatic as we were about 10m from them all. Behind them were more elephants and zebra.. Our guide was into his collective nouns and told us a group of zebra is a dazzle of.. 

(The sable with the elephants in the back group) 

Leaving there we drove through the bush on a 4x4 track, despite the car being very noisy and us going very fast the animals were not shy! We saw so much.. Impala, lechwe, sesbe, kudo andbush Buck all grazing, again not shy at all! Running across the road we saw a monitor lizard and many mongooses, in the air a crimson breasted strike - there were lots a beautiful birds about, our guide knowing every one! 

All of a sudden our guide came to a grinding halt, slinking into the bush was a leopard. We only caught a glimpse of it, but it was amazing. Our guide, Theo, was so excited, amazing game drive he keep repeating. It was the first time since working at the lodge his guests had seen one on a drive! We counted ourselves very lucky and word of our success did filter through the lodge that evening! 

After seeing the leopard we didn't think it could get much better, the sun was beginning to go down as we crossed the river. Floating around happily were 7 hippos, much bigger than in Burkina. Again they were happy to let us sit there even showing us their mouths, again according to our guide showing God they have no fish! Along this route we also saw giraffes, so graceful (giraffes walking are a journey of giraffes, and standing still are a tower of giraffes!), buffalo, warthogs, ostrich and many birds! We were just so lucky, even Charles and Mandy were impressed, Mandy even got a little overhwelmed! For me, I counted myself so lucky, to spend a couple of hours in a park for the first time ever and see so many beautiful animals! Someone must have been smiling down on us! 

We travelled further down the Caprivi strip and ended up at an amazing 5* lodge, camping was expensive however it offered a view over the wet grasslands, along with an amazing toilet block and kitchen area. They offered a pool next to a terrace where we spent the afternoon. We had woken up early that morning so Charles and I went for a run along the river bank (exercise has not been the top priority on the trip so it was hard work), hearing a splash we stopped to see a mother and baby hippo sunning themselves in the river! The coolness of the morning was lovely, and by the time we got back to camp everyone was awake and we had breakfast in front of the stunning view. These lodges are stunning, all of them, however you really need a lot of money, and be there on a holiday specifically at the place to appreciate them.. Going on game drives and boat trips etc is what they offer and for the casual camper it can be expensive. 

Leaving there we drove around the bulb of the strip and to Katima the border town, on the road we had gone from livestock next to us to elephants, ostriches, warthogs and baboons! Every so often we would come to a grinding halt to observe the animals - very strange experience! We had a couple of nights to play with and turned up at the Caprivi house boat site. Another quirky site set on the banks of the Zambezi - with its own resident croc - we settled down for an afternoon of fishing for the boys and book downloading for us! We spent the evening with a fire chatting to the other guests and went to bed at a normal time! This place offers boat safaris, you spend a week on the boat along the Zambezi watching wildlife and seeing the sites - something I would love to do! 

On the Saturday we had a lazy morning, utilising the Internet and tracking Gill and Roger who were making good progress in their way to meet us. We ate our breakfast and trying to keep up the exercise did some circuits - in a 2 day rolling streak and I am feeling.. Can't believe I used to go to the gym so often at home, very out of practise!

(Chaka my spotter during the circuits)

Charles and I also managed to get rid of another box making the car tidier and also more open at the top. Washing was also done and left out in the sun to dry. The heat here in Namibia is a dry heat, a lot less sweaty and humid than some of the other countries, which makes it easier to perform daily chores! We we sitting next to the river when we were called out to the front, the owner had managed to catch a baboon spider, one of many they have here. Its was just smaller than his palm and brown and hairy. It is the first big spider we have seen but it was very docile! They live in holes in the ground jumping out on unsuspecting prey as it scuttles by! 

Mid afternoon and all Charles' Christmases came at once, Rachel, one of the workers there, had the previous night said he could go on her motor bike. Normally when people say things like that we don't get our hopes up because there is often alcohol involved, or it is brushed over the next day. However when she came out with an orange helmet and the keys Charles face was a picture. He took the bike around the surrounding villages and was a very happy boy! The stay at the boat house was really pleasant, it's quirky additions, laid back attitude and self service bar was a recipie for success! Very glad we came here!

Our week in the northern part of Namibia was over, but we are so looking forward to coming back in a few months to visit the rest of it! What an amazing country!

Saturday, 9 April 2016

Angola 3

Leaving Lobito we stopped off for supplies and headed down South alongside the coast. It was a long day of driving, having come off the tar and onto fairly bumpy piste. Charles is not good on these roads because every 30 seconds he has his head out of the window checking for new rattles! The landscape changed dramatically, we had gone from lush vegetation to baron desert. Greens to yellows and oranges. 

We headed down a track to find somewhere to stay and ended up on top of a cliff overlooking a fishing village and a large expanse of the sea. The breeze gave some relief from the sweltering heat and we set up camp for the night.

Moving on towards Lobango the next morning we spend about 40km on dirt roads.. It was frustrating as there was a new road half built next to it but we were unable to use it due to blockages and high banks built either side.. It seemed like it had been this way for years. There were bridges built in the middle of nowhere but no roads to leading to or from them.. Their only use was as shelter for cattle herds! This continued until out of know where came a brand new petrol station and perfect tar. We just couldn't believe it. The road again, however, was littered with bridges without roads so every few kilometres you had to go on the piste around them! 

With the coast on the left and desert on the right it made for some spectacular views. Along the way we saw little villages with fields of green vegetables. Again surreal against the Orange sand!

By 12 we were both hungry and looking for somewhere to stop for lunch. Charles has seen on the points of interest there was a ship wreck about half an hour away so we went down a dirt track expecting to see a fishing village and the ship wreck. We arrived to beautiful houses spanning across the bay and a rusty ship wreck on the shore line. It was totally not what expected! We took some photos and ate our ham and cheese sandwiches watching the ladies fish in the sea. Leaving there we headed towards the Serra de Leba, a road winding up the side of the mountain. Getting there it was 1200m of a climb up the steep slope of the mountain. We started the go pro and off we went. On each bend there was art work depicting different scenes, with the climb getting steeper as we went up. Half way up we heard a crack, the go pro had come off. I ran down the hill to find it.. We were lucky, the go pro holder had snapped, it was lying on the road with the camera procariously hanging from the side .. Very close to loosing it! 

We arrived at a camp site in Humpata and settled in for the night. We had a few visitors.. The local stray dogs and the children shouting 'amigo' through the fence. Again in Angola we have had a lot of attention from people wanting something!

Next morning we had decided to do a bit of sightseeing in and around Lumbungo. A day of driving but not full on like the previous day. We set of towards a waterfall marked on the waypoints.. Down a dirt track until we reached a road block (a tree). We set off on foot over meadow like terrain, lots of wild flowers and butterflies. Long grasses which were greens and Pinks. Very pretty! Towards the end of the track we were rewarded by a small but stunning waterfall! The pool at the bottom could definitely have been swum in.. Shame we didn't come prepared! 

Heading towards Lumbumgo we stopped at shoprite (I am pretty sure we have spent most of our budget in these stores. That's what happens when you have a South African in a South African owned supermarket..). We stopped for lunch and headed up to Tundavala. We were not sure what to expect but heading up on cobbled roads to beautiful scenery we couldn't be disappointed. The rocks across the land looked like the Giants Causway, and for the third time in as many days we had a change of vegetation. No longer the oranges but green and space, much like the Alps in summer. 

As we got to the top (2230m) the cloud started rolling in over the roads and up from the valleys below. We went to look at the view point and saw nothing but clouds. Within about 3 minutes the sun was beginning to burn through and from the clouds came a very deep valley. It was amazing, our photos did not do the place justice. You could see over the mountains for miles around, the green valleys fading into blue in the distance. Just stunning.

(The view from another view point)

Coming back down the mountain we stopped off at a rather post restaurant and had a drink! Sitting in the sun .. We could not complain! 

We headed back down and met up with Rob and Mandy who had caught up with us. We went for a catch up drink and as the heavens opened we drove back to the farm camp. It was a brrai and lots of talking. Charles and I really enjoyed our time travelling alone for the week. We proved to ourselves we could do it and managed to stay on good terms throughout.. Often a challenge! 

After revisiting a couple of the places we had been so that Mandy and Rob could do some touristy things we headed south to being the process of crossing the border. 

We have loved Angola and it worth the hassle and stress we went through to get the visa. It is full of people who are proud of their country and what it has to offer.. And it had a lot to offer! From the bustling cities with all the western comforts, to the pouring green waterfalls; the arid and orange desert to the stunning white sand beaches. The country has it all and somewhere definitely worth a second visit! 

Monday, 4 April 2016

Angola 2 .. based on 'we are going on a bear hunt'

I have used this title for various reasons! I like the book.. I have acted it out with year 1s many a time, but I chose it because when I first met Kristina we chatted about children's books (she is also a teacher) and this book came up. With it being in my mind, every time we have been over a pot hole (and the last few weeks we have been through many), I keep saying.. We can't go over it, we can't go under it, we can't go around it.. We've got to go through it! Funny what sticks with you!

Spending time at the yacht club allowed Rob to buy the water pump he realised he needed going into M'Banza Kongo. Luckily Andrew knew somewhere and one was bought on Monday within a couple of hours! Mandy and I had sent the boys off to sort out the water pump and SIM cards whilst we had a lovely hot shower, and sorted out our lives on the wifi at Andrew and Kristina's house! We had obviously pulled the short straw! By the time the boys had got back I had managed to face time the family (first since Lagos) and order some book for Charles' Mum to bring over! We stayed at the house until around 5 when Kelse picked us up and we all went to dinner at a place called Miama Restaurant. We watched the sun go down across the sea with a beer or gin and tonic and ate some amazing food! I had squid - like I have never had it before - and it was devine. Other dishes comprised of chicken, fish and duck. 

The next day Rob attempted to fit the water pump, we managed to have a lie in and have breakfast.. Something we haven't been doing whilst getting onto the road quickly! Sadly the new water pump was faulty, there was a crack in it. Luckily where we were staying a fleet of cars belonging to a company were parked there, the drivers were very curious about what was going on, and when Rob realised he needed to get to the shop one guy who could speak English and Portuguese offered to walk with him to get it replaced! Another incidence of the friendliness of people in Angola. By the time Rob got back he was hot and just wanted to get the pump fixed. In no time it was done. We had been told to head to the fort in the middle of Luanda so at about 2pm we walked up the hill to get to the fort. Entrance was 100 Kwanzas and it was well worth it. In the middle of the fort was a museum with beautiful hand painted tiles, and then up onto the fort walls you could get a 360 degree view of Luanda. The view was  amazing but also very saddening. On one side was the Luanda that had been renovated.. Beautiful walkways, stunning glass buildings, palm trees and hotels over looking the sea.. On the other side favella type estates spreading as far as the eye could see.. Again a real contrast! It was like when we arrived in Luanda. Walking back to the car we stopped for a drink on the new harbour walk way, lots of people stopped for drinks or doing their evening exercise! We were picked up by Kelse and Andrew to go to an Etheopian restaurant. The food was amazing, large pancake/oat cake type thing (about 75cm circumference) with different sauces and meat on top.. You shared with others and ate with smaller pancakey like rolls. Hard to explain but very good! Before we ate we had discussed routes for our upcoming trip through Angola. We said our goodbyes, feeling very lucky we had met these guys!

(Route planning)

The alarm went off at 6 to head off towards the Calandula water falls. However there was a slight problem.. Over night Rob's car had leaked oil from the exhaust. He decided to head towards the supermarket and make a decision from there. Heading out from the yacht club it was apparent it was serious, we were behind them and could not see. Along the way a policeman stopped us to fine them for the smoke but luckily they told him they were headed for a machanic and after a power trip he let them go. It was decided to head to the mechanic. After waiting 3 hours for the car to be washed and for it to go on a test drive the turbo came out (Rob had already realised it was this). We realised some decisions would have to be made but decided to wait until the evening to make them. Poor Andrew and Kristina, who thought they had gotten rid of us, had Charles and myself over during the afternoon (after going to shoprite.. A South African super market.. Bovril, Mrs balls chutney.. You can buy in tesco so try it, as well as grape Fanta and some supplies for the next few days!). Mandy and Rob arrived with Andrew, later on that evening and we learnt that despite contacting every mechanic in Luanda there was no turbo around. Rob ordered one that evening but it would not be delivered until the next week... After some amazing stew, with salad (including rocket!), and a lot of wine we all found a place to sleep. It was decided that Charles and I head off alone and meet up with mandy and Rob further down the line. 

The alarm was not a welcome sound after the amount we drank the night before but by 7am we were on the road to the water falls. 3 hours down the line and the clutch decided not to work any more.. Charles got out the car, looked under It and realised the clutch slave cyindar (it activates the clutch), was now not bolted down.. In fact the bottom bolt wasn't even in. The holes had lost their thread.. He tried for an hour to make something work, including super glue, PTFE tape, and paracord. We ended up messaging Andrew (his new nickname being AK recovery), and he told us to head to the next town, Dondo, where there was mechanic. We covered the 15km with no clutch.. Got there and some very helpful Chinese men guided us to the mechanic. 7 men, one electric drill, at least serval various different bolts, 3 different worried looks from Charles.. Plus 2 beers (the mechanics beers), and it was done. It cost us a lot but it worked and meant we could get on our way! By this time we were very much off schedule and once the rain kicked in at 5pm and it got dark we realised for our safety we needed to find somewhere to camp. We found a road off the main highway and snuck into a grassy area. The rain was pouring down but we manage to make chorizo pasta, but were in bed by 8.. Asleep by half 8! 

(Attempting to fix the car without Rob.. A scary thought! After charles was so covered in oil he had to have a shower on the side of the road!)

The next morning we finally had a use for our rain macs as it was still drizzling.. By the time we were on the road the sun was burning through and after a couple of hours we got to the water falls.. Finally! We were rewarded with the most stunning sight. Even driving up you could see the mist coming off them, Charles was happy! The water falls themselves emitted such a noise, with swallows dancing in and out it was magical! We were hounded by boys trying to make a living but feigning ignorance and no Portuguese helped! We felt lucky to be there and see it! Moving on we wanted to camp next to the Pedras Negras (the black rocks), which were a sight to behold km away. Huge rocky structures (much like the ones in Burkina), jutting out the ground in front of us made them hard to miss. We climbed up to the to tourist spot and were rewarded with stunning views.. Even took a few selfies! Despite the Local policeman miming we could stay there for free, the rain had started and we decided to head to a spot Andrew had recommended. There was a steam and we needed a bath! Arriving there some local boys were bathing and washing their clothes.. After the normal heckling they came over and tried to chat, looking at our paper maps and taking photos! There were very lovely, but we were glad when they left so we could use the stream! After two long days of driving, washing clothes and ourselves was a luxury! It was different, however, washing in a fairly obvious stream.. Charles has no issue .. Myself.. I am not yet quite that bold! That evening we cooked some steak and rice and sat on the rocks watching the sunset.. Fairly romantic even for us! The rain kicked in and it was another early night! What an amazing day!

(This needs no explanation

Waking up the next morning, we got out of the tent to some awesome mist. The mountains around us were invisible.. I can only compare it to a white out in the Alps. The tent went away soaking but we knew it would be out again. We wanted to head towards the coffee farm. Hitting the dirt road we knew we had 36km before it.. By the time we had driven 26km, due to the amount of water, we could not go any further. The roads (piste?!) were slippy, full of potholes along with deep ruts either side making it dangerous. It was here were realised our limits and despite there being only about 10km left, a slippery rocky incline stopped us. We were insanely frustrated, but at the same time looking back on it I am proud we knew where our limits were. With just us two and one car it could have ended in a bad situation. Adapting to one car, after being two cars plus a machanic is a shock! Also having broken my phone the night before, we had no means of communication! We got back to the main road to Quibela but it was not much better. The pot holes were up to 75cm deep, and in places it was safer to drive around the outside. It was like this for 40km, then more sporadic for 10km with the last being amazing tar.. By this point it was 5pm and we knew we needed to stop. Simone had told us about a cattle ranch on the outskirts of Quibella where they had stayed a few days before.. Ask for Bruno they said. At the gate we asked this but the security spoke only Portuguese, having no idea what he said I replied trying to mime to speak to the chief, but also said French. Luckily a coworker of his was coming out who could speak French. I explained about our friends staying here and could we speak to Bruno. He let us in and we drove onto this cattle ranch, the grass was almost electric green (we found out later it was imported from Brazil), and the Bulls HUGE! We met Bruno, and it was lucky he was in! Normally on a Saturday night he is in the bar but his son was ill so he was at home. He greeted in fluent English (he is from Portugal), he told us to park up, and over a beer told us about himself, his work and his life. Interesting man and another example of someone who is willing to help. Charles and I keep saying if more people came to the UK overlanding we would happily put people up! If you are one of those people please get in touch! He offered us a shower, toilet, water and some advice.. Get your dinner cooked before the storm. Over the tops of the mountains we could see the Lightning. As we ate our dinner it was coming over the mountains and by the time we had showered it was over us. The sound in our tent was insane, as if someone was shooting a gun. I was slightly nervous to Charles' amusement Luckily after an hour it had passed with no casualties. 

We headed towards Sumbe, and the roads were perfect. We hit shoprite by lunchtime (never good to shop when you are hungry), and headed towards the caves by the afternoon. Andrew had given us the coordinates, luckily, otherwise we would have missed them. We drove down a rocky road to the parking lot.. Luckily a family had just come up from there and spoke amazing English. They advised us to take a guide down and organised him. Our guide was only about 8.. However he walked down the mountain as if he was going for a stroll. It is funny, sometimes it is easier to converse with a child in another language than an adult. We had given him some water and he was chatting away (not sure what he was saying) and showed us the best view points for a photo! We walked down to the valley and entered the cave. It was just amazing, it must have been 100m high, and the increasing darkness as we walked in was surreal. We were joined by 4 other lads who took great joy in making howling noises to illustrate the echo, and were even more amused when Charles got bat poo on, and thought it was hilarious him trying to make the correct gestures to ask whether it was that! We walked to the end of the caves towards the light which came from the opening above us. Watching the rain and water come through the boy skimmed stones on the lake below! Walking back up was hard but we were so glad we did it! 

Coming out of the caves w decided to head to Lobito. We had heard that Kars had malaria and Simone was staying at the Zulu Resturant there, along with Patric and Kris. We arrived at 5.30 (the time the sat nav said!) and settled in for the night. Meeting up with them again was great. Waking up the next day, Kris treated us to coffee.. The coffee we had missed from not getting to the coffee farm! We reciprocated with our Togolese coffee but it sadly did not compare! Charles stayed at camp to fix an oil leak and we all headed off to see Kars. Before we got there we changed some dollars, this time we got 390 to the $.. Bargain! We got to the clinic and he was waiting for us, inpatient to get out! The bill came (we take it for granted having the NHS at home), and we all headed out for a celebratory coffee! Cakes and pizza slices later we headed back to the beach. 

I write this now with a gin and tonic in hand and an amazing view! Another good week in Angola!