Editor’s Note: Due to continued substandard Internet access, I will simply update this post with running observations and events until I have time in the future to chronicle in detail my adventures. The most recent items will be at the top of this page.
February 27: In Swakopmund, Namibia for two nights. An obvious and strange concentration of German tourists in this area. I plan to quad-bike and sandboard tomorrow.
February 26: Staying in desert camp of Uis, Namibia, at Branberg Rest Camp.
February 23-26: Etosha National Park, arguably the #1 attraction in Namibia. The park is especially known for its black rhinos and black-faced impalas.
February 19-21: Okavango Delta, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Spent hours in a mokoro under the sweltering sun. Swam in brackish water that was potable. Did five hours of a walking safari, seeing zebra, elephants, etc.
February 16-17: Chobe National Park, Botswana, home to more than 70,000 African elephants.
February 14: Bungy-jumped 364 feet off the Victoria Falls Bridge.
February 11: Arrived in Livingstone, Zambia. Did a 15-minute microflight open-air tour of Victoria Falls for $170. It sounds expensive and short, but it is quite a thrill and a unique experience that I recommend highly.
February 2, 19:13: I got my third haircut of this world trip, which is going on more than three months. My first two were in Marrakech and Budapest. This haircut was easily the worst ($11). However, the haircut included washing my hair, which I had not done in three weeks!
Zanzibar tap water is also the worst of my trip, totally undrinkable due to its overt salinity. The water pressure for much of the past month has been poor. After my haircut, the water pressure was not enough to rinse out the little hairs. It took more than 10 minutes of manually combing my hair.
February 2, 9:03: I set my alarm to watch the Super Bowl at 2:30, but I decided to continue sleeping. After missing one of the greatest Super Bowls ever, I walked out to Paje Beach. I am spending my three nights in Zanzibar in spartan hotels, but sleeping on a bed and not having to rush assembling my tent before the sun goes down is relaxing. Watching all these poor people should also remind me of how good we all have it.
February 1, 18:39: I walked along Paje Beach, practicing handstands. There must be something about Tanzania and handstands because there are many incredibly athletic young men doing long walking handstands by the water. I even saw many do them at night at the Forodhani Garden night market, whose surface is an unyielding concrete!
February 1, 15:10: Did spice tour in Zanzibar. Transferred to Paje Beach on east coast of Zanzibar. I paid $55 cash for a night at Savanna & Ocean. Currently watching Australian Open Men’s Championship Final match.
January 31: To arrive at Zanzibar from my camp on Kipepeo Beach in Dar es Salaam, I rode in a truck for 19 minutes (8.9 km); walked 9 minutes (500 meters); took a ferry (similar to the ones I imagine in those horrific Bangladeshi disasters where hundreds drown; I strategically stood near the laughably small number of life vests, preparing to grab one and jump off the top deck in case of accident) for 8 minutes (700 meters); walked another 20 minutes (1.7 km); and finally, took another ferry for 83 minutes (85.7 km).
The first ferry was to cross a small harbor within Dar es Salaam because the traffic around it takes too long! The second ferry was delayed multiple times. While scheduled to depart at 9:30, the ferry did not set sail until 12:57. The captain said to evacuate the ship as there was a mechanical failure. Even this took forever so that I was still on the boat 30 minutes later when he said that they will try to fix one of the two engines. By this point, half the passengers had boarded another boat. I was a bit hesitant about this about-face from “Abandon ship!” to “everything’s okay.” Another delay passed before we were ultimately transferred to a third ferry. If the first ferry sank, I could have survived swimming less than a kilometer to shore. The second ferry path was much more dicey, as I could have faced a swim of 12 nautical miles in the event of capsizing.
Zanzibar is a semi-autonomous region so strangely, I got my passport stamped and had to fill out paperwork. The crowds at this ferry port were hilariously unsafe. I could easily see how a stampede would kill many people. Leaving the ferry port into Stone Town, I basically pushed my way through the crowd like a Las Vegas nightclub, even ignoring the officers. There were only two customs officers who could not do their job properly. I have never seen such madness at an immigration port of entry.
January 30: We arrive at arguably the best campsite of the trip, in Dar es Salaam. Wading through the city traffic and seeing the polluting ships, it is hard to imagine that only a few kilometers from down is a fairly pristine beach with almost no one and great water. The Indian Ocean here is quite windy.
January 29: On the way to Dar es Salaam, we camp in Korogwe.
January 28: We drove all the way back from Serengeti to Meserani Snake Park in Arusha. The drive took many hours and the roads are quite bumpy and dusty. Air conditioning is not in use, but the dust is a bigger inconvenience than the searing heat and humidity. I have a habit of keeping my iPhone screen-down because leaving it exposed will gain a film of dust in a matter of minutes. These African safaris run the price gamut from somewhat affordable to usurious. The usurious end is mostly due to lodging. The uber-rich see the same animals and have to travel the same ragged roads. Camping is quite charming, but I would not mind the $1000 per night lodge option too.
January 27: Departed at sunrise to tour Ngorongoro Conservation Area. Breathtaking. I think my first huge crater. Had lunch by a lake with several hippos and a rock python nearby. Then, we drove to Serengeti National Park, another UNESCO World Heritage Site. Since I had just been to Masai Mara, the Serengeti plains were basically the same, but I cannot get enough safaris since I am almost never in this part of the world. We camped within the park, which was a bit of a rush. In the middle of the night, the hyenas were quite loud. Other animal noises also woke me up and seemed to be getting closer. I half-expected my tent to be rustled by an animal, so I put in earphones to try to sleep in silence.
January 26: Drove to a campsite in Karatu, only 20 km outside of Ngorongoro Conservation Area, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This site supposedly had wi-fi coverage, but it was effectively unusable.
January 25: Join overlanding tour group. There are 9 of us. I quickly discover that Americans are less than 5% of these tours. I have met people from Finland, England, Australia, New Zealand, Taiwan, Denmark, the Netherlands, Canada, etc. I am also surprised the number of solo female travelers. I would have thought Africa would be an intimidating destination. For some people, Africa is their first trip abroad outside their home country!
My group starts off with couples in their 60s (Boris and Yemmy from Yukon) and 40s (Simon and Cheryl from British Columbia); 22-year-old Alexandra (Australia); 28-year-old Laura (Kiwi); Paul in his 50s (England); and Michael in his 50s (Australia). Like everyone else, I definitely have my rank order of them. I notice how anal and talkative some can be. I am easygoing though so nothing much bothers me. For example, I am not much of a misophobe, but nearly every time I get on the big transport truck or am about to eat, someone asks me if I have washed my hands.
We drove to the Kenya-Tanzania border at Kajiado to obtain a visa ($100 for U.S. citizens).
I cannot remember the last time I pitched my own tent, but this happened at Meserani Snake Park. I did not bring a sleeping bag so I hastily bought a cheap child Winnie the Pooh one for $20 at a Nakumatt grocery store. I feel like my lungs are increasing aerobic capacity due to prolonged sleeping at altitude, currently 1336 meters.
The campground also has a bar and a few caged animals, such as a barn owl and Nile crocodile.
There are even two black mambas, perhaps the deadliest snake in the world. For food, the staff put a couple of guinea pigs into the cage. As is their nature, they immediately start running around until they notice the fearsome black mamba coiled in a corner. They scurry to the far corner and are visibly shaking as if a deep freeze has settled upon them. Of course, it is hot and humid. They look as petrified as any animal can. It looks cartoonish how much the fur on these guinea pigs is shaking. The black mamba can take its time and like many reptiles, it just lies there to the point of appearing dead. Apparently, if the snake has not consumed its meal within four hours, then the staff will remove the live food and feed them, only to give it another go shortly after!
January 24: Took a taxi to another dorm room downtown. I ate a sumptuous steak dinner at Tatu Restaurant inside the historic Fairmont Norfolk hotel.
January 23: $2200 was stolen from a locked compartment in my dorm room. Given the chain of custody of the compartment in question, never having moved and in my room during my entire stay at the property, logic would dictate that hotel personnel stole the cash. Another reason why I am leveling this accusation is that the vast majority of the money was left behind, which leads me to believe that the thief intended for me not to notice until I left the hotel, which is exactly what happened. Nothing else was stolen, despite other high-value items clearly more obtainable.
Also on this day, I went to Giraffe Centre and ate at Talisman, arguably the best restaurant in Nairobi.
January 19-22: First ever safari in Masai Mara National Reserve. Spent three nights in a cabin with bed and mosquito net in a campground just outside the park gates. Including food and lodging and the $80/day park fees, my three-night safari cost $670. Animals seen include: leopard tortoise; African elephant; common ostrich; secretary bird; vultures; martial eagle; spotted eagle owl; kingfishers; woodpeckers; warthog; hippopotamus; Masai giraffe; Kirk’s dik dik; eland; common waterbuck; wildebeest; topi; Cokes hartebeest; impala; Thomsons gazelle; cape buffalo; common zebra; black-backed jackal; common jackal; bat-eared fox; banded mongoose; hyenas; lion; cheetah and her three cubs; African wild cat; olive and yellow baboons; Nile crocodiles; termites. Unique plants include flat topped acacias, often alone and casting a cool silhouette on the horizon. I also saw weird sausage trees, whose fruit look like giant sausages hung on strings. Apparently, some villagers ferment the “sausages” to make dangerous alcohol.
January 19: Took shuttle arranged by hotel to arrive at Wildebeest Eco Camp at 1:30 am. I sleep in a charming dorm tent with 5 other travelers. Despite my late arrival, there were two other guests arrived after me, so I did not feel quite as bad about waking everyone up. Also my first use of mosquito nets. Animals were loud at night, including a woodpecker that did its work when everyone was trying to sleep.
Safari 4×4 vehicle arrived to pick me up at 8:20. In the back seat, there was already a 72-year-old man who had been traveling to Kenya every year for a decade. It took another couple hours to pick up a young a Danish couple and wade through the atrocious Nairobi traffic.
View of Rift Valley is amazing at 2200 meter elevation. Did short game drive in late afternoon in Masai Mara. Facilities were much better than I had expected. No manual tent needed as cabins were already in place. Did not bring sleeping bag so I bought a Masai blanket and wrapped in it.
January 18: Took Qatar Airways #1341 from Doha to Nairobi (5h 10m).