A Travellerspoint blog

Bit of a Blog Intermission

How Namibia and Botswana may be a bit more modern but their internet access is nothing to write home about.

sunny 80 °F

Hi everyone. Sorry for the lack-o-blog lately but we've hit a serious internet drought here in Namibia. I'd love to tell all of you work procrastinators that our blog will soon be offering a good excuse to put off doing timesheets but alas, we may be out of luck for the next week or so. There is just absolutely no where to crank out a good blog. Darn you Africa. Anyway, we have breezed through the somewhat boring Botswana (like driving through Kansas with the bonus of elephants) and have made our way to Namibia. We'll be spending some time in Etosha National Park before hitting the road to do some serious bushcamping. Considering there will be no water supply where we are headed, the liklihood of an internet cafe in our future is slim. Please hang in there with us as we promise thrills, chills and spills once we get connected again. And someone remind me when I get back to the blog to tell you how Grubby and Skanky got us out of a sticky situation at the border. Yes, they may have their rough spots but those guys are nothing if not resourceful. God love 'em.
Alright - hang in there. Must go stock up at the store on Cokes and chutney chips. The outback is going to be rough enough without having to sacrifice the Mrs. Balls Chutney Chip addiction I'm currently nursing (note to my Dad: you may have some Mrs. Balls coming your way....)
Fingers crossed we'll be back to blog...

Posted by vandewme 02:51 Archived in Namibia Comments (1)

Whiplash at a Natural Wonder of the World

Big Adventure at the Big Falls

80 °F

Well, our 4-day stay here at Livingstone/Victoria Falls is just about over, and since this is a major tourist hub, there was plenty of entertainment to be had...

Right out of the gate on the first day we decided to take early morning microlight flights right over the Falls, which turned out to be a fantastic decision. The weather for our flight was crisp, clear, and most importantly windless - perfect for microlight flying. So up we went simultaneously in separate planes in these tiny (hence micro), seemingly weightless (hence light) aircraft. Having never been in a microlight before, my first sensation was how exposed you are to the elements in the air. No ceiling, no windows, just two wings, an engine and the wind in your face (oh, and don't forget the pilot).

Right after we were airborne, we could see a long plume of mist (aka "smoke") emerging from the Zambezi River ahead, and the smoke gradually grew bigger and bigger as we approached the Falls. The pilot then took a slight left maybe a couple hundred yards away so that we could circle around and and see the Falls from the front. From just a few hundred feet above, the entire length of the Falls was laid out in front of us... quite an impressive sight. Plunging into the gorge below and stretching horizontally for almost a mile, with the smoky mist hanging in the air above, this was an amazing way to see the Falls for the first time! Before landing we did a few circles around the national park to see our favorite safari animals from the sky. Nothing beats a view of an elephant charging through the forest from above.

After the flight we made our way to the entrance of the Falls on foot to see how things looked from the ground. Our first impression here was the sound, which we were unable to hear from the microlights. It truly lives up to what the locals call Mosi-O-Tunya: "The Smoke That Thunders." Seriously, you can feel it's presence before you can see it... a powerful rumble that just sounds imposing. Seeing the Falls was spectacular as well, particularly because you can get so much closer to them than we would have thought. We were drenched in no time just from the mist, and we even managed to see a few rainbows as well.

After a day of relaxing and trying to save money (Zambia is expensive), we went for an "adrenaline day" at the Gorge with our newly arrived travel mates, Alex and Jo. Another picture perfect day, spent at the cliffs along the picturesque Bakota Gorge, basically reenacting detours from the Amazing Race. In fact, one of the activities, the Gorge Swing, was actually featured on the Race in 2000.

We started things off by abseiling down into the gorge. We then upped the ante a bit with two goes on the Flying Fox. This involves putting on a harness which is strapped to a cable that stretches from one end of the gorge to the other, then sprinting off the edge of the cliff. The rope attached to the cable is pretty short, maybe a few feet long, so you end up flying across the gorge Superman-style along the cable. This was extremely fun and had the not-to-be-underestimated benefit of us not having to climb back up the gorge afterwards (a steep, 30 minute climb in 85 degree heat).

This all led up to the adrenaline climax - the famous Gorge Swing. Like the Flying Fox, the Gorge Swing involves a cable stretching from one end of the gorge to the other, with you attached by another cable. The cable attaching you, however, is 160 feet long. It's essentially a bungee jump down into the gorge, right next to the cliff. The major difference is that instead of bouncing back in the air like you would after a bungee jump, you swing out into the middle of the gorge. Once you're all strapped in, attached and ready to go, you step to the edge of the cliff and dangle your toes over. After an irresistible look down and a deep breath, you count down... 3, 2, 1... and take the step of faith into a 3.5 second free fall. Falling about 100 times faster than you had imagined (they say up to 180 km/h... get out your mile-to-km charts) you are yanked (literally... we got some minor whiplash) back into reality when your cable catches and then there you are, swinging in the middle of the gorge. A great experience, but one which will definitely require a visit to the chiropractor when we get back...

Today, our final day, was somewhat disappointing in that we were unable to cross the border into Zimbabwe due to the uncertain political situation there at the moment. So no lion walk, so seeing the Falls from the other side, and no dinner feast of warthog, zebra, etc. I guess it's a small price to pay considering the conditions many of the Zimbabweans are facing today. Hopefully their election results will be resolved soon and (fingers crossed) they can move forward to a better situation. As an alternative we were able to schedule a walking safari in which we saw rhino, elephant, and giraffe on foot at close range. A great day.

We've enjoyed our stay in Livingstone immensely. Not only did we get to stretch our adventure sports muscles but we took a much needed break from camping. Ah, fresh towels, a bed and air conditioning. Life is good. We'll miss you, Livingstone!

On to Botswana next... The free internet ends here but we hope to post again soon!

Posted by cmgildea 06:03 Archived in Zambia Comments (1)

The Early Skanky Catches the Worm

Some casual observations from the road.

86 °F

After a week of camping in the bush we've finally rolled into the symbolic halfway point: Livingstone, Zambia. Home of Victoria Falls - a World Heritage Site for those of you keeping track. We've spent the last two days in transit; rolling across the plains of Zambia with our guy Skank. Fans of Skanky will be glad to learn that we've scored an extra 5 days with him as he's now driving us to Maun, Botswana. But let's not talk about that now - gets me a bit misty eyed thinking our days with him are limited.

To keep thoughts of our break-up with Skank at bay, I've been thinking a lot lately about how we've changed while on the road. I'm not talking about deep, spiritual change. More your garden variety change. For example...

Last night at the campsite there was a television with cable channels. Aside from a random viewing of "Paperazzi" at a campsite in Eldoret and an occassional cricket match, this has been the only non-local television we've seen in close to 2 months. The withdrawal symptoms for me have been noticeable. We settled in to watch a glorious hour of E! Entertainment TV at the campsite. Heaven! About 15 minutes into the show Col and I came to same conclusion: we didn't want to watch it. Is this POSSIBLE? We didn't want to watch TV???

Now I've heard that it takes 30 days to break a habit. This has proven true with my nail biting. I'm now clean. Easy to do while in Africa. But can you detox from pop culture?? I mean, any day of the week before the trip I would have eagerly sat down in front of the tube to watch Renee Zellweger's E True Hollywood Story. Last night I couldn't even make it to her marriage to Kenny Chesney. And I can't believe I don't even want to know what J-Lo named her twins. What kind of monster have I become? Or is this a better me? Hmmm. We didn't say much about it but I know we felt the same way - it just reminded us of things we don't want to be reminded of. I'm pretty sure we'll go back to our tv loving ways when we get home (we are currently maxing out on the TIVO storage) but for now Col and I agree that we'll stay away from the boob tube. One exception: African soaps. They are made with the equivalent of a camcorder and we find them endlessly entertaining)

Some of those things we don't want to be reminded of are the social must-dos we've managed to put aside while in Africa. Like showering everyday or putting on make-up. We've really redefined what clean means. This could be directly related to travelling with Skanky for 6 weeks. Note that we are having dinner with one of his friends while we are down here. The guy's name? Grubby. You can't make this stuff up, people.

Another one of those changes that I've noticed is our reaction to things that we may have found disgusting or absurd before. For instance, Colin said to me the other day, "I had seven frogs in my shower. How many did you have?" This seemed like a very normal question to me at the time. Likewise, when I said to him, "hmmm, I don't know how I got this hippo dung all over myself" he didn't even blink an eye. As a matter of fact, the keyboard that I'm typing this on has a nest of some very large insects I can not identify under it. At one point I may have reacted by running away. Instead I just think "yay! free internet" and let them swarm about.

One thing that still freaks me out is the notion of certain types of bug bites. I think I mentioned the infamous mango worm a few posts back. The insect that lays eggs in clothing, bedding, etc. in humid areas and then the eggs hatch in your face? Yeah, well, I had a mango worm scare the other day. Nothing to worry about, false alarm, but the idea of having one of these is terrifying on two levels: 1) I would have a worm growing in my face and 2) Skanky would be the one taking it out. With his pocket knife. As it turns out the mysterious week old bite that had taken over half of my face has since receded. A relief for me and for those who will be subject to photos of me on this trip. The worst part about it was the swelling and the constant poking of Skanky's finger in my face going "oy! it's really red!" or "yaw, we'll have to keep an eye on it. Does this hurt?" Just for the record, I would have let him take out the worm. There could be nothing worse then knowing it was stuck in my cheek.

Alright, hope that didn't gross anyone out. I promise that our next post will be jam-packed with adventure and absent of bugs. We are gearing up to take advantage of the many activities here in Vic Falls. We may even cross the boarder into Zimbabwe (pending political situation) to go on a lion walk and delight in the Fogo de Chao of game meat. Warthog is supposedly "to die for" but I may just stick to a variety of impala.

Until then...stay away from the mango flies or I'll have to fly Skanky out to take care of them for you!

Posted by vandewme 08:25 Archived in Zambia Comments (1)

The Halftime Show

Or for those Bon Jovi fans: Oh, we're halfway there. OH OH, living on a prayer!

sunny 95 °F

Well everybody, it's officially half-time of the Mary and Colin Adventure. We reached the midpoint a few days ago and it seems both impossible that we've travelled for 45 days and unbelievable that its only been 45 days since we had a Portillos beef and cheddar or washed our clothes in a real washing machine.

We celebrated our official halfway day in the small yet stunning country of Malawi. Some of you may be familiar with Malawi's famous citizen: Madonna's new kid. Others of you may have visited yourself to swim in the fresh waters of Lake Malawi- home to an astounding 900 varieties of fresh water fish. I saw an ad for a dive school in Malawi that said "diving in Lake Malawi is like diving in a giant aquarium" and I have to believe it's true. We manged to see a couple while snorkeling.

I'd love to astound you with tales of adventure but Col and I literally did nothing while in Malawi except sit on the porch of our beach chalet, read, eat and occassionally take a dip in the water. Some of you may recall that we were weary of exposing ourselves to the water in the lake due to the parasite located under it's shimmery surface. Well, to be honest, it's one thing to vow staying at bay when you are in your cold Chicago apartment but it's a completely different story when you are standing on it's sandy shores in your bathing suit. Besides, we learned that the showers we were taking pre-visit to the lake were just as likely to contain the parasite as a swim in the lake so we were already tainted by the time we reached the beach. Oh well. Skank says we just need to go to the pharmacy here and grab an anti-parasite pill and we should be good. It's somewhat reasuring that he's never contracted the illness and he's a prime candidate having swam in the water numerous times. Then again, the guy walks around the less-than-desirable streets of Dar Es Salaam during a rain storm without shoes on with no consequences. Hmmm.

Anyway, due to our total lack of interaction with culture, community or wildlife (aside from a trip up the mountain to the fabled Livingstonia), I'll share with you a few minor observations on Malawi:

1. They are really concerned with drinking and driving. In a country almost absent of any advertising (except for the always present Coke or Celltell painted huts) we noticed numerous signs that said "don't drink and drive." The other signs we saw said "Reading road signs saves lives." We assume they meant the road signs about drinking and driving. As it turns out, we learned from the owner of the campsite that this is a relatively new law and they are really cracking down on it. HOWEVER, when the law was first introduced it was a bit lost in translation. She told us that a man who worked at the camp had been pulled over when the police saw that he was drinking a Kouche Kouche - a local beer that means "sun up to sun down" - while driving. The policeman waved him over and told him about the new law. He then told the man to get out of his car and finish drinking the beer by the side of the road. Once he finished doing that he was free to carry on driving. She said they've since clarified the issue. Likewise, she told us to find a Malawi "rules of the road" book. Supposedly there is a no doing drugs and driving policy listed. Makes sense. However, she said the book states "doing drugs while driving is detremental because you end up speeding trying to get to the next place to do more drugs." So I guess it's okay to take drugs while driving as long as you aren't rushing anywhere to buy more.

2. The second observation about Malawi is that they've really mastered the art of woodcarving. Malawi is known for it's handcarved wood items - in particular their elaborately carved wood chairs. I am known for wanting the thing a country is known for so Col and I hit the wood market to bargain our way into some wooden delights. After about an hour in the heat I had decided that one of these wood chairs would be both easy to transport home and a real conversation piece to have in our imaginary condo. The promise of "looking good in the condo we'll have someday" has led to many travel purchases in the past: tapestries in India, bowls in Croatia, waterford in Ireland, etc. This time Colin wasn't going for it. Not being the interior design visionary I had put my faith in, Col said he could picture where it would go in the storage space but not in the ficticious condo. Oh well. We walked away with a small table and rhino bookends (which will look great on the bookshelf we don't have in the mythical condo).

Note that I did the bargaining in the wooden goods deal. That's one of my jobs on the trip. Col deals with the money, electronics and rational thought. I deal with the laundry, market bargaining and spirit of adventure. It's working out quite well.

So where are we now? Well, we pulled into South Louongwa Park yesterday. It's located in Zambia and is known for it's large hippo population. We can vouch for this large population by the sheer lack of sleep we received last night. We had just finished our first night game drive (cooler in theory than in practice) and slipped into our hot tent. It wasn't 10 minutes later that the hippos came on shore to feed. Now a hippo can feed for a long time and in doing so makes snorting/laughing-like noises. I may have mentioned this before. When you get a lot of hippos doing this it kind of sounds like late night after the bar closes. As frustrating as this is when you are trying to sleep I still like the idea that we are surrounded by hippos in our tent. Just one of those things I'll miss when we go home. Maybe I can find a "hippo sounds" white noise maker for the imaginary condo.

We will be baking in the hot sun here for another few days before we make our way to Victoria Falls. Until then I'll leave you with a fun fact:

A group of zebras is called a Dazzling of Zebras. Giraffes a Tower of Giraffes. A Raft of Hippos and a Parade of Elephants.

Good to note that we are learning on the trip. Love to all!

Posted by vandewme 03:55 Archived in Zambia Comments (0)

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