Namibia – it’s like a virus!

We always visit Namibia whenever we are on a long trip. Sometimes even twice! We made good progress through the Caprivi, westwards from our entry point at Katimo Mulilo, and chose to stay at N’Gepi again instead of trying one of the campsites on the Kavango river near Rundu. 

Sue and Pieter also visit N’Gepi and enjoy the quirky signs

The SA schools were on holiday and our favourite stands were already taken. We got the Hippo site with wash up area and a good view of the river. The river was very much higher than in January.

Croc cage “diving” pool in the Okavango River at N’Gepi

We stayed for two glorious days and caught up on photo editing and our blog while chilling. 

Crazy outdoor shower at N’Gepi

Rundu is an odd town that has an infrastructure left behind by South Africa during the bush war and now it’s a mixture of a border town and modern supermarkets and malls. After topping up data and buying provisions we returned to the older African border town section where Solveig bought more chitengas from the stall holders at the street markets. We then continued our trip southwards to Roy’s Camp, nearer to Grootfontein.  We love the quirkyness of Roy’s.
It was quite full, mostly from South Africa, including a family of first time tenters, that usually caravaned. We watched with amusement as they assembled their camp site. We met Kenyans on their way to Windhoek and had a lovely contact with them also.

We could not leave out Okahandja and the Closwa butchery for their fantastic biltong and vacuum packed Namibian steak from our schedule either. We ended up camping there at the Ombonde Campsite, part of the Okahandja Country Hotel just north of the town. One of the nicest camps we’ve stayed at near Windhoek. We visited Windhoek the next day but returned to Ombonde for another night.

The old pier at Swakopmund

In Swakopmund we tried out the Mile 4 camp just outside town as we really wanted to be next to the sea again. We’d just completed the crossing of the continent. 

Mile 4…….Not a campsite to chill at!!

A week had passed since entering Namibia and staying in lovely campsites. Now we chose one of the worst camps we’d ever stayed in!  It looked like a cemetery.  Can you imagine how dreadful it gets around Christmas when full!

The next day we were off to try our luck in Walvis Bay after looking at alternative places in Swakopmund.  Alte Brucke was fully booked. The only place with space available was over R500 per night to camp! 

The lagoon at Walvis Bay

We enjoyed our day at the Walvis Bay lagoon but the camping wasn’t great there either. We’d made the move from a huge bleak camp in Swakop to a cramped site here. 

We decided that we’d be far better off wildcamping, so set off into the desert the following day through a dust storm near Walvis. 

Mirabib off the C14 near Walvis Bay

We wanted to camp at Mirabib in the Namib Nauklauft but needed a permit, only obtainable in Swakopmund, so continued towards Sesriem. 

Approaching storm

On the way the dust storm turned into a massive thunderstorm and the rain bucketed down accompanied by lightning and rainbows. 

The storm left pools of water on the road

The road turned into a river and we had to be extra cautious. The evening light was amazing! 
By having to slow down because of the rain we realised we’d never get to Solitaire by dark and looked out for a place to stay. The Kuiseb canyon didn’t look too inviting as it was still raining hard and there were no camping signs in all the nice spots. 

It was evening when we reached the Gaob river canyon and decided we had to camp here. We drove off the road into the river bed and proceeded up stream. 

Gaob river canyon

The main river had pools of water, and debris from a recent flood trapped in trees about 3 meters above the river bed, so we turned back and drove up a short tributary which was dry. I decided we’d be safe from any storm here. 

Our campsite for a night of wildcamping

The next morning there was no sign of rain and everything was dry again. We realised that we had spent the night at the Tropic of Capricorn. 

Our GPS suggested that we had already crossed the Tropic in the canyon!

Joe and Pam Stallebras had stayed at a campsite near to Solitaire at the summit of the Spreetshoogte pass for a few nights and really enjoyed themselves. We were always open to exploring suggestions fellow overlanders made. We headed there after a detour to Solitaire first, as we had plenty of time. The campsite was named Namibgrens. The Spreetshoogte pass is extremely steep and is paved with concrete bricks to assist you with your ascent. 

On arriving at the farmhouse where we booked in we found this oxwagon which brought back memories of  Balfour and the good times shared with our friends Chris and Mandy.

I won a photo competition with a similar picture of Haldane about 40 years ago!

The campsite was well worth the effort in getting there. There were 12 campsites and a number of chalets too. The camps had individual ablutions located amongst the rocks as well as canvas kitchen shelters and tents, although we chose to sleep in Twiga of course!

Kitchen beneath canvas shelter

Private camps in the rocks

We spent two night there and most of the day in the rock pool. 

After leaving we carried on passed Sesriem canyon and Sosusvlei because of the school holidays…We prefered to camp on our own or with just a few campers and hoped to reach Aus that night. 

Again we drove through the incredible Namibian landscape which we’ve become to love so much.

A farmhouse in the Nauklauft

Tiras valley

We realised we would not reach Aus so stopped early at Betta near Duiseb where we met two incredible cyclists from Nederlands, Alice and Jaap. They were 68 and 70!!

Jaap and Alice. Amazing cyclists!

We enjoyed a tea break at Helmeringshausen, and a treat! Namibia is well known for its Apple pie and it was on the menu at the only hotel in the small village, so we ordered two… did we get a surprise when we got the bill…R50 each for the pie and there was no cream either, just castor sugar!

Another day enjoying the beautiful landscapes….

On the way to Aus

There were animals along the route too…..

A lone Gemsbok

We arrived at Aus too early so we continued towards the Gariep River on the border instead. 

It became more arid the further south we ventured

The mountains of the Richtersveld in the distance

We wildcamped in an abandoned campsite along the Gariep. 

A vein of green in a harsh desert

There are not too many places one can do that anymore, especially during school holidays!

A Kudu female in the early morning light

Farm labourers village at Ausenkehr 

No comment!

Mile after mile of vineyards at Ausenkehr

Just another 50 kms to Noordoever and a Wimpy breakfast! 

We left the river for awhile and were back in the desert once again…

Dried grasses in a dry environment

After breakfast, a quick and efficient border crossing followed by Springbok!

Our first morning back in South Africa!

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Zambia – Our homeward journey really begins….

At the Zambian side of the border near Chipata we were about to drive off when a traffic official pulled up alongside and asked if we had obtained our municipal road tax. We’re still not sure whether this is a legitimate tax. This is in addition to the road tax all foreign registered vehicles have to pay and has nothing to do with your Carnet either.

We detoured the 130kms from Chipata to the South Luangwa GR, one of our favourites. Our first night was spent at the Croc Valley campsite outside of the reserve on the bank of the Luangwa river. We’d never seen the river so high and we were told it had been at least a metre higher!  So peaceful to be back, except you had to be alert to avoid been harassed by monkeys.

We visited Tribal Africa again. Their showroom is so beautifully put together. Besides the fabric and smalls which they handpaint and manufacture on the premises, there’s a small curioshop. Even goods from South Africa are on display, especially the Kapula candles and pottery range from Bredasdorp.

Solveig bought a few chitengas from the stalls in the village nearby before we moved to Wildlife Camp, our favourite. 

Sunset at Wildlife Camp

We’re not sure why we always still return to Croc Valley, but I guess it was the first camp we chose many years before….
The sand bars usually covering a large part of the river were now submerged and only a narrow part close to the bank was exposed.

Yellow Billed Stork at Wildlife Camp, South Luangwa

 We watched a Yellow Billed Stork in the shallows endlessly searching beneath the surface for food and could have stayed there forever. You become so relaxed and at one with nature in a place like this.

Relaxing at South Luangwa

On our way to Bridge Camp

Our next stop at Bridge Camp, also on the Luangwa river halfway to Lusaka, was not as relaxing. Since we were last there the wife of thè owner had died from emphysema.  It is understandable that the camp now needed lots of TLC. although the quirky ablutions were still the same and gave us plenty of hot water. 
We met two young couples who were both travelling by bike! 

Dave and Heather, Canadians on BMW water cooled 800cc motorcycles.

and Australians from Melbourne on mountain bikes. 

We returned to Lusaka, stayed with Kate and Ginty and had the car serviced with Dan once again.  Ginty was very busy at work so we never stayed long. 

We had heard of an alternate route from Lusaka to Sesheke via the Kafue game reserve which would avoid the bad sections of road between Lusaka and Mazabuka and Livingston to Sesheke. Ginty confirmed that it was good tar all the way.

We decided to take this route, new to us, even though it would add about 230 kms to the distance.  We looked forward to the Kafue game reserve and also the new tar road from Mongu to Sesheke following the Zambezi southwards. 

Kasabushi campsite with George enjoying the Kafue

In the reserve we stayed at a private lodge and campsite, Kasabushi, on the bank of the Kafue river. In paradise once again!

The showers and ablutions were so creatively constructed

The young British owners, Andy and Libby Wilson, joined us at our braai in the evening. They had created such a special place and also had a number of chalets a, each with its own private river frontage.

There are so many amazing places to experience in Africa we feel it’s not necessary to travel anywhere else.

In Mongu the most beautiful sight awaited us. The Zambezi was spread out for miles across, with countless islands. Part of the Barotse plains, and the fact that the Zambezi was so full it had burst it’s banks.

Our last night in Zambia was spent camping at Ngonya Lodge and Campsite. It’s located imediately after crossing the Zambezi on the brand new bridge near to Sioma and the Ngonya falls. The new bridge has replaced the ferry service which previously transported traffic across the river.  

The Zambezi at Ngonya Lodge

The Ngonya Lodge is beautifully situated overlooking the Zambezi.  The road from Senanga to Sioma and the Ngonye falls was so new it was not on Tracks 4 Africa. Another bonus for using this route was the absence of trucks. Definately a route to consider. Especially if you are also visiting the Luiwa and the Barotse plains too. 

We made our border crossing into the Zambezi region in the Caprivi really early and decided to continue on our journey instead of our usual stay in Katimo Mulilo…. 

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Malawi, The warm heart of Africa 

The border experience was far better than on the previous visit. Better control was in place and the touts had been prevented from entering the official area. Everything was dealt with quickly and efficiently and it was wonderful to be back.  
However there seemed to be more police checks than before. Many of the small towns we passed through had a barrier. Police were friendly but at one of the stops, after chatting, he mentioned he was hungry and wanted something to eat, or some money to buy something to eat!  We were shocked by his statement and replied that he was lucky to have work and could surely afford to buy his own food. The begging left a bad taste.  The incident didn’t change our overall impression though. We just love Malawi and it’s people and wonder why more South Africans don’t visit. 

We returned to Hakuna Matata where Willie, an ex South African from Pretoria, and Maggie, who has since sadly passed away, used to run the place. Willie was both sad and angry. Angry as he felt Magie might not have died had she been treated in a better medical facility. 

Willie, Martha and David

 It was good to chill again after our long drive through Tanzania and enjoy our chats with Willie and his assistants, Martha and David. We stayed there for two days and nights.

On the beach in the evening

Our campsite at Hakuna Matata 

On the beach we found this young soccer fan who’d made his own ball from plastic bags!

Later, we passed through a plantation of rubber trees on our way to Makuzi, and a young man on the side of the road selling balls he’d made from the latex, and it reminded us of the boy at Hakuna Matata.

Mokoro at Hakuna Matata

And another! 

Rice paddies, also in the north

We visited Chitimba next door to Hakuna Matata to see where Scott and Helena had managed the camp while the Dutch owners, Carmen and Ed, were visiting family in Holland. Theit camp is more upmarket and chic than Hakuna Matata.

The owner, Eddie, sitting at the honeymoon chalet

The chalet is mounted on springs !

The weekend after we visited, Chitimba was hosting about 100 cyclists riding from Cairo to Cape Town in the Tour d’Afrique. A pity we missed them!

We bought some Mazuzu coffee beans for home, and ground coffee for the rest of our trip, at a coffee shop in Mazuzu on our way to our next campsite.

Makuzi Lodge and Campsite was on the lake about 60 kms south of Mazuzu.

Makuzi Beach Lodge

With its magnificient beach it is one of the best places to stay on the coast. Be sure to book, especially if you are camping during season and not staying in a chalet, as there are only three campsites and 11 chalets.

One of the quaint chalets

Our campsite at Makuzi

View of the bay

The beach

Amazing how trees manage to grow out of rocks

Beautiful granite rocks are all over the site.

The last night at Makuzi with Solveig on the beach

The owner, Lara, a born and bred Malawian is married to an ex South African from near Howick. We spent two glorious days days there. Her husband Brett, who was recovering from malaria, told us of a great place to stay just outside of Lilongwe; Barefoot Safari Camp on the route towards Zambia. Being on the correct side of town we were able to miss the traffic on our departure in the morning……

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Tanzania -Homeward bound

We decided to chill awhile before our homeward journey and chose to return to Peponi Beach resort, where we stayed for nearly two weeks in 2014. 

The trip from Kenya was short and our border crossing quick and efficient. We stopped in Tanga and visited the supermarket and fruit and veg market we’d shopped at three years before. Memories ………

When last at Peponi, the owner Denis, was in the final stages of selling the resort. New owners are from Kenya and it’s now being managed by their daughter, Claris.  

The new restuarant which replaced the one that burnt down

And what a fantastic job she is doing. It’s hard to imagine how one can improve on paradise, but she has managed to do that!

Part of the makeover at Peponi.

The vegetation around the pool has been cleared opening a view to the sea.

Our friends, Michael and Birte that we met at Tiwi Beach arrived the next day before their trip to Zanzibar, but we still never had that Pinacolada! 

Michael and Birte

We just loved our walks on the beach at low tide…..

Who said that Baobabs can’t grow at the seaside?

We walked to Pangani, a small fishing village south of the camp and also north to the mangroves. 

Sunrise at Peponi

We were so happy to get our usual campsite at Peponi

After only five days we moved on again unfortunately. We’d made the decision to include Malawi on our return journey and we needed to make time for that too.

After a long drive we stopped over at Tan Swiss in Mikumi for the night. 

Campsite at Tan Swiss

The drive there was stunning. Even the 50kms through the Mikumi game reserve was fruitful and we sighted many animals.  Another long drive to Mbeya followed. 

The scenery in this part of Tanzania is so wonderful that it makes the journey so much easier. 

Valley of the Baobabs

The Valley of Baobabs on the banks of the Ruaha river and the beautiful mountain pass through the Uzungwe forest are unique.
We arrived in Mbeya after sunset and drove the last 30kms or so in the dark. That we knew the area hardly made any difference to the difficult and risky task. Rush hour in this part of Africa consists of unlit bicycles,  darkly clothed black pedestrians, handcarts returning from markets. And trucks stopping at each and every speedbump,  not to mention the roadworks and potholes! The first thing we did on arrival was down much deserved drinks!

Creatures of habit that we are,  we returned to Utengule Coffee Estate for the night where we experienced problems with the camp electricity supply. It damaged the mains adapter for our fridge which is an inconvenience as the fridge can now only operate when the car is  moving.
As it was already late we decided to treat ourselves to supper in their restuarant. We weren’t hungry so ordered a light meal each which was dissapointing. We should have shared a good main meal instead.

In the morning we took the final pictures of Tanzania before leaving…

Ladies seem to do the work

The turnoff to Utengule

Tuktuks and barrows. Essential in day to day life

And motorcycles, the main mode of transport!

Although we were looking forward to visiting Malawi again we  sadly said goodbye to Tanzania in the morning,  one of our favourite African countries.

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Kenya

We entered Kenya at the Tororo  Border. Everything went smoothly, efficiently and quickly. We’d planned to stay in Eldoret but when arriving in the town we were horrified at the appearance of some of the guesthouses. We kept on looking, found nothing so decided to wild camp in a filling station. We came across one that looked good and there was also a reasonable looking restaurant in the yard. We met the manager of the restuarant who welcomed us to stay. A  24 hour guard looked after both the service station and the restuarant. The manager was a delight and such a help we felt obliged to eat supper there. We couldn’t accept his hospitality and then cook a meal right outside his restuarant!

We made our own breakfast early before the restuarant opened however! After breakfast we made the usual visit to an ATM to draw the local currency when entering a new country, Kenyan Shillings this time.

Kenyan roadside vendors display their goods differently

In Kenya the  roadside stalls aren’t grouped together but the goods are  displayed individually. We often buy our fruit and vegetables from them and it’s better when you can deal with the vendor on her own and are not hassled by  other vendors nearby.  

We continued to Nairobi and  Jungle Junction, an overlander favourite, in Karen the suburb.  We asked ourselves, “Is the place more run down since our previous visit  or is Kenya just desparately in need of rain?” It turned out that both were correct. Tourism has taken a massive dive in Kenya and the infrastructure is suffering.There is an overall rundown look about Kenya and is probably also the dirtiest country we’d been in.

But on the positive side, the road network had improved enormously since our previous visit and is ongoing!

We moved to Camp Karen nearby, but it wasn’t any better really. Both were tacky and lacking  some TLC. 

Solveig made contact with Karen Khagram and we arranged to meet for lunch the next day. We met at Karen’s  house. It was like being at home again. Seeing her staff and being welcomed by them was wonderful. We caught up with news before going to lunch at a restuarant that specialised in Chicken Tikka with friends of Karen’s, Alex and Cas, and Bijal. Unfortunately Vesh and Devan were in Ethopia on business.

Chicken Tikka in Nairobi with Karen and friends

We didn’t stay in Nairobi for long and after stocking up at a brand new centre, The Hub, we left for Amboseli game reserve. Solveig had not ever seen Kilimanjaro. It was always covered with cloud whenever visiting Arusha and Moshi before. We’d been told that if we wanted a good view of the mountain we’d have to see it from Kenya. 
At this point I should mention how important it is to listen to advice from fellow travellers who have current knowledge of local conditions. This is to be able to deviate from your  overall plan when necessary, and why you can’t have a fixed schedule.

I must make special mention of Stan and Anne Weakley, whom we have never met, but had made contact with before we left home. He has written an extremely detailed and entertaining blog, Slow Donkey. Whenever we’re not sure of something we always turn to his blog to see if they’d  had a similar problem. Especially with GPS routes. Thank you Stan for your valuable advice regarding Amboseli!

After what had seemed ages we eventually turned south at Emali and were rid of the endless trucks on their way to Mombasa. 

The sand has become more desert like. A small village on the way to Amboseli

Our favourite African tree…the Baobab

We enjoyed the peaceful brand new tarred road passing through the Nyiri Desert with its frequent dust devil’s, and the occasional wild animal. 

Dust devil crossing the newly tarred road to Amboseli

We were once again “driving blind” with incorrect maps. Fortunately other travellers had told us of this route. Near the Tanzanian border at Kimana we turned right onto the gravel road towards the Amboseli. 

Kilimanjaro from near Amboseli

We were excited because looming between the trees on our left was Kilimanjaro with only a scattering of clouds and it’s snow covered peak glistening in the late afternoon light. 

The local brand of Rooibos grown in Kenya

Rooibos, not as tasty as the SA brands, but then it might be the water!

We soon found the turnoff to the Amboseli/Tsavo Rangers Community camp. It’s main purpose was a place to house and train the anti-poaching rangers that served in both reserves.

Entrance to the Rangers camp

The community also “ran”a few tented chalets and camping alongside the ranger camp. Like most community rest camps we’d encountered it wasn’t about providing a service but another way of extracting tourist dollars from the visiting mzungus! The staff however were fantastic as usual and made us very welcome. James, who  was in charge, has texted us since, to ask how we are enjoying our travels! 

A tented camp at the community campsite !

It was similar to wildcamping as there were no facilities that worked! What an amazing experience this turned out to be. So rewarding!

We chose to make camp here within view of Kilimanjaro

We were lucky to have such a perfectly clear day

The next day after taking scores of photos  we retraced our steps to Emali and continued on until  we reached Voi.   Bijal had mentioned where we should stay but foolishly I had not made a note of it and we ended up at Impala Safari Lodge. They had never had campers stay there before but went out of their way to make us comfortable and insisted we stay in their secure parking area. We even suggested what they should charge as they had no previous experience. We met a British couple, Julie and Ken there, that gave us valuable advice on the Kenyan coastal options and mentioned that we should not miss going to the Ngutoni Lodge just 15 kms from Voi where we could visit a waterhole on the border of Tsavo East Game Reserve and possibly see lots of animals for free! This was the same place Bijal had suggested! 
After leaving Voi we looked out for the turnoff to Ngutoni which was about 10kms further  from the highway. 

We found this on the entrance road to Ngutoni Lodge 

Even the road to the lodge had plenty of animals. Elephants, Eland, Zebras, Giraffe and buffalo.The lodge with its waterhole was amazing. We so wished we’d stayed there the previous night. My fault entirely for not taking note of the name when Bijal told me of it.

A variety of game and birds at Ngutoni Lodge waterhole

After another long days drive, with road building and trucks slowing us down we arrived in Mombasa, luckily it was a Sunday.

Mombasa City Centre on a Sunday!

Empty streets on a Sunday in Mombasa

The ferry to exit the south of Mombasa

The city centre is on an island, which you access via a bridge, but the exit to the south and the resort areas requires a ferry trip back to the mainland. A new experience for us. The total time for queuing and the journey probably took about 40 minutes and cost next to nothing.

It was wonderful to get back to the sea again after nearly 3 months and we planned to chill at the coast for a few days. We camped at Twiga Lodge in Tiwi right on the beach under palm trees. There we met Michael and Birte from Germany, also overlanding in a Landrover and we shared our stories.
 

Solveig at Twiga Lodge south of Mombasa at Tiwi

We were constantly hassled by vendors but made the most of the occasion to make contact

We gave in and bought two coconuts from this Rasta

We were visited by many locals trying to sell us their crafts or services.They were pleasant enough and not too much hassle. We bought green coconuts to drink from a local rasta. He’d even decorated Solveig’s with a few flowers. It reminded me of my coconut water treatmemt in Costa Rica for Denge fever. The beach had a reef which was exposed at low tide which reminded us of Peponi, our next destination.

Late on the first night a Landrover pulled in near the ablution block. I passed the vehicle when visiting the toilet in the morning and noticed it had a KZN number plate. Later I greeted the driver and we got chatting. He’d been in Kenya a few years working as an entertainer at hotels, lodges and functions. His name was Reggie and he turned out to be an ex-member of Ballyhoo!

Reggie – ex Ballyhoo, now entertaining at Lodges on the Kenyan coast

I knew many musicians who had played in Ballyhoo though I’d never met him. He visited us in the afternoon and stayed for drinks and supper and we talked late into the night swapping memories of the music scene in SA during the 70’s. 

Full moon rising in paradise at Tiwi beach

We had forgotten totally of our date with Michael and Birte for a Pinacolada at the lodge. We apologised in the morning. They had seen Reggie visiting and figured we wouldn’t be able to make it and that we didn’t miss anything as the lodge made a dreadful cocktail!  They were going to Zanzibar in a few days and we suggested that they stayed at Peponi on their way south.
We decided that Peponi would be a good place for us to chill too and made plans to say goodbye to Kenya…..

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Uganda – What an unexpected surprise 

We thought Rwanda would be a hard act to follow with its natural beauty but Uganda is also magnificent. Unfortunately it’s people don’t share the pride of the Rwandans when it comes to litter. The border crossing was easy and quick and the officials very friendly. Our crossing was at Kisoro near to the Gorilla National Park in the Virunga mountains. The road into Uganda towards Lake Bunyoni is a magnificient winding pass through terraced farmland similar to Rwanda.

Terraced hills similar to Rwanda

The pass has excelent tar and stunning views. 
T4A  battled again as it had in Rwanda even though I have the latest versions of Garmin and Tom Tom compatible maps. I hope that after Karen Theron’s recent extensive travels through Africa the next editions will be better! I will send them my tracks too. The tarred pass was new so we didn’t expect that on the maps.

We followed T4A to to our overnight stop along a 4×4 track on the side of Lake Bunyoni even though we were quite sure we should have stayed on the beautiful new tar road. But the lake was so beautiful we enjoyed it anyway!

Lake Bunyoni Overland Resort is an absolute delight. It’s location is on another of those stunning Rift valley lakes.

Magnificient sunset at Lake Bunyoni Overland Resort

 Their facilities are very good. We spent two nights there.

  

Boatsmen that took us on the lake

We went for a boat ride in a group on the lake to a small island where King George had sought refuge during World War II. Dr. Strong from Scotland had also stayed on the island in the past and treated lepers in a leper colony on an adjacent island for many years.
Before going to the Bwindi Impenatrable Forest, a World Heritage Site,  we went to Kibale to stock up with essentials.

Vendors use whatever they transport their goods in, to sell from

Plenty of Bananas!

Going bananas in Uganda!

We managed to find an ATM where I could draw Ugandan Shillings, but could not find a supermarket we were used too. We managed to get some shopping from an Indian grocery store, but it stocked a selection of goods not familiar to us.  We were now in a part of Africa where South Africa had less influence, although MTN and DSTV are everywhere.

The Bwindi forest was a treat. These equatorial forests in the high Rift valley mountains, as with Nyangwe forest in Rwanda, are different to anything we were accustomed to. The birdlife was incredible with many species new to us. 

Regal Sunbird

We saw a variety of primates too. That night we camped in the Bwindi forest at the Ruhiza community rest camp run by Goodwin. Expensive as community camps usually are for what we received, but the people are so friendly and proud of what they have achieved. The stay was another memorable occation for us.

More Sunbirds in the campsite gardens

We had a stunning view of the forest and there were masses of birds in their garden too.

I avoided the ablutions with their Asian slot toilets! I’m not able to squat since my knee replacements. I  wasn’t partial to them before my operations either!  

Pristine river in the Bwindi Impenatrable Forest

We continued our trip northwards through the forest although most people turn back to Kibale and take an alternate route north.

Tea picker at a tea plantation on the edge of the forest

 We experienced a day of continual rain which turned the gravel roads into rivers. The wet season had begun. We proceeded with great care. By the time we eventually reached tar again the rain had passed for the day. 

Our route took us through the Queen Elizabeth Game Reserve. As it was a public highway we never had to pay the ridiculously high foreign vehicle enterance fees of $150 for the park. We did see some wild animals but I couldn’t enjoy the free game drive as I had to keep my eyes on the road because of the potholes! 

We crossed the equator before reaching our stop for the night at Simba Safari Camp. 

Although the camp is situated on a hill just outside the park, it’s  a great pity they hadn’t thought of providing their guests with a view! T4A described the camp as having no shade. There were trees everywhere providing plenty of shade but blocking the view. Although I’m criticising T4A, we could never have coped without their maps and information, but their coverage of East Africa is not up to date. So many roads have been tarred and local conditions changed.

The journey along the western border of Uganda was beautiful. The Rwenzori Mountains towered to the left of us and Mt.Stanley at 5100m stood out with its permanent snow covered peak. When we got closer, clouds had covered them and we were not able to get any photos. We arrived at Kisomoro near Fort Portal in the early afternoon and booked in at Kluges Guest Farm, Kabahango. The owners, Stefaan and  Mariam were the most welcoming hosts.

More bananas

It’s a well run active farm with cattle and bananas and situated on the side of a hill with a stunning view. 

Sunset over the Rwenzori Mountains at Kluges Guest farm

We would loved to have stayed here for awhile and chilled but we’d planned to chill later. We made a lovely contact with a Danish family overlanding with their three children. They promised to try contact Janne on their return home. 

It was a long drive to Kampala and we only arrived at rush hour in the evening, but I guess anytime would have been bad in the city traffic. Then the most dreadful thing occurred in the gridlock. Although we always travelled with our doors locked, Solveig had her window open and her cellphone on her lap so she could take pictures whenever she wanted. One of the throng grabbed her phone from her lap and disappeared into the crowd before she knew what had happend! She lost so many photos she’d taken since the last good WiFi connection, including a unique one of a motorcyclist with a lady and cow as passengers! The phone is insured and can be replaced but the photos are now just memories we’ll treasure together and not be able to share.

As we progressed towards our destination in the city we realised that we had two different locations for Red Chilli backpackers on our two GPS’s. We chose the closer one. Just before arriving a broken down truck blocked our path and we had to make a very difficult detour. After driving around the block on an unbelieveble road we reached our destination to find it was the wrong one! And the truck was still blocking our further progress! 

We tried the other GPS (the one that was usually incorrect) and followed that for about another 10 kms. Near the new destination the roads were even worse, but luckily the destination was correct.

New location for Red Chilli Backpackers in Kampala

Certainly nothing to get excited about but the ablutions were good. It was late, we were angry for our earlier stupidity and decided to try their famous pizzas for supper. They were very good, but big. We had enough to have leftovers for supper the next day!
In the morning we were still upset but were determined to enjoy all our experiences. Can you believe the first good experience was Shoprite! It was great to be back in a shop that stocked brands we knew. So much easier too. The next good experience was a lovely lunch in Jinja.

Good things come in threes! 

Our campsite at the Haven on the Nile

Our third was The Haven, about 30 kms up the Nile from Jinja. Our temporary home for the next few days

A colourful lizard and a Tree frog….two of the many creatures in the camp

We’d heard from many fellow travellers how special The Haven was as a place to chill after travelling through Uganda and needed a rest.

Pale Chanting Goshawk

Nothing had prepared us for what we found. It’s possibly one of the best campsites on our entire trip. We were surrounded by nature. 

Jack Fruit griwing next to our campsite

New trees we hadnt seen before which grew these huge fruits
 Creatures and birds everywhere.

A pair of Eastern Grey Plantain Eaters. 2. Juvenile African Fish Eagle. 3. Open Bill Stork

Then there was the river…….

Fisherman in his mokoro

We did something we didn’t do often and that was to treat ourselves to an excelent restuarant meal one evening.  

Fried Tilapia. Delicious!

The restuarant overlooked the rapids where we could watch rafters each morning around 10.00am.

White water rafting on the Nile

As usual, we were enriched by the people we met and made contact with. The staff at The1 Haven made us feel really welcome. We swapped stories and destinations with a young Swiss girl Sebrina.

Sebrina and I discussing campsites and routes

We can really recommend The Haven to all fellow travellers passing by that way. Eventually we tore ourselves away and left for Kenya looking forward to seeing Karen again……

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Rwanda-The Switzerland of Africa

It’s true what has been said about Rwanda by others. Everything is just perfect…. spotlessly clean, stunningly beautiful with friendly people. 
The border crossing was painless. Another “so called” one stop crossing. But this time it worked! There is also a cunning way to get you to exit the border post on the correct side of the road for Rwanda…..which is on the RHS.

There was a thunder storm threatening. We needed to find a place to stay soon. We had so enjoyed our new found friend, Jonathan Bean, at the German Boma, that we’d lost track of time, which delayed our departure.

We stopped relatively close to the Ruvumu border in a town named Kayonza

No plastic shopping bags in Rwanda!

We found a place to stay on T4A,  The Eastland Guest House, situated soon after the turning towards Kagali. There was a huge lawn at the rear of the guesthouse where we were able to park. Electricity was also available which makes cooking so much easier. While preparing supper we heard music coming from the bar area and went to check it out after eating. A local singer-songwriter was accompaning himself on guitar. He had a lovely voice and played the guitar with an unusual picking style. He sang great melodies with French lyrics. Very entertaining. We were happy and knew we would enjoy our stay in Rwanda.
The following morning we carried on to Lake Kivu instead of stopping in Kigali, except for a brief stop at Simba supermarket and some excellent Rwanda grown coffee too. We passed through stunning countryside with terraced crops grown on the steep mountain slopes

Farming on every available piece of land

and through many tiny villages with their speedbumps and 50 kph speed limits. 

Clean and well kept vilages

Progress was slow but we didn’t mind. It was all so different to anything we’d encountered before in Africa. The journey to Lake Kivu was one mountain pass after the other. 

Hotel Bethanie, Lake Kivu

We finally arrived at Hotel Bethanie, beautifully positioned with the most exquisite view of the lake.

Lake view from our campsite

Lake Kivu is one of the deep Rift valley lakes situated on the border between the DRC and Rwanda. Part of the Albertine Rift which forms the western region of the Rift Valley. Also in this area lies the Congo Nile Divide. Rain that falls west of these mountains flows into the Congo River and rain falling east flows into the Nile. 
Rwanda is a small country and the most densely populated in Africa. Although the population only numbers around 8 million. Consequently camping is not easy. Many of the campsites are part of a lodge or guesthouse, as in this case too, so you are not always catered for properly but located in a driveway or piece of grassed land within the complex.

Hotel Bethanie. Beautiful campsite

 At Hotel Bethanie we were next to the restuarant and had to use the ablutions there. It did not spoil our stay though. We were in paradise!

Boats on Lake Kivu

Fishing Boat on Lake Kivu

We took the recently tarred road south called the Congo Nile Route to the Nyungwe Forest National Park. 

View of Lake Kivu from the Congo Nile Route

We followed the meanderings of the lake up and down steep and winding mountain passes. Every now and again we drove along the lakeside, passing rice paddies. 

Wherever you look people are busy in the fields.

Then back up the passes again lined with tea plantations. 

Tea plantations right next to the forest

What a wonderful experience. Eventually the road turned away from the lake and climbed high into the surrounding mountains. We’d entered the Nyungwe Forest.

 The forest has various vegetation zones as the altitude varies. From tall trees at the lower level to the bamboo zone at the highest level. 

L’Hoeste redback monkey.

Each zone supports different species of primates and bird life.The bamboo forest in the south east supports the rare owl faced monkey which we never found. The most important aspect of the Nyungwe Forest is without doubt that it is the source of two of Africa’s greatest rivers.

The forest is host to flowers too

We camped in the forest at the Uwinka campsite which had flush toilets and solar heated showers. It was also the parks headquarters and a very popular location for hikers to set off from. There was also a canopy zipline over the forest for those that wanted a closer look from above.

We awoke exhilarated from sleeping at a high alititude to the sound of birds and monkeys.

Forest road

We continued our drive through the beautiful forest on an excellent tarred road back towards Kigali, passing many small villages and farmlands on the way.
Kigali is unbelievably clean and functional in every way. Even downtown where road works were taking place there wasn’t chaos!  The T4A recommended camping in the city had closed down! We’d noticed an establishment with a giraffe entrance on our way through Kigali on the first day and thought we’d give it a try. The usual evening thunderstorm slowed our 15km trip down and we ended up in the dark in a downpour! We’d nearly stopped at a B&B on the way but we were determined to stay at our original choice. It was dreadful!!  Thankfully we return to the B&B.

Micha’s B&B tuned out to be a great choice and was definitely meant to be. They made special arrangements for secure parking. The owner, her name was Peace,  gave us 50% discount and it included breakfast! That night we slept in luxury after a magnificent shower in a beautifully appointed bathroom. We will certainly suggest to T4A to include them as suitable accomodation in Kigali. 

We found that T4A had many inaccuracies and wrong information for Rwanda on their maps. In most cases it was about the state of roads, most of which are now beautifully tarred and re-routed in some cases. The worst of all was to try to navigate by street names in Kigali….they had all changed to a number system! Fortunately the new town names had already been updated.

Kigali skyline taken at the Genocide Memorial Museum

We seldom venture into cities unless it is absolutely necessary for shopping, exchanging money and purchasing sim cards.  However there is a “mustsee” here: The Genocide Memorial and Museum in the north of the city. I’d not been very keen to go, nor had Solveig. We both tend to be Ostriches when it comes to things we perceive as unpleasant, but after so many fellow travellers suggested that we cannot miss it, we left it to the last thing we did in  Kigali. The experience was very sobering. One can form many theories and draw many different causes for the Genocide from the facts presented but one thing is certain…..never again! 
After leaving Kigali we continued with our northwards mission.

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Farm workers busy in the fields

We have found very detailed and useful information on two blogs we’ve used often in our choice of route. They are Slow Donkey from Stan and Ann in East London and Wearthefoxhat.us from Scot and Helena from UK,  who we’ve met often in Africa. Thanks so much both of you for such a wealth of information. A good read for anybody considering doing something similar.
We arrived in Kinigi Guest House (thanks Stan) right at the edge of the Gorilla park and set up camp next to a shelter that had an electrical conection.

The Virunga mountains

View from our campsite

Cultural village where events take place

 We were not doing any Gorilla trekking in Rwanda. It’s even more expensive here (US $ 750 per person) than in Uganda. That’s more than our entire budget for Rwanda!! Besides that, we cannot tolerate any canned tour excursions. If we’re meant to see gorillas,  then we will naturally. That goes for all birds and  animals we see on our travels. That’s the bonus for being there in nature.

George and a Friendly Gorilla

Who has ever tasted an egg from granny’s chicken run at the bottom of her garden? Lovely, large, freshly laid eggs with a naturally yellow yolk. The eggs we purchased from the tiny store in Kisoro brought back those memories. As well as the bananas, pawpaw, bread, tomatoes and avos. It’s the best way to get rid of the small change you tend to collect in each country before you move on to the next one. The larger notes are used for diesel. Solveig gets great pleasure from shopping and chatting with the locals as well.
Then it was border time again! 

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