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Africa – Safari


Aug 29, 2011

Sitting in the bus enroute to Maun. 550 kms. Left Khama Rhino reserve at 7.15 am.

Reached Khama from Jo’burg at 5 pm. 650 kms drive, beautiful straight road. Started from Road Lodge, Rivonia at 7.10 am. Woke up at 4.30 am and good that we did because there was no water supply in the toilet. Went down and asked for a bucket of water. Apparently some problem with the South Africa water supply board. Came down with the bags at 6 am. A big group quickly got together. There were two trips going β€” one was ours, Wildside camping trip the other Botswana Wildside accommodated tour. We are 11 people and 1 person will join at Maun.

One of our fellow campers Gonsalo, from Barcelona lost his luggage, just has a poly bag. His bags are expected in Maun. There is a couple from France. A mother, daughter and son from Sweden. Another couple from Ohio, US. One more person from Amsterdam. And us from India.

The guides are Peter, from Jo’burg and Albert from Zimbabwe. Both of them will be for the first few days and then they branch off to do a cycling trip. There are four cycles in the trailer at the back of the bus.

We reached Nairobi from Mumbai at 710 am local time. The airport is a round alley with shops on one side and seats and the toilets on the other. We got off at gate 8 and had to take our flight to Jo’burg from gate 12. There are 14 gates in all. We got in line as the 4th or 5th passenger but had to wait nearly 45 mins outside the line since we didn’t have the Yellow fever certificate in hand. I, in my infinite wisdom had packed it in the checked in luggage !! So we showed them the soft copy on “my” iPad but they wanted the printed certificate. We waited till they got our bags off the plane, I went with one of the officials to remove the certificate from the rucksack. First experience of opening your luggage on a runway. They loaded the luggage back and Krishnan and I were able to board the flight. The flight was delayed by 20 mins. Started only at 930 am. We saw mt. Kilimanjaro from the flight and also the Ngorongoro crater.

Landed in Jo’burg at 130 pm. Long walk to the passport control, but super quick stamping. They have an IR scanner for yellow fever, everyone is scanned. We went to baggage carousel to find only the brown rucksack didn’t come ! Checked with baggage control and they had our bag minus the zip, wide open. Luckily nothing was stolen, used clothes and toilet rolls are not of much use to anyone and my fav Bhakarwadi was obviously alien food πŸ™‚ lesson two – travel light, learn to pack an 8 kg backpack.

Beautiful airport Jo’burg is ! We were met at the exit. The trolleys are made differently almost like a box because they go on the escalators without everything toppling over. The guy who drove us to the hotel, is also a Toyota fan. Had a Toyota van in which he was picking us up. Johannesburg is a man made jungle – every tree has been planted by humans. The cell towers are also camouflaged like a tree – very interesting.

We ordered pizza and sandwich – room service is delivery, not a restaurant in the road lodge ! Very pretty place, but really tiny room and tinier toilet. We repacked without the rucksack, got all the food into the Turkey bag. And made the Aon backpack as the daypack. Finished “the secret of the Nagas”…. Bought a copy at the Hyderabad airport since I left my copy by my bedside in Gurgaon. Amazingly well written, now waiting for the Oath of the Vayuputras.

Trying to use notes since the battery seems to drain faster with pages. So we started from Gurgaon on the 26th morning at 510am with Manish dropping us at the airport. Woke up at 4 am. Reached home at Hyderabad by 1130 – had booked a Innova for 8 hrs and 100 kms (2250/-). the driver was all upset since he had to do his Namaaz, we told him he can take a break from 1 to 2 pm. We left for Koka’s house at 1230 and the driver went off for his Namaaz. We had lunch at Koka’s house, gossiped about our wonderful uncles and aunts !

We started from Koka’s place at 220 pm and dropped Amma at Muthu Periyamma’s house at about 245. Took the 6 pm flight to Mumbai. Highly Recommended – idlis and the filter coffee at the idli shop at the Hyd airport.

Reached Mumbai at 730 and took the inter terminal shuttle. Got onto the Kenya Airways flight at 3am. Started an hour late. Saw Kunal Kohli at the airport and earlier saw Anushka on the flight from Hyd..

Kenya airways flight was not a full flight. We just slept the first two hours. The food was ok. Lesson 3 – never have a day full of hopping flights, messes you up. So we were up at 4 am on 26th and took a two hr flight to Hyd, then an hour and a half flight to Mumbai, then a seven hour flight to Nairobi, then a four hour flight to Jo’burg !! Finally were able to sleep on a bed on the night of the 27 th.

Keep guessing what lesson 1 is.

Now to yesterday. We headed out of Jo’burg and drove to district Limpopo. We crossed a number of smaller villages. The border of SA with Botswana is called Grobler’s bridge. The formalities were minimal. Then we stopped at the Botswana check post. Formalities again minimal, the guy who stamped my passport was a giant !! Then just before crossing into Botswana they checked the vehicle for vegetables and fruits…. Did I maybe trigger it ? I was sitting by the window seat and just when the officer was looking I grabbed a banana to eat, not till then. Since they were confiscating all our tomatoes and lettuce and oranges and bananas, we decided to stop for lunch. Salad with bread, they just have multigrain bread, awesome. Then I also managed to give a quick Dr. Venkat lecture to Peter who made the mistake of asking me how we get our proteins :). Drank some lemon juice, Sean had got us a bag of lemons from his house. Very thick skin. Apparently Botswana has tan outbreak of Asian fruit fly, so we may not get any lemons during the trip. Also Elephants have a keen sense for citrus fruits and vegetables.

After reaching Khama Rhino sanctuary, we learnt how to pitch our own tents and Krishnan and I pitched our tent for the first time. Nice experience. We also got to eat a vegetable called Squash, that is steamed, cut in half and filled with salsa and cheese. Very tasty, you throw away the outer hard skin. Didn’t eat anything else for dinner.

Saw steaks being made for the first time again. On open fire, sausages and steaks. We didn’t eat any Polenta. Had tea and one group helped with cleaning all the utensils. It got really cold. Got out my cycling jacket and the buff and Vidya’s shawl and a buff for Krishnan. We then went around the fire introducing ourselves. Krishnan, Kangaroo, Kenya. Bindu, Baboon, Botswana. Went off to sleep by 1030 pm.

Aug 30th 2.30 pm local time. Somewhere in the Okavango Delta, Botswana

Just was explained how to use the toilet that is in the bush… Quite fancy, with a proper toilet seat. Just open, so we need to go with a lookout πŸ™‚

Came back to the tent and listened to “kaatril enthan geetham” under trees and the Delta water right next to us… Janaki sounds just as divine.

Lunch was Awadhi dal fry with soya sausages and peri peri sauce ! Innovative new dish.

Our friend Albert, forgot to bring tomatoes 😦

We came here in a Mokoro, a boat made out of the Sausage tree. There is an effort on to help buy the local guys Mokoros made of polycarbonate because the local folk called the Polas cut down 100 year old Sausage trees. We used a Polycarbonate Mokoro – much like the Catamaran, two people to one and the Pola who uses a pole to push the boat. This is thick marshy land and we also got to see many birds, beautiful water lillies, I pulled two out of the water.

We left the Audi camp around 715 in the 4wd, drove to the Mokoro station through jungle. Beautiful trees, now waiting for rains. The Mokoro took about 3 hrs to reach this spot.

Last night was in relative comfort – the Audi camp is a full service campsite with hot showers and clean loos, and a restaurant. We had dinner at the restaurant last night. Lesson 4 – universal chargers don’t work in Botswana, the plugs look like our 15 amp plugs. Got my camera battery fully charged and the iPad 90%. so good for the next two days. Both Krishnan and I got a good hot shower, my finger got scalded – hot water was really hot. The camp uses solar heaters.

Yesterday was eventful, we drove from the Khama sanctuary and crossed the largest diamond mine is southern Africa Orapa. Before that we saw the flour batter type diamond mine. Zimbabwe apparently has the highest deposits of diamonds now. Next big spot for the modern gold digger ?

We then decided to do the scenic flight over the delta. Amazing views but would not recommend to anyone who doesn’t like getting all packed and sudden swooping turns mid air. Krishnan got queasy…. But we got to see Elephants, Giraffes, a Zebra herd, a Buffalo herd, lots of deer, a White Rhino with a baby ! The Delta looks very different from the air, lots of water channels… Amazing. I ended up with a headache because it was too hot inside the 5 seater plane but it was also hugely noisy. First time in a cessna… A little scary, but not too bad, it’s like a flying car.

Bought a few stamps from the post office which is located on top of the air terminal.

Aug 31st jungle camp, Okavango delta, local time 1230 pm

Lying down after a good brunch. Woke up today at 530. We left for the Mokoro ride at 630 after having tea and the rocky rusks πŸ™‚ the rusks here are double the size that you get in India. Very tasty though. We went to a different island. Saw a lone elephant enroute, massive animal. Just before that we heard a Hippo give us the warning that we were in it’s area. Didn’t see it though.

Then we started the walk at the new island. Saw red luchi (deer), elephant in a distance, zebras and another type of deer. Also saw a bull’s skull – eaten by a lion.

Africa now has a small piece of Krishnan and I as we both used the jungle for bushy-bushy. Lot cleaner than the makeshift toilet at the camp, where I was mobbed last night by the mosquitoes !! Made the mistake of using the toilet after our nature walk last night, I have red welts all over my back and legs 😦 inspite of having the patch. Guess the patch works only in an enclosed space not in the open.

I got my hair done in braids, just the top of my head since the hair at the back were smaller. We made a makeshift ribbon out of a Desh maheshwari drawstring bag. I need to get the tiny plaits made, maybe at Jo’burg.

We went out for another Mokoro ride in the evening to the Hippo pool and nearly got chased out by an upset Hippo. Christina got really scared. We got back after seeing two more elephants in the wild, majestic animals.

Dinner was pasta and the Polas put up a show for us, singing songs and then each of us had to sing in our language. Krishnan sang ‘vasantha mullai polai vandhu’.

Sept 3, 2011 12.20 pm local time

Camped somewhere in the Moremi forest reserve

Sept 1 update – we got into the Mokoros by 7 so we could return to the station by 10 am. We ended up using the bushy bushy stop for just that. On the way we saw a beautiful fish eating eagle and I saw many tiny frogs. All the way back we tried playing the chief, giraffe, watobi (don’t remember the word) game across Mokoros.

Returned to the Audi camp by 1230 after shopping for creams etc. And exchanging money. Saw Indian women, gujju behens shopping at choppies supermarket. I got lemons and some moisturizing cream. We also had the danone lassi πŸ™‚ Called Amma. Got a pic of the Aon insurance advert in the same market.

Peter had not got our lunch ready. We put up our tents, I finished all the washing and Krishnan put up the clothesline to hang all the washing. Lesson 5 – one bar of rin soap lasts long really long. Lesson 6 – carry soap along with you to wash your hands when you are camping in Africa. The best toilets do not have soap to wash your hands. Or carry a disinfectant lotion.

Had lunch – veggie pasta, not sure if our non-veg friends were happy ! Slept, took a nice long shower and got connected to wi-fi at the camp. Nothing urgent, but great to know Anna Hazare’s fast was broken after 12 days. What resolve the man has πŸ™‚

At dinner we discovered that Christina mom had represented Sweden in the 1960 Olympics for fencing. Sophie is amongst the top 10 fencers in the world and Ted is a national level weight lifter. Distinguished company. Albert shared about how difficult his life was – his family is still in Zimbabwe. But now he makes good money, enough to put his children through school. Just stays away and gets to meet them every few months. Not easy.

Sept 2nd update

What a day was yesterday ! Started off with packing our stuff from the Audi camp at Maun, saying goodbye to Peter and Albert. Wrote a note for Albert in his book of memories. So many Albertisms – now we are all sorted, yaw yaw, bushy bushy, good sister, good brother, ama tobe, ama hoba, aman yofi etc !

Got all our things packed into three bags and put them into the car carrying luggage. So we got introduced to two new guys – Lazarus and Bryan. The drive up to Moremi game reserve was a couple of hours. Even before we entered the South gate, we drove through a dirt road, crossed the same buffalo fence as we had in the delta and I spotted the first wildlife – the impala. Then an awesome sighting of the Giraffe again by me !!,so thrilling. Amazingly graceful animals. We saw a number of Kudus too. Before seeing the Impala actually, Jeff spotted two Ostriches. Couldn’t photograph them before they ran away. After the Giraffe and Kudu we spotted a big African wildcat, many of us still think it was a small Leopard, seemed bigger than a wildcat. Then saw elephants closely – many many many many many elephants at a watering hole and we got really close – less than 20 feet away ! We entered the south gate around 1230 or so and had lunch. The german bread is awesome but no sauce.

And am looking for a place to lean back forgetting that I am in a tent somewhere in the jungle :):)

We continued the game drive after lunch and saw wart hogs, more impala, many more elephants, Zebras ! zebras are called a dazzle of Zebras because when they are together they skin and stripes dazzle, so predators can’t distinguish one from the other. Dazzling Camouflage.

What’s important to remember is nature provides amazing camouflage for animals and it’s so difficult to spot them, unless they are in big groups or moving. The animals don’t seem much scared of the vehicle (toyota land cruiser ) but one must not stand or make sudden movements.

After the Zebras, we spotted the vultures…. Maybe lions too and sure enough in the evening game drive we got to see them. Then the Vevet monkeys, these are tiny baboon like monkeys, the fully grown male Vevet has blue scrotum. We also saw a number of birds, the colourful eagle was the best. Just regal and beautiful plumage. We chanced upon a lone spotted Hyena wallowing in the slush. It loped away after a few minutes. Ugly looking animal ! We then saw some water bucks.

Reached our camp site and pitched our tents. I was sullen that we had to put up the tents by ourselves, even though we have gotten pretty good at it by now. We just dumped our stuff inside and took off for the evening game drive around 530. And what a treat we had – 32 elephants taking bath ! With at least 5 babies. One was really tiny and wasn’t more than a year old since it could go under it’s mom. We just parked there and everyone had their fill of the elephants, what a sight, unforgettable.

As soon as we left the elephant spa, we came across two Giraffes taking a munchy stroll.

A bigger treat awaited us, where we had seen the vultures we came across a Giraffe carcass and a young lion sleeping undisturbed. We were less than 10 feet from the king of the jungle, albeit a very one. We took pics and our prince slept on unconcerned.

We then went to a sunset point, where a hippo tried to shoo us away but was too far to scare any of us, including Christina. Then we returned to see our prince, who was joined by his mom or aunt, who was also fast asleep. We returned to the camp around 730 and had dinner by 8. Outstanding food, Polenta, sauce, and some zucchini. Both of us have discovered Polenta – maize meal πŸ™‚

Slept by 10 since we had to be up at 5 to leave for a game drive at 6 am.

What happened on Sept 3 ?

We woke up at 5, were out for the game drive by 6, got to see very few animals initially since it was very cold. Went first to check on our lions – there was an older male lion feeding off the giraffe carcass and our young Turk waiting his turn patiently. He looked at us with not much interest. We then went to the hippo pool and got to see nearly 20 hippos in a single place. Amazing sight. Then got to see some zebras, elephants and i spotted a lone baby crocodile before returning to the campsite for brunch. I heated up the chana masala in a saucepan and scalded my fingers while trying to pick up the pan, dropping half the chana into the fire !!

Took my first bucket shower after sleeping for an hour or so. Then we were off on our evening game drive, hoping to catch the leopard. Got to see buffaloes, and really shy ones near the elephant spa. Also many elephants again.

“There is a lion in front of us” – even as Bryan said these words, our friend was less than 3 ft away !! What a sight, the king was unconcerned, seemed a little miffed that we had disturbed his evening stroll, so he sat down by the side of the road. What a great way to end the day.

During the afternoon break I collected everybody’s email addresses, so I can create a google group.

Sept 4, 2011 at Savuti 343 pm local time,

Drove through sandy roads for nearly 90 kms from Moremi to reach Savuti. Yeah am pissed off, this vacation is turning out to be more work than time off. Wild camping is fun if someone else is pitching the tent and cooking and cleaning, not if you have to do it yourself. It can still be fun if the weather is pleasant, this is hot, nearly 37 C. We got late by an hour, all of us were up by 5 and the tents were packed and ready by 630, but we only managed to leave the campsite at Moremi by 7 and then from the north gate again we got late.

The start was promising, we saw a hippo in the rivulet next to our campsite. And a lot of giraffes, zebras, kudus, elephants and birds on the way to Savuti, but no leopard still.

Was hoping for a grand goodbye from our friendly neighbourhood lions, no luck there too.

Now am waiting to take bath, while Krishnan takes the bucket shower. I used the bucket shower for the first time yesterday… It is literally a bucket hung from a rope with a shower cap at the bottom that you twist to open or close.

950 pm, Savuti campsite

About to go off to sleep. The evening game drive was eventful again. No leopard, but we got to see nearly a 100 elephants in the marshland and buffaloes, and for the first time saw a Wilde beest. We also stopped at a huge baobab tree for a photo op. On our way back from the marsh land, we saw the elusive African wild dog, trying to hunt a wildebeest. The wildebeest chased the dog away and ran off, what a rare sight. There were three dogs, again rare to see them. They made strange wailing sounds…. Maybe they were really hungry and hopefully they get a good meal.

Returned to camp to have dinner. Got rice and had a fruit “thair saadam” with vegetables and peri peri sauce. We are nearly getting addicted to the peri peri sauce. Chai and then downloaded today’s pics… Amazing country Botswana is … The sunset is especially beautiful, the colors are just gorgeous. Our tents are pitched next to the Savuti channel, a river that has been dry for nearly 28 years.

In a far better frame of mind, guess the heat gets to me as always. Signing off to get up at 5 tomorrow… The Leopard and a pride of lions on the menu, maybe a cheetah.. Greedy ? Of course.

Sept 5 , 2011 3.28 pm local time, Savuti campsite

The day started off normally, at 5, breakfast, interesting oats porridge, no bushy bushy and off we were at 615. First saw the elephants, the swamp had hundreds of buffaloes, lesson 7 – never travel without binoculars. The birds on the marsh were so beautiful, egrets, cranes, Egyptian geese, etc. We searched and searched and searched for the elusive leopard. Went in circles around one spot where someone spotted a leopard, but couldn’t see it. I nearly thought we would see no cat today, when suddenly Bryan turned and drove through water and chanced upon a Lion pride… Woo hoo… We just parked ourselves less than 20 ft away from the dozing lionesses. 7 in all, two lionesses and the rest were cubs,one really tiny one. We spent 45 mins, watching the big cats find shade, look out at kudus and just snooze. The Queens were well fed, so no threat. It’s interesting that a predator wont attack if it has had it’s fill and man stocks up food 😦 scared it will run out ?

Before the lion pride we managed to photograph a mongoose trying to dig for worms and insects.

Took a bucket shower just now, refreshing and a little scary to take your clothes off in the open and hope no one comes by :):)

Now waiting for the evening game drive.

The evening game drive was tame. No new animals.. And after the lion pride only a leopard would have got us going. We climbed up the rocks to see the rock paintings. I climbed close to the top but didn’t go all the way as the rocks were slippery.

Beautiful panoramic views.

Dinner was squash and sauce. Have to take the recipe back to try at home. Love it. Just steam a squash and cut into halves, put salsa sauce into the halves with cheese. Simple.

Lesson 1 – keep all travel related papers in one pack and your hand luggage.

Sept 6, 2011 426 pm at the Chobe National park

Ok writing this at Kasane, on 6th at 231 pm

Yesterday started off with a bang ! We found two fully grown lions roaring as we started out of Savuti. What swagger, complete King like. Then the long drive to Chobe started and as soon as we entered the Chobe park, the river had 100s of Zebras, buffaloes and pelicans, storks, egyptian geese. So nobody remembered the long drive ! Then we chanced upon a sleeping hippo out of the water. What luck πŸ™‚ we reached our campsite and had bad lunch – very little food, just Mooabe’s awesome bread but everybody got just a slice. Sunway has to get feedback that they need to give better food every time, there are at least three meals that they just did “something”.

We put up tents again, slept a while and then started the evening game drive. Nothing new till the very end, when Bryan went off on a tangent and found 5 one and a half year old lion cubs – woo hoo.

Awesome day – started with fully grown lions and ended the day with cubs.. Too good.

Sept 7, 246 pm Kasane camp site

Ok, an eventful start to our 21st anniversary. We were visited in the middle of the night, by an elephant tribe and a few honey badgers. So kept awake from 115 to 3 am.

Then the morning game drive was uneventful till we saw a number of crocodiles, and then three lionesses from the pride last evening. Nice farewell from Chobe…

We seem to have made it a habit to be on a cruise on our anniversary .. Last year was the Bosphorus cruise and this year the Chobe cruise. We bought some ice cream and cake for our safari friends… Krishnan had spoken to Albert and Sunway policy is to do either ice cream or cake. The ice cream turned out to be great but the cake was just ok. Got some of our jeans and shirts washed at the camp.

After the cruise and being chased off by hippos we had dinner at an Indian restaurant and the small world that it is – the owner is from Vasant Kunj, and his sis-in-law works for Aon Hewitt. What a coincidence !!

Great anniversary ….. But I liked privacy and just the two of us at the restaurant – not a big group.

Krishnan’s take –

We celebrated our 21st wedding anniversary in the most beautiful manner and style possible – almost ten years back we had planned that my 50th birthday will be celebrated with a safari holiday in Africa. We are just now in the last few days of our African Safari, traversing a distance of about 1200 kms on road covering three countries- South Africa, Botswana and Zambia. We were able to see in person a wide range of fauna and flora that most of us get to see only on our idiot boxes – lions, giraffes, buffaloes, rhinos, hippos, hyenas, elephants, zebras, warthogs, crocodiles, many varieties of antelopes and a range of birds.

We stayed in tents right through the safari where our tents were pitched right in the heart of the animal kingdom.

We celebrated our wedding anniversary day in a restaurant serving Indian cuisine at Kasane in Botswana. The owner of the restaurant is a guy fqrom vasanthkunj, Delhi whose sister in law works with Hewitt! Had great homely food after almost two weeks and have met indians after almost two weeks. The guy took some amazing photos of us and they really look good.

Looking back at the year 2011 so far, I have had the best of the BD and WA celebrations anyone can think of, all thanks to my one n only Bindu!

There is a famous Tamil film song which says that a wife is a true gift of God and am able to feel it every moment of my life, with Bindu.

Sept 9, 2011 925 am local time

Most important lesson 10 – never agree to less than what you paid for ! We paid $280 for a 15 min helicopter ride over the Victoria falls and ended up sitting in the middle seat, with no way to take great pics. Complaining post facto does not help, even though we did protest with the pilot, and the handlers. We should have refused to get onto the flight without one of us having the window seat. Batuka air sucks, great adventure people who do the booking at Waterfront campsite are equally not interested. They never mentioned there wouldnt be any guarantees for the window seat and didn’t tell us they will put at least one person by the window for a couple.

What happened yesterday ?

We saw the most beautiful waterfalls in the world…. Awe inspiring. We left Kasane at 7 am and then took the barge to cross over to Zambia. There is open smuggling of beer cases at the Botswana border. Zambia reminded us so much of India… The same type of hawkers at the entry point selling bangles, wooden statues etc. Difference is everyone speaks English. Guess the one gift to mankind from the UK is the English language. We reached the Waterfront campsite around 10, it’s 7 kms from the entry point. Before coming to the campsite we stopped at the bank where the ATM card and the credit card didn’t work… Dont know why.

We pitched our tent for the last time on this trip, went to have lunch at the restaurant in the campsite. Very limited menu and almost non-existent veg options.

We rushed to the Victoria falls at 1215, without even getting a chance to comb my hair. Once a the falls we forgot everything – the sight of the falls, Phantom’s home was awe inspiring. It’s the Zambezi river that falls over a gorge that is spread across 1.7 kms and the water falls to 180 mts.

We are now Trillionaires courtesy the non-usable Zimbabwean official currency πŸ™‚ feels good though. The souvenir shops let you do an old world barter. Felt strange though.

We got dropped at the Super Spar, only to discover there was nothing super about it. It looks like they are shutting down. Got back to the camp by walk… Hardly a soul on the road.

Sept 16

Sept 23, 2011 5.21 am 30000 ft above sea level

Well, my first notes onboard an aircraft. Am on the Etihad EY 211 to Abu Dhabi and then onto Chicago. For the first time I am travelling with just hand baggage to the US and it is under 10 kgs. I need to whittle that down further to 8 kilos all told. The laptop does add weight.

To fill in the last 14 days…..

Sept 9

After we returned from the helicopter ride we tried to complain at the Waterfront resort to Vinnie as well… But to no avail. While standing at the reception I saw that they have a free shuttle service to the city centre at 10 am and 2 pm and put Kichu and my name on it. Checked with Adrian, Helene and Nico andadded their names as well. We went to the city centre, the bus dropped us off at the post office. Tried to draw money from the StanChart ATM but didn’t manage to. Guess Citibank prevented that courtesy the state of the Kvecha in Zambia. When we walked out, we didn’t find Adrian and Helene so we started to walk towards the left, crossing over to the other side. We saw the Christina, Ted and Sophie on the opposite side but they didn’t see us. We finally crossed over to the opposite side and found the crafts Market and our friends. Shopped for masks, figurines in wood and finally got a couple of etched paintings. All told spent $40 and bargained like never before … It seemed as though the shopkeepers were wanting to just sell and if we had dollars they wanted to get it.

We sat down on a bench to wait for the others and I handed over the pack of Marie biscuits to a cute little boy πŸ™‚

The restaurant mentioned by Ashok (Kasane Indian restaurant owner) was just further down the road after the crafts Market. We first thought of eating there, but we had already eaten some bread and peri peri sauce, cheese before starting from the camp. And Adrian and the Frenchies didn’t want to eat food there. So they decided to return to the camp in a taxi. We thought of going over to the Shoprite that we saw across the street. So we did and shopped for juice, chocolate, fruits and stood at the cash counter only to be told that they won’t accept a credit card nor dollars, only Kvecha. So disappointing… We left everything there, and walked out to try other stores, but encountered the same problem. As the heat increased my sullenness increased as well and finally we decided to take a taxi but we had walked some distance away from the city centre ….. We saw a store at a petrol pump and decided to check if they would accept a credit card. No luck, but thank God we saw a taxi as soon as we came out and he agreed to take us to Waterfront in $10… we had only $20 bills, but retold him we will change it for him. He called a friend of his to see if he had $10 to give us change. The front desk at Waterfront gave Krishnan two 5 dollar bills and Kvecha equivalent for the taxi driver.

We decided to give away the Maggi Noodles as our contribution to the dinner and also the bread, peri peri sauce and cheese slices. Had a great dinner…. Mooabe cooked a lot of food. Lazarus’ wife reached quite late, around 9 or so. I ended up cooking Maggie too early so they just congealed !! Gonzalo gave a pic of his to our Swedish Mama. A goodbye dinner πŸ™‚

Sept 10

They wanted us to pack and handover the tents etc by 8 so that Lazarus and Bryan could drive back to Maun. And we were to sit in the restaurant for a couple of hours till the red bus dropped us at the airport. Didn’t quite agree with the idea but didn’t have a choice. Did as was told, filled in the feedback form with feedback that there should have been more food many days, the mattresses were really thin and we could have spent an extra day in Chobe rather than two days in Livingstone. We ate breakfast, I gave

Tea bags since they had run out of them… Lazarus went and got some coffee powder from the reception. Not the most awesome way to end a trip πŸ™‚

We went to the restaurant and plonked ourselves. Put the iPad to charge. Krishnan took some photographs. Managed to spend two hours … Mostly spent talking to Jeff. Then loaded the stuff up on the accommodated tour’s red bus and off we went to the Zambia airport. Saw the post counter and wanted to buy stamps… Krishnan said no and I listened. We had managed to reduce 10 kilos courtesy the food articles being eaten, but the two bags came to33 kilos. Jeff and Michelle’s bags each came under 12 – they had really followed instructions πŸ™‚

Said goodbye to the Swedes and Adrian and managed to get stamps for 5 dollars and also a prettier statue for Vidya. Gonzalo was heartbroken to see Sophie go !!

Flight landed at Jo’burg and we said goodbye to the Frenchies, Gonzalo, Jeff and Michelle. Found Roger and asked him to take us to an ATM. Went up to the first floor of the airport and was given clear instructions by Roger not to count the dispensed notes and not to push the card in if it didn’t go in the first time. But no difficulty in getting money here! Withdrew 2000 Rands.

Got to the Wesley hotel after Roger stopped at a Woolworth store for us to buy some groceries. What a cool store, just loved the range of foodstuff. Wesley was beautiful, the room had a bath tub in the bedroom πŸ™‚ nice smelling sheets and really pretty outdoors. Just vegetated on 10th except booking a taxi for the next day to take us to the Rosebank flea Market. Wi-fi was free and we discovered civilisation. We also discovered Talkatone .. And spoke to Amma.

Sept 11,

Woke up and took a leisurely shower washing ourselves is the bath tub was amazing, good quick breakfast and Went to the flea Market and what a flea Market it was !! Dilli Haat multiplied. Went to the first floor to the food stalls, ate at an Indian stall… The curry was chicken minced with Potatoes and I realised only after we had eaten a mouthful … They immediately offered to give us veggie stuff instead of what we got and didn’t even charge us, even though we offered to pay. Went around to the artistes corner and really liked the painting of he Zebra, very life like. We wanted the combo of the Zebra and Giraffe not the Kudu and the artiste’s sister didn’t want to give it give that till she had spoken to her brother. We took his card and didn’t buy. Bought a lot of things at the crafts Market and also the cd’s of African music for Bobby. Found the Cape Union Mart store in the same mall… Interesting store but not nearly as well stocked as a REI store.

Again bought some things to eat at the Woolworth and our driver did not come till 4.15 so we walked to the next road and got into another Rose radio taxi, paid the same 100 rand and got back to the hotel.

Roger had told us his rates for a full day tour and half day tour. Quite steep.. So we decided to go with the agency recommended by Teddy at the hotel for the Monday tour to Pretoria. Wednesday we planned go see the Lion and Rhino park, play with the lion cubs and see the Maropeng cradle of mankind.

Walked up to the Woolworth store we had seen at the traffic signal but the closed at 5 so didnt get to buy anything.

Sept 12

We started early by 830 and went first to the Cullinan diamond mines near Pretoria. This mine has given the world’s latest ever diamond – 3000 carats ! We did the surface tour seeing how the stones were taken out and washed and ground and diamonds were extracted… The mines are now owned by the Petra group from the Middle East. The underground tunnels extend up to 700 kms and there are several houses in the tiny lane outside the mines, that are nearly a 100 years old. The tour was for about 2 hrs with the last stop being the diamond store. They have the Cullinan cut which is 64 faces instead of the traditional 56 faces.

There are nearly 2 million carats of diamonds still to be mined, so a long life ahead for the mines.

From the mines we went to Pretoria and ate lunch at ‘Namaskar’ an Indian restaurant… Good food, very fancy way of bringing the biriyani inside a roti, that had ballooned. But too much food, so we got the rest of it packed.

Pretoria was interesting, the parliament building that overlooks the CBD then the Melrose house, the church square, Paul Kruger’s house and then finally the Voortrekker museum. Most impressive was the Voortrekker museum built in a way that it faced off to the parliament house. It has paintings and stone carvings on the Walls to showcase the Boor history. On the rooftop there is a hole from where on a particular day, the anniversary of the Boor war, sunlight hits the cenotaph built in the basement.. Quite a blood history of wars with the Zulus.

The basement has displays of a village life and the ox carts. Even today just outside the museum there are ox cart tracks where they race ox carts on the anniversary day. The Zulus unfortunately do not have such a monument to commemorate their heroes !

Returned to the hotel by about 730.

Sept 13

Decided not to go anywhere but spend time in the malls … So left with the owner of the Wesley, Tony, to the Fourways mall. Spent time walking around … Awesome bookshop, called Estiril. They had the full series of the “One Child” author’s book and I bought the “twilight children”. We also bought the book about the Animals and birds of the South Africa that Lazarus and Bryan used. Bought sandwiches and yoghurt drink from Woolworth and ate sitting on a bench in the mall. The Cape Union Mart in the Fourways Mall was really good. Fell in love with a green jacket, but it was only for men and Pattu refused to buy it. The guy in the store showed us the Garmin 800 and Suunto t4d watch, but prices are so much more expensive in SA than Amazon. The guy suggested we should look at prices in Trappers in the Fourways Crossing mall and then they were willing to match the lower price. We walked across to the Fourways crossing mall. This was more like the Galleria Market with shops on the ground floor. We got into the Sportsmans Warehouse, amazing store. The sleeping bags were very tempting, and the 3-in-1 rucksack was really good for 6500/-.

We went to Trappers but the didn’t have the Garmin 800 and Suunto. S just left the mall and we tried using the public phones just outside the mall.. They weren’t working and finally I called the Rose Radio Taxi at 445 or so. The lady at the other end could not understand my accent and disconnected the phone. I tried calling Vincent who had taken us to Rosebank, but he didn’t call his office apparently. Finally Krishnan got the brilliant idea of calling Roger and asking him to call Rose Radio Taxi. Got thru to him and he did call them… We stood there for 1.5 hours and finally the taxi showed up. The local transportation sucks in SA. They have these minivans/minibuses that have a sign language all their own… But scary as hell. Roger had warned us from getting into one of these. Then the Rose guy charged us 250 Rands for a 7 kms run … Crazy. During the 1.5 hours I called Teddy and the Wesley some 15 times and no one answered… Not done. We did return safely but it was a little worrying.

Sept 14

We again started early .. 845, supposed to start at 830 but Roger got late in traffic. We went to the Maropeng museum first.. Amazing setup. Traces the history of the Earth and Mankind.. We the human species are just a few seconds before midnight in the timescale of the Earth. We had some 250 school children visiting at the same time as us and created quite a noise. The ticket counter experience was interesting.. I first said yes to Strekfontein caves, then said no but the counter guy swiped the card for Maropeng and Strekfontein caves, so we did go. The caves were amazing.. That’s were a huge number of Hominid fossils have been found .. The caves go down 60 mtrs and the air is fresh because there are 5 openings in the ground level… Through which our ancestors fell and became fossils because they could not get out.

After the caves we went to the Lion and Rhino park. After seeing these magnificent animals free in Botswana, it was sad to see a super magnificent Siberian Tiger fenced in… He hated it too and kept walking around. This is a huge game park with an Animal creche. We played with cheeky baby lions and saw really tiny lion cubs. Super cute and couldn’t get enough of them but would have preferred to see them in the wild.

We stopped at the Fourways crossing mall on the way back to draw money and exchange the L tights for an XL… I could fit into the L but wanted some room for my cycling shorts.

Sept 15

The one day that we vegetated… Just packed everything, read a lot of the Twilight Children.

Sept 16

Off to India… Missed the spicy food. Haven’t seen, let alone eat a green chilli. First 3 week holiday of our lives… Need longer vacations :):)

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1 comment

  1. Great work, keep it up!

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