Sunday, July 11, 2010

Reflections on our trip

First of all we should have called this blog Tanzania4Tea and Tomatoes! I was amazed at how many people were selling buckets of tomatoes alongside the road and they were really delicious.

In four and a half weeks we have traveled 13 000km through eight countries. The trip has given me a bigger picture of this wonderful continent of Africa. Here in South Africa we have limited knowledge about the people and activities north of us. Over the years many of us have built up misconceptions. Before we left many people told us that we were going to have a big problem with police road blocks and corruption. In fact everyone who stopped us was polite and friendly. There was only one determinedly corrupt border policeman at Nyamapanda border post in Zimbabwe. In fact other travelers we met told us they'd had problems with the same policeman and a few others. For this reason we returned via Botswana and not Zimbabwe. We heard a Zimbabwean on the radio wondering what had happened to all the World Cup tourists who should have been coming to Zimbabwe. Word gets around and people aren't prepared to be ripped off. Until Zimbabwe get their act together and stop treating tourists and visitors in this way they won't prosper as a tourist destination.

Things I will miss about the countries visited?
  • Loads of fresh produce in Tanzania. 
  • The wonderful friendly and welcoming people we met in all the countries we visited.
  • Waking up each morning with a sense of expectation about what we will see and do. 
  • The wonderful game reserves. 
  • Scenery
  • Mt Kilimanjaro, Victoria Falls, Botswana's wide open spaces. 
Things I won't miss?
  • Potholes! 
  • Wild bus drivers
  • Money changers at borders
Things I appreciate about being back in SA?
  • Being at home - always welcome after a trip. 
  • Fellow South Africans
  • Enjoying the World Cup Final 
  • Understanding the currency. 
  • My internet connection. 
The trip was awesome - a once in a lifetime experience. I am so glad we did it. It was really great to connect with Brock again and of course meet Delphi for the first time. Thank you Lord for the resources and the opportunity to do this trip. 

Saturday 10 July - Home to Port Elizabeth

We thought the last leg of our journey from Pietermaritzburg to Port Elizabeth would be a breeze even though it's a ten hour trip. We know the road well and after some of the roads we've traveled in the last month we were sure it would be easy.... but it did seem to take forever. I guess the anticipation of getting home makes the time drag.
 I wanted to take a photo of this little church near Kokstad on our way north last month but there was too much traffic. Today I had my opportunity. I just love the bright colours and the contrasts.

The trip was uneventful and we arrived as it was getting dark. Our dogs were amazed to see us. I guess when you're over ninety in doggy years the memory isn't a strong point. They thought we were never coming home again and they want to know what we've done with the house sitter. After a few minutes they did show some excitement and we were sniffed over to get the news from all over Africa. My trainers must be particularly interesting because I've worn them every day.

We found our house in excellent order, clean, neat and welcoming. Thank you Edwin for doing such a great job of taking care of things this end. It's wonderful to have one's own bathroom, bed, kitchen..... Life's good and we are feeling so blessed all over again.

We were in time to watch the third place play off between Germany and Uruguay which was actually taking place here in PE - of course we watched on TV. After all the lovely warm weather we have had up north we're going to have to acclimatize to the PE winter again. In fact there's lots we're going to have to get used to again - such as work...... But we have a new appreciation of South Africa for her climate, infrastructure, the wonderful people. It's going to take us a few weeks to get back into the swing of things but we are so grateful for the wonderful adventure we have had and that the Lord has brought us safely through eight countries and 13 000km. Wow!!! I will write a reflection on our experience as a final blog entry.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Friday 9 July - Rest day in Pietermaritzburg

The first thing we thought as we woke up this morning is that we didn't have to jump out of bed and prepare to take off for the next stopover. This was our way of getting our early morning exercise - especially when we had to take down the tent, fold up the stretchers and pack the car. We became very efficient in our routine but we're glad it's over for now - until the next camping trip.

Nicholas was on form and kept us entertained.

One of the chores we did was take a huge bag of dirty clothes to the local laundromat so we would at least go home with clean clothes. When you have to move on every day it's not always possible to keep up with the laundry. We became very casual about wearing less than clean outer clothes and concentrated on keeping up to date with washing the underwear. My jeans and cargo pants were capable of walking on their own by the time they had a good wash.

In the afternoon we were able to spend time with Janet in Hillcrest. Unfortunately Matthew was learning for an exam on Saturday so he wasn't able to join us. I'm actually starting to get excited about going home tomorrow.

Thursday 8 July - Vaalwater to Pietermaritzburg

We left the BnB early and soon found ourselves on the N1. Freeways!!! I had almost forgotten such things exist.

In Port Elizabeth we have the Bridge Shopping Centre over Langenhoven Drive. Here they have a Steers restaurant over the freeway! We had our breakfast at this Petroport north of Pretoria. We sat in the restaurant and looked down on the freeway below us. Such fun and worlds away from some of the places we have visited further north.

We arrived in Pietermaritzburg in the early afternoon and enjoyed time with Nicholas and Linda. It's amazing how much he's grown and changed in just four weeks.

I can't believe we're back in SA. The time has just flown by. It wasn't so long ago that Gareth took a photo of us leaving their house on our way north. What a wonderful month. I'm so glad we took on this adventure.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Wednesday 7 July - Back in RSA

We left the Elephant Sands lodge determined to do our best to get back there one day. It really is a great place to unwind and have fun. There was a large crowd of people there traveling from RSA to Chobe. They were also over-nighting and a jolly time was had by all!! Of course there was the soccer match and the elephant came back to the swimming pool to have his last drink of the day. Some of us wondered if we'd had too much to drink when we saw him.... Great entertainment.

The journey south went well. One of the guys at the lodge told us about the Parr's Halt border post. We went for it and it really was a great border to go through for the last crossing - sort of restores one's faith in border employees. Clean, organised, no trucks, no hustlers.... We then drove to Vaalwater where once again we prayed we'd find something suitable before dark and here we are in a lovely warm comfortable CLEAN room for the night. I also have my phone connected via my own sim card and it's working as a modem and no worries. We decided not to camp tonight as it takes too long to pack up in the morning and we want to make an early start for our long day ahead.

I was thinking as we drove, "Would I do this again?" Most definitely. It's been an awesome adventure and it's opened my eyes to so many aspects of our continent. One of the really interesting things has been watching the trucking community. There are thousands of truckers moving around from country to country. If we thought we have problems at the border they have it much worse. They can sit at a border post for days waiting for their truck to be checked  by customs and to get everything in order. They are a strong community together and we've noticed how they support one another. Then of course they have some abominable roads to contend with - such as in Northern Zambia. It's amazing how helpful they are too. If one takes the trouble to watch and learn the signals they give to any motorist behind them overtaking is simple. I had no fears of overtaking one or two trucks at a time. They are a great bunch of people.

We live on a wonderful continent with such amazing people who survive against all odds at times. I am proud to be an African and this trip has given me a new insight into our neighbours. It's been an education of its own. I'm so glad we did it.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Tuesday 6 July - Livingstone to Elephant Sands

What an amazing day. Even at the end of our holiday things get better and better. We came through the border into Botswana without much of a problem.  The photo is of the ferry across the Zambezi River.  At Kazangulu on the Botswana side of the river we counted 63 big trucks waiting to get through customs. Some of those truckers wait there for days. What a life!

The road south was pretty good most of the way until we reached a place where there was some road re-construction. However, the detour was a better road than some that we've traveled on lately. We had decided to travel as far at Nata and overnight there. The Bradt guide gave us two options that appealed to us. The one, Elephant Sands Lodge is about 50 km before Nata and the other one is 10km south. We took a turn into Elephant Sands and the first thing we saw was an elephant slurping up the water in the swimming pool! This was definitely the place for us!!

We pitched our tent and went across to the lodge and met Bruce, the local microlight pilot who does flips over the pans in the area. We decided to treat ourselves to a flip for our anniversary. Mark went up first and he took the photos. When they came back it was my turn. I overcame my nervousness and thoroughly enjoyed my flight. How magnificent to get an aerial view of the bush, the pans and the animals. I saw literally hundreds of elephant. Wow! Also some buffalo, giraffe, impala and a warthog. But seeing the bush and the pans is an awesome sight. Each of us enjoyed a twenty minute flight and I must say I was relieved when we both landed safely.

As we were walking back to the lodge Mark said he heard a thump noise. We went across to the lodge and bought a beer each. A few minutes later a young guy came in and said, "I'm fine! we're both fine but the microlight isn't so good." What do you mean? The microlight just crash landed at the end of the runway!!! Oh my. What a shock but what a joy that no one was injured. Another miracle....

And here's a shot of the damage a few minutes after my flight. Eish!! I've always been a nervous flier. If this had happened while I was on it I would have died of heart attack!!!!

Monday, July 5, 2010

Monday 5 July - Monze to Livingstone

We managed to make an early start.Today is Heroes Day in Zambia and tomorrow is Unity Day.We had a clear run south on a great road with very little traffic - possibly because of the holiday. There was a marked absence of trucks on the road so we had none of the angst of overtaking the heavies. The road deteriorated on the last 80km before Livingstone but unlike in the north they are actually working on the roads so there is hope.

Livingstone is a pretty place with a colonial feel about it. Unfortunately because of the holiday we couldn't change dollars to Pula for our trip to Botswana tomorrow but we had a great visit to the Falls. It's my first ever visit and it is an awesome sight. I can't believe how much water flows over the edge. We walked onto the bridge and watched a young girl do a bungi jump. Awesome but I'm glad I'm "too old" for that sort of thing. :-)

There were hundreds of people at the Falls and we enjoyed the cosmopolitan atmosphere. It really was worth the visit.

We also managed to book into a lovely campsite about 2km from the Falls at a place called Maramba Lodge. It's part of a lodge and although it's a long walk to the ablution block we're sure to have a peaceful and secure night in our tent - although there is a sign near our site saying, "Beware of the hippos". I don't think I'll be venturing to the facilities after dark - there's lots of shrubs near our tent and I do have my little stool with the hole in it. That has been used a lot on those long trips.

Our holiday definitely has a "winding down" feel about it but we still have tomorrow night in Botswana and Wednesday night somewhere in SA before we arrive back at Nicholas' house. Wednesday is our 37th wedding anniversary so we'll have to celebrate with a great meal somewhere - no tuna and couscous that night! A trip like this - a whole month in a confined space together all day every day has reminded us that we have a good marriage and a great friendship (except when Mark is telling me how to drive or I am tired and grumpy). We can appreciate one another for who we are and we are both grateful for our marriage. Thank you Lord!