Monday, December 10, 2007


Lake Naivasha

Cycling in Hell's Gate National Park

Sandstone canyon

Longonot crater

Steam outlet

Mt Kenya - view from Pt Lenana

Glacier and lake

Glacier and terminal lake
Tarns at Mt Kenya
*** Kenya ***

* Nyaharuru and Thompson Falls *

After an overnight bus into Kenya, I firstly stopped by Nyaharuru, one of the highest towns in Kenya where I relaxed by the nearby Thompson Falls that plunge down into a deep forested gorge.

* Mt Kenya – 4 day trek *

My last big hike was up to a 4900m high viewpoint over the jagged peaks of Mt Kenya.
The first day I climbed above the tree line and camped with a view over the sloping sides of the mountain. The next day was cut short by some early snow, sleet and rain, and I sheltered and thawed out in the relative warmth of a perfectly situated cabin, that looks up to the Mt Kenya bluffs. We rose early for the summit climb over some fresh snow, arriving at dawn to see beautiful vistas of the impressive peaks and surrounding glaciers and mountains. I came down via a different route, which took me past a number of pretty ponds and a couple of shrinking hanging glaciers on the side of the mountain. The high alpine scenery here was absolutely awesome!

* Lake Naivasha, Hell’s Gate National Park and Longonot crater day-hike *

I then travelled across to Lake Naivasha, and camped a couple of nights beside this large freshwater lake in the Rift Valley, where the hippos come up at night to graze. There’s papyrus everywhere along the shoreline, and floating Hyacinth plants drift from side to side in the middle of the lake.

I visited Hell’s Gate on bicycle, riding through a striking cliff-sided gorge past Zebras, Gazelle, Giraffes and Warthogs! Ditching the bike for a minute, I walked through a small but superb sandstone canyon. On the way back, I took a detour on the mountain bike via a rough road that rises to excellent views over the main gorge and surrounding landscapes, getting caught in some afternoon rains!

On a hired small motorbike, I rode down to Longonot National Park for a walk up to this imposing 2km-wide crater, that is flat-bottomed and filled with green vegetation. The walk around the crater rim is absolutely fantastic, and I also passed by a natural geothermal steam outlet in the side of the crater rim!

* Busy Nairobi - souvenir shopping *

I spent my last couple of days in Africa souvenir shopping, having to do some serious haggling! And the crazy crowded streets of old-town district were something else, mayhem everywhere it seemed! I also caught a good live performance of some popular Congolese style music at a classy nightclub.

** Food and drink **

The food of East Africa is quite a mix of African, Western and Islamic/Indian influences. I found the food in Uganda to be the best, with the widest variety of staples (including the popular Matooke, cooked mashed bananas), and the most tasty stews. I also tried a few of the local liqueurs made from bananas, pineapple and cane sugar. They all went down pretty well.

*** Mauritius stopover ***

On the way back home, I spent a day exploring this isolated tropical island that is dominated by people of Indian origin. The beaches were gorgeous, as were the tropical waters.

* Home again *

I’m now back home after 3 months on the move, and just love home all the more!

Tuesday, December 4, 2007


On the road in rural Uganda

Local butcher

Banana market

My Mt Elgon guide

In Mt Elgon crater

Dress shop

Golf at Jinja overlooking the start of the river Nile

Busy Kampala market

Bonfire by moonlight, Sesse Islands

Sesse Islands in Lake Victoria
*** Uganda ***

* Sesse Islands, Lake Victoria *

After crossing the border into Uganda on a rainy day, I took a small minibus along the some very rough dirt roads to the Sesse Islands. I camped here at a small beach for a couple of days just relaxing and enjoying the pretty setting. One afternoon I set out on a kayak (keeping as dry as I could to avoid getting the Bilharzia bug) for a paddle around the shore and to see some of the other islands, passing some fisherman in a boat who had a healthy catch of Tilapia fish.

I took the new ferry from the Sesse Islands up to Entebbe, passing by many floating plants as we sailed through the islands and alongside the mainland coast.

* Kampala, Golf at Jinja, and whitewater kayaking on the Nile *

Arriving to the capital Kampala, the traffic was horrendous, and people and things were just everywhere. I stayed here a day, checking out the extremely busy markets, and also getting along to a great jam session of local reggae and rap/hip hop music.

Moving on to Jinja, I firstly had a round of golf on a simple course that overlooks the start of the Nile river at Lake Victoria. The big thrill though was coming down the first 11 rapids of the White Nile on a tandem kayak. We went through some serious rapids (including 2 grade five rapids), and even got through some of them without coming out of the kayak, including a couple of rolls from upside down. I did come out down the second big rapid that throws you back into a huge wave just when you think you’ve made it past!

Here I camped at an excellent spot right beside the roaring Bujagali falls (one of the more difficult rapids you come down).

* Mt Elgon 3-day hike, and motorbike day-tour *

On the border with Kenya is Mt Elgon, a huge volcanic caldera that rises to 4300m. Here I went on a 3-day trek with my trusty armed guide/ranger. The first day was a bit of a slog through the forest to reach the moorlands. On the second day we reached the crater and camped right in the middle of this huge caldera, seeing the crater wall all around us. We visited some hot springs that flow into a pristine creek, and also trudged our way up to the summit of course, for great views of the caldera and surrounding landscapes.

On my last day in Uganda, I hired a small motorbike and went on a solo tour of some small mountain-side villages nearby. I happened to pass by a small town where it was market day, and the place was just absolutely thriving with people and activity. The main road was blocked with people just everywhere. There were thousands of green bananas changing hands, and also a rowdy cattle market. I visited a small town that rose steeply up a small creek on the mountain side, seeing lots of small-plot farming and agriculture, and simple living.

Friday, November 30, 2007


Hippos in love

Giraffe at Serengeti

Leopard up tree

Flamingos in Ngorongoro

Ostrich in Ngorongoro

Kilimanjaro - On Glacier

Glacier at the top of Kilimanjaro

Rocky Kilimanjaro

Arrow Glacier, Kilimanjaro

Hiking in mist on Mt Kilimanjaro

Snorkeling at Zanzibar

Zanzibar Beach

Narrow lanes of Stonetown, Zanzibar

*** Tanzania ***

* Zanzibar Island – Old town, beaches, islands and snorkelling *

After a long overnight bus ride from Malawi, I boarded the ferry from Dar es Salaam to Stonetown on Zanzibar Island. Stonetown was a fascinating place to see, with its numerous narrow winding lanes of old buildings and houses with enclosed courtyards and the Arabic/Islamic influenced Swahili culture. I visited the old fort enclosure, the Sultan’s somewhat grandiose residence and an old disused Persian bath house.

I then hit the beaches in the north of the island, staying at Kendwa Rocks on a beautiful white sand beach, with perfect turquoise waters. Here I went for a short kayak paddle to some nearby uninhabited islands and also joined a tour out to a larger island for some excellent snorkeling along a beautiful coral reef.7

* Mt Kilimanjaro - 6 day trek *

Heading back to the mainland, I travelled straight to Mt Kili and embarked on a 6 day trek up this 5895m high monolith. I hired a friendly guide and together we bought supplies, packed and set off on our grand journey. The first few days were for acclimitisation, as we ascended slowly through the beautiful rainforest, heathlands and grasslands above the treeline. There was some rain in the afternoons, but at least the mornings were clear with great views up to the top! En-route we detoured to see the Arrow Glacier, clinging to the side of the mountain. We also passed by many Senecio plants, which give the landscape a truly unique appearance.

Having felt the effects of altitude (slight headache, dizzy and lethargic), the final summit push starting at 1am was not easy (especially above 5500m)! But when we reached the top of this old volcano just before sunrise, I had a rush of energy and was absolutely elated! It was well below zero at the top and we were surrounded by a fresh dusting of snow and numerous glaciers. Then came the long descent down 4000m, which we pushed through in one day, creating a few aches in my knees along the way.

* Safaris at Serengeti, Ngorongoro crater and Lake Manyara *

Next mission was to see some of the famous wildlife parks of Tanzania. I joined a camping-based tour that took us firstly to Lake Manyara, a pretty salt water lake backed by an escarpment of the Rift valley. There were lots of animals grazing, including Zebras, Elephants, Giraffes, various antelope, Warthogs and monkeys. There were thousands of pink flamingoes in the saltwater lake, plus pelicans, hippos and other birds in the fresh water section. Plus we saw a couple of lions lazing about.

And next came the simply stunning Ngorongoro crater, the highlight of the safari. A huge flat-bottomed caldera that is simply packed with wildlife. We descended steeply down into the crater to see many of the grazing animals, including Ostriches, Wildebeast Buffalo, Zebras, Gazelle, Warthogs etc. Plus numerous lions (some with cubs), Hyenas resting by a lagoon, and a couple of cheetahs on the prowl. It was amazing how close we got to some of the wildlife. At close range, we even saw a Serval cat pounce on a mouse and eat it whole! Bird life was also prolific at a gorgeous freshwater lake where a kite swooped down to take a chunk of chicken from our hands! Our camp on the crater wall, looking down into the crater was simply excellent as well.

And last stop was the famous Serengeti, a vast plain of savanna grasslands where numerous animals come to graze, along with their predators. The scenery was remarkable as we saw many of the animals, including huge numbers of Gazelle, Zebras and other antelope (including Topi, Heartbeast and Waterbuck). And in the seasonally greener eastern parts, there were huge herds of Wildebeast. Giraffes and Elephants were abundant too. There were also lots of Lions lazing about in the grasses and on rocks while other animals were grazing nearby. Hyenas were at the waterholes again, and after a tip-off, we found a Leopard resting up a tree which we got very close to. We also saw quite a few Jackals moving about. We camped in the middle of the plains, hearing Buffalo munching away as we dozed off to sleep…

Along the way between parks we passed by a few Masai tribe villages, getting a glimpse of how the Masai live and their impressive checkered dress and extravagant jewelry. I really enjoyed these safaris, as the scenery and wildlife was simply astonishing.

* Around lake Victoria *

Crossing the rest of the Serengeti on a very bumpy public bus, I attempted to get a ferry across the Lake Victoria. Unfortunately, due to limited buses at night, and after hitching a ride with a semi-trailer truck at night-time, I missed the ferry by 1 hour! On the flip side, the truck driver was extremely friendly and generous, and took me to his family home for the night as it was quite late. The next day I spent travelling by bus and hitching along the rough dirt roads of this region to reach the border with Uganda.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007


Lake Malawi
Sunset from ferry on Lake Malawi

Drinking local beer 'shake-shake' in Malawi

Friendly children at Lake Malawi
Fishing canoe

Washing at Monkey Bay, Lake Malawi

Local matola transport in Malawi

Mulanje Valley
Chris hiking in misty Mulanje
Tuchilo hut in cloudy Mulanje
Mulanje mountain tops

Chris at creek in Mulanje forest
*** Malawi ***

* Mulanje Mountains *

I travelled from Zambia into Malawi on some uncomfortably squashed
minibuses to the Mulanje Mountains. For the last leg I was jammed on the
back of a small pick-up truck with people, luggage, supplies and
chickens in some light rain. I set off on a 4 day hut-based hike into
this giant massif that rises from the surrounding low-land tea
plantations. I walked up through the wet forest into the clouds, losing
my way a little, to reach a beaut hut in the mountains enveloped in
mist. I then ascended the highest peak during a clear morning for great
views over the rocky mountains and approaching clouds. Finally I walked
through the heart of the mountains to reach a small village on the other
side. It was interesting to see how the people lived, each with their
own small vegetable patch.

* Lake Malawi *

On the way up to Lake Malawi, I spent a night camped at a lodge beside a
river where the hippos come up to the camp to graze at night! I then
arrived to a lakeside town near a pretty beach where the main livelihood
is fishing from this enormous freshwater lake. From here I boarded the
weekly ferry for a couple of days as it zigzagged its way up this
beautiful lake. It passes by many isolated fishing villages, including a
few on the Mozambique side and a couple of small inhabited islands. It
was a great way to see the lake. I disembarked at Nkhata Bay and spent a
couple of days lazing by the lake and snorkelling in the warm waters,
seeing many tropical fish feasting on the algae.

* Food and drink *

I’ve been eating at many of the local restaurants, often crammed out the
back of the local markets. The staple for the region is ground maize
which they have cooked with meat, fish, chicken or vegetables, often in
stews. It’s often quite nice. I’ve also tried the local beer made from
sorghum and ground maize, but I could hardly stomach a few mouthfuls!


Hippos in river at South Luangwe Park, Zambia
Safari at Dusk in South Luangwe Park, Zambia
*** Zambia ***

* Vic Falls & Zambezi gorge river board/raft trip *

I spent a few days in Livingstone, on the Zambia side of Vic Falls. I
visited the falls from the top side for a different perspective; and
also went for a swim in a pool above the falls. The highlight though was
an excellent combined river boarding and white water rafting day trip
down 25kms of the Zambezi gorge. The gorge was absolutely beautiful,
mostly at 100m high. But the rapids were brilliant, from small to huge!
They let me river board down half of the rapids, including two
straight-run grade 5 rapids. The waves were huge and for a couple of
seconds I was under water wondering when I’d come out. An exhilarating

* South Luagwe National Park *

I travelled across the country in two days to reach an excellent
campground on the Luagwe River. The last bus ride was a 100km stretch of
bone-jarring dirt road. We arrived at the camp late at night with an
elephant roaming around which we had to avoid. Setting up my tent 5m up
on a tree platform, I could hear numerous belching hippos in the river
below. Then an elephant screamed - an unhappy camper had nearly walked
into it in the dark!

Early next morning, I went on a guided game drive and walking safari.
Just as we were leaving the camp, there was a herd of giraffes along the
camp’s driveway. The walking safari was great, we saw various antelope,
giraffes and buffalo. We also walked across a dried out camp with
elephant and other animal footprints. We spied on some elephants through
some trees and when they realized we were close, one mock charged us. So
when the guard with the gun ran, so did we! I also went on an
afternoon/night safari and at night we spotted a leopard on the prowl, a
mongoose, a porcupine all flared up and a spotted hyena. We were also
treated to a pretty sunset from an elevated viewpoint over the
surrounding bush landscape.

Monday, October 22, 2007


Hitching on the back of a ute

Poling along the Okavango Delta

Okavango Delta on 'mokoro' canoe

Elephant Dung
*** Botswana ***

* Hitch hiking *

Arriving on a Sunday with a couple of Irish lasses, we hitched 600km to
Maun, a town just below the Okavango delta. Our first hitch for 300km
was on the back of a ute (pick-up). It was fun for the first 10 minutes,
but 3 hours later at 120km/h we felt like we were blown to bits. Our
next hitch was with a guy who lost his licence, so I had to drive his
car past the police road block!

* Okavango Delta – 3 day canoe ‘mokoro’ trip *

After a fun speedboat ride up the main river, we started our ‘mokoro’
trip at the bottom of the impressive inland delta, where the Okavango
river from Angola drains into the sandy earth. We travelled in
traditional dug-out ‘mokoro’ canoes that were poled along by our guides.
In this part of the delta, there are uncountable islands of different
sizes surrounded by reed filled waterways and channels. Travelling
through this terrain sitting down in a mokoro is some experience.

On our first day we enjoyed a couple of great swims in the crystal clear
channel waters. We spotted a few elephants having a mud bath in the
reeds, as well as some hippos in a gorgeous lagoon full of flowering
water lilies.

Arriving to our first camp at the end of a reedy bay, there were
elephants nearby, and one nearly walked into our camp before he realised
we were there. Our water source was a reedy pool that had a few bits of
elephant dung floating in it! The next day we went on an early morning
bushwalk around the island. There were animals grazing everywhere in the
more arid centre of the island. We saw elephants, giraffes, zebras,
numerous antelope, baboons, a herd of stampeding buffalo and even a
wildcat. Plus a lost baby elephant came running at us, so we ran away
too. Walking without any protection amongst these animals in their
natural habitat was truly awesome and a little scary at times.

We lazed about during the stifling afternoon heat, before setting off
for our second camp on a small island surrounded by reeds. Along the way
we saw a giraffe in the reeds, as well as some more elephants and
hippos. On our final day, we explored a little more of the delta, and
again cooled off with a couple of swims. This trip was a definite