I only have one week left of my tour! 😦 I’ve had quite a lot of fun since I’ve posted my last entry! On the first day in Zanzibar, it was very rainy for the first part of the day. We had a late lunch (not that we were trying to, but the restaurant service was beyond slow) and finished when the sun came back out at 2pm. I still had to get my laundry done but when I asked the hotel, they said that they charged per item. This meant that one pair of underwear would cost 500 shillings (which is only equivalent to about 25 cents American) but would definitely add up with two weeks of dirty clothes. I decided to just wash my clothes in the sink (which took about an hour) and then I spent the afternoon on the beach. About half of our group went on a booze cruise, where they got unlimited alcohol for $30, but my group decided to buy Smirnoff for $5 each and stay at the hotel. The pop was so expensive! Two 2-litre bottles ended up costing us $8!! (By the way, all of the dollar amounts refer to American dollars, so it would be even more in Canadian). That night, we had a dance party on the beach, which was a lot of fun! The next day was the first day that I didn’t get sick after a meal (yay!). Our group had come up with the name “The Diarrhea Club” with the slogan “Where Shit Happens” because all of us were constantly getting sick. That morning, I got up for breakfast and then spent the entire day on the beach. We had dinner as a group that night since a lot of people would be ending their trips the next day (including our tour guide). I had an amazing eggplant lasagna that night, and I got dessert as well! The payment for dinner took at least half an hour. They went to all 20 of us with a calculator, asked what we ate, looked at the menu for the price, and added it together so we could each pay individually. Because dinner ended so late and because we had an early morning the next day, we all went to bed right after dinner (after paying off our tabs). The payment of our tabs also took forever! We had to tell them our room numbers at reception, they phoned the restaurant who had to walk all of our receipts to reception, and then they added up all of the receipts using a calculator. Finally, we were able to go to bed! On Friday, we had to have everything packed by 6am and then we had breakfast and left at 7am. They had a 28-passenger van, so we had a 1.5-hour drive back to Stone Town and then caught the 9:30 ferry. The ferry was absolutely horrible that day! It kept rocking back and forth, and many people were carrying around puke bags. I don’t normally get sick on boats but that day, I was trying to keep myself occupied so I wouldn’t get sick. When we got back to Dar es Salaam, we joined a new group of people in a new truck for the rest of our trip. These people are doing a 73-day trip around Africa and were already together for about 33 days when we joined them. There were 12 of them and 12 of us so we made a full group again. In their group, they have some Americans, Kiwis, Canadians (from Whistler and Abbotsford), Belges, Australians, a Swede, and a German. Within a few days, we all integrated quite well together. That day, we were supposed to stay in Dar es Salaam but due to construction, they decided to travel a bit further in order to cut down our driving time the following day. We were able to do some shopping and we ended up finding KFC, which was so worth it! We drove to a place called Morogoro and found out that we’d have to leave early the next morning. It was already dark by the time we got there and I was on dinner duty so I spent most of my evening cutting vegetables. They have a chores rota on our truck so we’re put into groups and one day, we’ll make meals, another we’ll do dishes, then we’ll be security and make sure everything’s locked up, and then we’ll have to clean the truck out. It’s a good system and very well-organised – during the first week of our trip, our guide was just asking for volunteers and the same people would volunteer each time. The way that this truck worked, we’d often leave at 6 in the morning and stop on the side of the road at about 9:30 in the morning to set up the stove and make breakfast. It’s an interesting way of doing things but it’s hard not being able to have my coffee during the first few hours of the day! The next day, we drove just outside Iringa, to a place called Kisolanza, which was located at a Farm House. For lunch, we stopped in the middle of a random field and had cows walking 1 metre away from us while we were eating our food. We actually got to the camp at around 3 or 4 so we had some free time to shower and play card games. That location had 1GB of data (total) for internet and because everyone was trying to connect, it took way too long to look at anything. It gave everyone a good excuse to be social, although most locations have been giving us that opportunity lately. Because we would be crossing the border the following day, we had to leave the camp by 4am the next day!
On Sunday morning, that’s just what we did. We stopped for breakfast on the side of the road and we also did the same for lunch. Border control took us about two to two and a half hours to get into Malawi! We all had to fill in the forms and give $75 with our passports, and then we waited forever to get them back. We continued to our next destination but ended up stopping because we were close to getting a flat tire so they had to change it. This gave everyone an opportunity to have a bush pee, but it was difficult doing so in the dark when there were so many other people around! We arrived at our next location (Chitimba) after dark and we were apparently right by Lake Malawi but we couldn’t actually see it. We left at 8am the next morning to go to our main destination – Kande Beach on Lake Malawi. It was a gorgeous place! The lake itself takes up one third of the country so it’s absolutely huge, and the waves are humongous and can be quite dangerous.
The first night, I went to bed quite early because I was so exhausted from the previous nights. I ended up getting a solid 10 hours of sleep! The next day, we sat in the sun and then a bunch of us decided to go for a walk along the beach. As soon as we crossed an invisible line in the sand, the locals all joined us and somehow got us all separated so that we were walking with one or two locals each. Most of these locals were woodworkers and their main goal was to get you to buy some of their products, but they did quite well at starting a conversation and getting to know you first. At the end of the walk, I was already quite far from the rest of the group, and the guy I was with kept asking me to come see his shop so that I could place an order to be ready for the following day. He had shown me one of his paintings, which was a personalised map of Africa with the countries that we went to, and it was really nice! It was a painting that was made for one of my friends, so I figured she must have paid the same price that he offered me. He said it would be $35 for the painting and then he was going to design a wooden Christmas tree ornament for me as well, which would also be $35 but he’d give both of them to me for $60. While this was still quite expensive, I felt put on the spot since I had to make the decision right then, and I assumed that my friend had paid the same price. I agreed and he asked for ten dollars immediately so he could order the wood and get it sent over. He also gave me two bracelets as a gift – one with Zambia colours and one with Zimbabwe colours. He then asked if I could take the painting to my friend (Kar), so I walked to the beach and showed everyone the picture, and when I told them I was going to pay $35 for mine, Susan said that Kar only paid $10 (she hadn’t paid yet). So I went to go find Kar to ask her how much she was paying and she said 18000 shillings, which is about 9 dollars. I had definitely been ripped off! We both decided to confront the guy together, so we went back and she said that they had agreed with that amount. He said it wasn’t enough and he’d rather take back the painting than take her money. So she gave the painting back and then I expressed my concern with getting ripped off but he just said that everything was being made new and it would be worth it. I went back to camp and asked everyone’s opinion (including my guide) and they all said to talk the price down. I was supposed to meet him at 2pm the next day so I was trying to decide whether I should go at all. Anyway, at camp, they spent the whole day roasting an entire pig, which we got to eat for dinner. It was really tasty! That night, our guide made really strong punch and we had a great night having a bonfire on the beach.
On Wednesday morning, some people in our group decided to do a village walk tour. We assumed it would take an hour, but it ended up taking over 2.5 hours! As soon as the gate of our campground opened, we saw a mob of salesmen and they swarmed around us, separating each of us once again. The person who I had talked to yesterday (MJ) found me quite quickly and he had my painting with him. He first showed me another painting, which he gave to me as a gift, and then he showed me my personalised painting, which clearly was the painting that Kar had given back. Kar is going to an extra country during her trip, so I could see that Namibia had been covered over and disguised as waves, and her name at the bottom was covered in white out and replaced with my name. I wasn’t too impressed but I didn’t say anything at that moment. He left us when we went into the actual village. However, after the salesmen left us, we were swarmed once again, but this time by kids who wanted to hold our hands and get their pictures taken. It was quite overwhelming! In the village, we got to see the inside of a house, how they use their water pumps (both of which were donated by Canada), and we got to go into the school and medical centre. The average class size is 120 students, but it could go up to 250! And I thought my 33 class sizes were bad… The doctor said he gets about 200 patients per day, and about 3/4 of those cases are for malaria. After our tour through the village, we had to walk back to the camp, which took about 20 minutes. That was when all of the kids left and the salesmen came back. This time, MJ was back with my Christmas tree ornament, which was actually quite nice. He wanted to talk price since I had said that I felt like I couldn’t pay 60 dollars. He kept saying that everything was made brand new for me, which is when I said that the painting clearly wasn’t because it was redone. He kept denying it and then asked if he should bring Kar’s original painting so I said yes. Then he asked if he could see the painting so I took it out of my bag and showed him how Namibia was changed, as well as the name at the bottom. He said he could paint a new one and bring it, but I just said I was done. I said I didn’t want to hang up an ornament each year and think about how I was screwed over. Then I said he could keep the ten dollars and I walked away. I still ended up having the gift painting in my bag, as well as the two bracelets, which is probably what ten dollars would have gotten me, so I didn’t get completely ripped off! That afternoon, we had lunch and then a few of us stayed on the beach while the rest of the group went horseback riding. That evening, I was on dinner duty so we basically threw a bunch of stuff in a pot and added some leftover pico de gallo from the night before, and it tasted delicious! While I was cooking, one of my friends (Michelle) ended up getting caught in the riptide, which was pulling her further out. One of the people in our group (Kevin) was close to her and tried pulling her out but she kept pulling him under so he left her to go yell for help while she just tried not to pass out from constantly being covered by water. Luckily, an Aussie from another camp swam in and pulled her in about three quarters of the way, and then someone else came to help with the rest of the way. Needless to say, both of the people in our group were pretty shaken up, as well as physically exhausted. It was enough drama for the night!
We had to leave by 6am the next morning so I went to bed by 9. On Thursday, we packed everything up and then went on the road again. It was so nice to stay in one place for three nights, but now we would be going back to moving around every night. We stopped for breakfast at about 9, which I was in charge of again. We made a fruit salad with all of the fruit that we had (since it was starting to go bad), and then we made oatmeal to go with it. We had to cross the border to go into Zambia that day, and we got to the border at around 3pm. Luckily, it was the fastest border crossing ever! We didn’t even have to fill out a form; we only had to give our $50 and they gave us our visas. We ended up getting to camp in Petauke at about 7:30 so it was an extremely long driving day! We set up our tents in the dark and within about 30 seconds of being inside it, I was able to tell that we had gotten someone else’s tent because my eyes got itchy and my nose started running. I’m pretty sure that we got a tent that belonged to someone who had went horseback riding the day before. I was quite out of it for dinner, but took an antihistamine and I was fine when I went to bed. It was freezing cold that night! Definitely less than ten degrees, so I didn’t have the best sleep.
On Friday morning, we had breakfast at 5am and then left camp at 6am. We got to the capital of Zambia (Lusaka) at about noon and then we were able to go to Nando’s for lunch (an extremely popular restaurant in London). The food took quite long, but tasted good! We had about an hour to do grocery shopping but I didn’t have Zambian money since we were only there for a day. I also had my credit card locked in the safe so when I asked the cashier if they accepted American cash and he said no, I had to decide what was most important to buy with the little money that I had borrowed. I decided to not get alcohol or snacks for the upcoming houseboat trip and instead get a coffee travel mug since the handle on my mug had broken the day before. That was when my disappointment started. We got to our campsite at about 5pm and I set my mug to the side so it could be washed for the next morning, and then I went to shower before dinner. I went to grab something out of my bag after my shower (forgetting that my razor was there), and I ended up slicing the side of my finger. I then had to get dressed while trying to avoid getting blood all over everything, and then I went back to the tents so that one of my friends could play nurse and cover up my finger. We had dinner and then I went to find my mug and it was gone! I looked through all of the dishes and couldn’t find it. Because it was all I could afford to buy that day, I was not a happy camper (literally). That tiny incident finally made me reach my breaking point and when one of my friends asked if I was okay, I had to walk away so I could have a good cry. I think I just needed to have some “me time” since I had been spending 24/7 with 24 other people. I went to bed right after since I’m pretty sure I was overtired, and we got up at 5 the next morning, had breakfast at 6, and left camp at 7. We had to cross the border again to get into Zimbabwe and get to Lake Kariba, where we would be spending our time on a houseboat for the next two nights. The border crossing took us about two hours, and the Canadians were pretty disappointed when we found out that we had to pay $75 while everyone else paid $30. Not only that, but we weren’t allowed to get a double entry visa, so if we decide to do certain activities at Victoria Falls, we’ll have to pay another $75 to get back into the country. Once we crossed the border, we went straight to the houseboat, which was really cool! The bottom part was like being in a university dorm, with 2-person rooms down the hallway. It also had four bathrooms (with warm showers! -although we were only allowed to use two at a time for pressure purposes) and the kitchen. However, we didn’t ever have to use the kitchen because we got chefs for the duration of the houseboat! By the time we got everything put together, everyone was absolutely starving! We must have gotten on the boat at about 2pm and would have gladly had instant noodles for lunch. We ended up waiting until 4 to finally eat, which ended up being sausage rolls. As soon as we finished lunch, the drinking began. I didn’t have any alcohol but I luckily had some generous people in the group who were willing to share. We danced until dinner, which was at 9pm, and then most people went to bed right after dinner.
On Sunday, I woke up at 5 but stayed in bed until 6:30. We had coffee in the sun and waited until breakfast, which wasn’t until about 9:30. We then went on a game cruise; the group split into two boats and went around the shores to find animals. We found some elephants, hippos, and crocodiles, which was pretty cool! After that, we tanned on the boat and waited for lunch, which was again quite late – at about 2:30pm. Some of the people in our group had gone fishing at 6 that morning and ended up catching enough lunch for everyone – we each got our own fish and there were 25 of us! The fish was absolutely delicious, and we also got fries to go with it. We spent the rest of the afternoon lying in the sun and then went on another game cruise right before sunset. This time, there weren’t as many animals but we saw some crocodiles and hippos, and we got to see the gorgeous sunset. Once we got back, I had a shower and then we had dinner right at 6pm – I don’t think anyone was expecting it so early as it was the first meal we had on time! After dinner, the drinking started again and we danced the night away – it was a lot of fun!
Monday morning, I woke up just after 7:30, had coffee in the sun, and waited for breakfast. After eating, they took the boat into the middle of the lake so that we could go swimming. The water was so refreshing since the sun was quite hot that day. We spent some last-minute time in the sun before having lunch, packing up, and heading back to shore to get back to our truck 😦 I was so sad to leave the houseboat – I’ve missed being on the water! We stopped at a grocery store to stock up on snacks and then started our journey towards Antelope Park. That day, we stopped at Chinhoyi Cave National Park but didn’t arrive until after dark. We set up our tents and had a late dinner before going to bed, and it was absolutely freezing that night! Everything felt really damp (likely cause of the houseboat) and we changed altitude so fast, so it was my coldest night so far. On Tuesday morning, a group of us went to check out the cave. We had to pay three dollars to take a short walk down into the cave, which was filled with bright blue water. It was quite pretty! After our walk, we went to the grocery store to prepare our meals for the next three days, and then we drove the rest of the way to Antelope Park, where we spent three nights. Antelope Park was also quite cold so I spent most of my free time relaxing inside, playing cards and doing crosswords. At this location, there was horse crap all over the campground, and I was quite surprised to find a donkey next to our tent the first night. The next morning, I woke up to 7 horses just grazing outside our tent! The campsite also had a bunch of cats, which would come join us for dinner or cuddle with us in the cafe. Needless to say, I spent the entire three days having quite a bit of difficulty breathing. Antelope Park houses a lion conservation program, where they’re trying to breed wild lions from captive lions so that the cubs can eventually be released back into the wild. Most of the lions are from zoos or orphanages and will never be able to go back into the wild because they’ve had too much human contact. The company has started a four-stage program to allow these lions to live in as natural of an environment as possible, where they can still hunt game and build prides. One morning, I took part in a lion walk, which was such a cool experience! We walked with three 20-month old lions, which were basically full grown – two females and one male. We each had to carry a stick, which was used to show dominance and we had to abide by many rules, such as staying behind the lions, not crouching down, always staying with the group, etc. I was quite scared at first considering these lions weren’t being restrained in any way, but it was just like walking a dog! The lions would lead the way, and then they might get sidetracked by an impala or gazelle in the distance and run off, and then they might walk right beside you so you could pet them while walking, or they might just be bored of walking and lie down in the sun. It was such a cool once-in-a-lifetime experience; I never thought I’d be in such close proximity to a lion, let alone pet one!
On Friday morning, we left Antelope Park to go to Bulawayo, the second biggest city in Zimbabwe. We stopped to do some grocery shopping and then got to our campsite, which has a freezing cold pool and some very slow wifi (but the first time I’ve had wifi in over a week!). This morning, we went on a rhino trek, which was pretty awesome! The guides estimate that rhinos could only be around for up to five more years because people keep poaching them. The horn of the rhino is extremely valuable so poachers continue to skin off the faces of rhinos and leave the rest of their bodies. When we went to the national park to see the rhinos, there was someone walking around the park with a gun who is allowed to shoot any poachers that he sees. They said that they’ll catch and/or kill 20-25 poachers each month! We saw a mom and her baby, and we also saw a male rhino. We were less than 100 metres away but I think I was more scared about it than I was when I walked with the lions! Today, we’re spending the rest of the day relaxing and then we head to Victoria Falls tomorrow morning. Hope everyone’s having fun at home; be there in two weeks! Love always