“Chaos is found in greatest abundance wherever order is being sought. It always defeats order, because it is better organized.” - Terry Pratchett.
Yes we are still in Nairobi at Jungle Junction, not because of any fatal attraction for Nairobi, although she has been good to us, but because as others had warned, the visa and exit formalities are extremely slow, tedious and central Nairobi is chaotic.
For those wanting to follow a similar path I suggest you have a look at today’s Geek post. I hope it will smooth your path to some extent. Tomorrow we plan to set out for Carnelly’s Camp at Lake Naivasha for a couple of days. It sounds like a great outing and perhaps we can have a pop into nearby Hells Gate for a looksee. Once we courier our passports home for the Ethiopian visa it will not be wise to travel too widely.
Whilst I was still back home preparing for this trip, I was seeking information by posting on various internet forums, mainly www.4x4community.co.za. This prompted a query from Barry S. who followed up by flying from Pretoria to us in East London, copying all the information I had amassed and generally chewing over his proposed plan of travelling to Kenya for his honeymoon. Our friendship became tight in a very short time and Barry has been a faithful follower of this blog. Imagine my absolute amazement when yesterday who should arrive at JJs but Barry and his bride of 6 weeks Tarina. They had fulfilled their dream and travelled much of our route through Tanzania and Kenya. We had a great get together and it was fulfilling to see my research benefitting others.
I suppose this could be regarded as the halfway point of our northbound leg. For the first time we have had the time to reflect on what we had seen, experienced and achieved thus far on our trip. We have had an absolute minimum of negative experiences and I would like to dwell a little on the highlights and other memories and get them down on paper whilst they are still reasonably fresh in our memories.
These people have certainly considerably enhanced our experience.
Firstly those I regard as mentors, MikeAG and Tony W. who first fully opened our eyes to the possibility of prolonged trans-African travel. Then Wazungu Wawili and also Itchyfeet who helped a huge amount with the planning and execution. They all very generously gave of their time and knowledge and our enjoyment of the trip thus far is largely attributable to their efforts. Also I would like to pay a tribute to all those African independent travelers who have posted blogs on their travels. They have all added to the fund of knowledge out there. Fellow travelers we met were always keen to share knowlege and tips.
Then the various people we have met en route. Harriet and Mike in southern Tanzania, Eric from France, Bennie and Elsie and the others at Jacobsens. Especially Wayne J. who has been an inspiring travel companion to Anne and I. The unfading spirit of youth has been a tonic. Anne in particular has been able to transfer her frustrated mothering nature onto Wayne. This I am sure has helped her as she is missing our children. We have met many other fellow travelers, too many to name, all of whom have been an inspiration. To those following this blog and at times commenting, thank you.
The people of the various countries we have visited have also been an inspiration. The most outwardly friendly have been those in Zambia and Uganda. The Rwandans are quite reticent initially but once you break through their initial shyness they have been great. Tanzanians do not usually have quite the command of English of others but were very helpful and friendly. Kenyans are wonderful and mostly have the advantage of an excellent command of the English language. This applies equally to the officials and the ordinary citizens. We have had 3 slightly unpleasant experiences thus far with officials. The first was the Tanzanian traffic official at Mwanza who falsely fined me for speeding. Then there was the Kenyan border official who attempted to coerce me to pay road tax as if I were driving a commercial vehicle, fortunately I had been tipped off about this ruse. Then there was the unpleasant exchange with the Mara Triangle rangers at the wildebeest Mara River crossing. All of these were minor irritations and the biggest surprise has been how rare these events have been. As South Africans I am of the opinion that we are exceptionally well recieved despite our troubled past political history. It seems as if they credit us with insight into the African way of doing things. Often at first we would be addressed as "you Americans", only for the attitudes to change rapidly once it was realised that we were from Africa Kusini. We seem to be regarded as walking dollars to be fleeced far less than other wazungus.
None of the 6 countries we have visited thus far have been a disappointment. Tanzania was absolutely fantastic and is thus far our favourite, although this is unfair to Kenya which we have just dipped our toes into. The countries of Rwanda and Uganda were fantastic and in my opinion should not be missed if at all possible. They do require something of a diversion and many would rather proceed directly from Tanzania to Kenya, this would be a great pity. We still have vast areas of Kenya to explore and then the relatively lesser known Ethiopia and Sudan. Egypt is in the balance right now.
The isolated and wild game parks of Tanzania are not likely to be equaled during this trip. At the start of our trip we were a little unlucky in CKGR where the game viewing was a little sub-par in our experience. Moremi and Chobe NP were great as usual but were not visited at an optimal time of the year. Nxai Pan was amazing and a very pleasant surprise on our first visit. The few Namibian parks we visited in Caprivi were beautiful but not as game-rich as our other destinations.
Zambia. Here we really were impressed with the Nsefu sector of SLNP which was new to us. Seeing the shoebill in the Bangweulu Swamp fulfilled a lifetime ambition.
Anne and I both agree that Serengeti was the most inspiring, although our experiences in the Mara Triangle were just as good and perhaps a joint award for the best would be fairest. We were probably a little unlucky in the Mara as Barry S. and Tarina, 2 weeks later, experienced crossings of a greater magnitude and frequency. I will never forget the gently sloping hills of the Serengeti, near Seronera and how they were absolutely packed with life despite the absence of wildebeest and zebra. The rugged isolation of the southern Tanzanian parks of Selous, Ruaha and Katavi was great and should not be missed. Katavi was the most pleasant surprise. The rest of the Tanzanian Northern Circuit was very rewarding and Tarangira stands out here. The Ngorongoro Crater experience was a slight disappointment.
In Rwanda the gorilla experience was awe inspiring but Lake Kiwu was not really my cup of tea. We enjoyed the nearby Lake Bunyonyi in Uganda far more. The Ugandan parks of Murchisons and Kidepo were very good, but QENP was a bit less impressive. I think we are going to thoroughly enjoy the 6 or 7 Kenyan parks we still have to visit.
We have visited 31 national parks and conservation areas in all thus far.
HIGHLIGHTS. In no specific order of merit.
• The wildebeest herds in Serengeti and Mara.
• The Mara River crossings.
• Seeing the shoebill and black lechwe herds in the Bangweulu Swamps.
• The gorillas in Rwanda.
• Murchisons Falls NP, the area north of the Nile in particular.
• The lions at Nxai Pan and Kira Wira, Serengeti.
• Seeing the Karamajong in Uganda and the remote Kidepo NP in northern Uganda.
• Pokot people in the remote Marich Pass area western Kenya.
• Our visits to the remote northern Zambia, including the waterfalls and Lake Tanganyika.
• The remote route from Katavi to Ruaha in southern Tanzania.
• Lake Tanganyika in Tanzania, specifically Lakeshore Lodge.
• The magnificent campsite on the Nile near Jinja Uganda, The Haven.
• The magnificent forests of Uganda and Rwanda.
• The drive around the so-called Explosion Craters in QENP Uganda.
• The drive around Lake Burera near the Volcanos NP Rwanda.
• The route taken to reach Lake Bunyonyi in Uganda.
• Being visited in camp by a herd of forest elephant at Kanyanchu River Camp, Kibale Forest, Uganda.
• The great birding in places like The Haven, Jinja, the Golden Mile in Budonga Forest QENP, Saiwa Swamp Kenya and Bigodi Swamp Uganda.
• The magnificently isolated special campsites in Serengeti, Ngare Nanyuki and Kira Wira.
In no order.
- Breaking the rear axle of Slow Donkey in Kigoma.
- Trouble obtaining Comesa “yellow card” insurance in Zambia.
- The rats in the vehicle for perhaps the first 6 weeks.
- My 3 week illness in Tanzania, probably bilharzia.
- Tunza Lodge, Lake Victoria Tanzania.
- Simba Camp, Ngorongoro Crater.
- Administrative burden for Ethiopian leg of trip.
- Trying to do admin in Nairobi CBD.
- Foot and mouth barriers to the west in Caprivi Namibia.
- Cheating traffic official near Lake Victoria Tanzania.
- Border official entering Kenya from Uganda, trying to make me pay road tax as if a commercial vehicle.
- Mara Triangle rangers forcing us to move during wildebeest crossing of Mara River.
- High cost of East African parks and reserves.
- Driving of bus drivers, mainly in Tanzania but also in Kenya.
- Bad road in Tanzania, the southern entrance roadween Ngorongoro and Serengeti.
- The bad and tediously long road between Tabora and Dodoma and on to Kigoma, mainly on deviations.
- Bad roads in northern Zambia, waterfall area.
We still have so much before us but I would imagine that many of the real highlights are behind us. Along the way we have received a flood of valuable, very current information especially at JJs and we will use this to build on our already extensive fund of information. Ethiopia seems like a mixed bag with some off-putting stories about the people, money grabbing and stone throwing, but fantastic mountain scenery. Sudan seems to have the friendliest of people and lovely stays along the Nile, bush camping and a wonderful desert experience. Egypt at present is in some turmoil with security fears and many areas out of bounds to self-drive tourists. Our decision whether to include it or not remains fluid. Not because of security fears but because of my hate of inefficient, unnecessary and corrupt beaurocracy. There seems little point in going all the way to Cairo if we have no access to the White and Western desserts, the Sinai and perhaps even the Red Sea. Time will tell.
Thus far there are only a handful of objectives on my wish-list we have failed to achieve. These are:-
1. Crossing into Zambia via the seldom-used Sigalamwe/Imusho border post between Caprivi and Zambia via the Sioma NP.
2. Exploring the Caprivi Strip in Namibia more extensively, specifically to the west our movements were curtailed by the recent outbreak of Foot and Mouth disease and the resultant restrictions.
3. Not revisiting the Zambezi in Zambia.
4. Missing the Kalambo Falls in northern Zambia near Lake Tanganyika.
5. Being too early to do the South to North Luangwa traverse in Zambia.
6. Not visiting Lake Natron Tanzania because of adverse reports.
7. Not visiting Semuliki NP in Uganda.
8. Skipping Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary in Uganda.
9. Not detouring to Kakamega Forest Reserve and Eldoret in Kenya, we felt we had seen enough forests, primates and birds.
10. Deciding against a visit to Lake Nakuru, apparently very few if any flamingos.