Mobbed by School Children and Encounter with Witch Doctor

An optional activity through my G Adventures 35 day African Overland Truck trip was to have your fortune told by a Witch Doctor at Lake Malawi!  It was only $6, so off I went with the Tour Director, our translator/guide and one other fellow traveler.  It was only a 10 minute walk down a dirt road from our campsite and along the way, we came upon a school.  We stopped to say hello to the school children.  They were in class, so we briefly spoke to the Principal.  A few minutes later, the children were released for a recess and I started taking some photos.  They were so exuberant, I felt like I was being mobbed.  I was surrounded and I was trying to get them to back up so I could take the photos.

ARE YOU IN THERE???

It was time to go, so after I was positioned farther away, I was able to zoom in and get a photo of them….

The school didn’t have any desks for the children (they sat on the floor), and no light!  We talked with the translator about ways to help and he said the sad thing was that when organizations or people would donate money, it would go into the pockets of the bureaucrats, police, administration, etc.

The Witch Doctor’s hut was in a very small village.  This was one of the other village huts…

Here’s the Witch Doctor.  His belt and ankle bracelets made noise when he walked or danced.

The other traveler, Peter, and myself entered the Witch Doctor’s hut and had a seat on a mat on the floor.  Some of the village people also entered.  These children were darling…

The Witch Doctor began a heated verbal exchange with the drummer on the right and I asked the translator what they were saying.  He said the drummer was smoking pot (a joint) and the Witch Doctor told him to stop it.  The drummers began drumming and the Witch Doctor began dancing.  He had Peter dance with him and then it was my turn.  He had a whistle that he blew while he danced.

After all of the whistling, drumming, dancing and festivities, we all exited the hut, except for Peter, who stayed for his fortune.  After he came out, it was my turn.  The Witch Doctor told the translator that I was not married, had one child, my future looked bright (no problems), and that I would be blessed if I bought more items from the merchants selling wooden carvings that are located right outside of our campground.

He was right that I have one child!  I did buy about six wood carvings (most of them for gifts) so I should be quite blessed!

Corruption in Tanzania

My 35 day African Overland Truck Adventure was nearing the end.  Day 29 was an 11 hour driving day (not including an hour time change and an hour crossing the border from Malawi into Tanzania).  We left our campsite at Lake Malawi by 6am and arrived to the border of Tanzania at 8am.  One hour later and we were on the road again (that was a big theme of the trip…on the road again…ha ha!  A few of the other travelers weren’t prepared for the challenges of all the driving and camping.  I added up how many hours of driving there were before I booked the trip and knew what I was getting myself into.)

We arrived at the Kisolanza Restcamp, nicknamed the “Old Farmhouse” at 5:30pm.    Because we were leaving in the morning by 5am, I decided to upgrade one last time to a room.  It was in an old horse stall (that had been renovated) and cost $30.  That’s one of the downsides of traveling solo – you don’t have someone to split the cost with (but there are plenty of upsides).  There was a down comforter on the bed..oouu…ahh!  And fresh flowers!  Here’s the room…

The next morning we didn’t even eat breakfast until we had been traveling for three hours.  We stopped at 8am – had our quick breakfast and made a sandwich to eat on the truck.  I rode up front with the driver, James, for a while and played music from my I-Pod.  He would take the intercom walkie-talkie and have it next to the speaker so the passengers in the back could hear the music.  I played everything from 50’s to current music.   I’m sure some of the 20 somethings loved my older music!

We were stopped twice within one hour by the police for allegedly speeding and James had to give them money…that they just pocketed.  Another time he was stopped and the officer said he was hungry!  James told him, “Sorry man, I don’t have anything”!

We passed a pineapple field…

As we entered the outskirts of Dar Es Salaam, there were lots of people, shacks, and markets for miles and miles…

Thirteen hours later, we arrived at Makadi Beach Resort (campground) at 6pm.   After setting up my tent, having a drink, dinner and a quick swim in the pool…it was time to prepare for bed.  We were told not to swim in the ocean there because it was polluted from sewage, etc.  Even though you don’t do much while you’re in the Overland Truck, you still seem to be tired.

Before coming to Africa, I didn’t know what to expect.  I was in the middle of reading some books about Africa while driving through it, so I was learning more.  I wasn’t aware that there was so much corruption within the government and military in Tanzania and some of the other countries!

Moody Lake Malawi

Having arrived at Lake Malawi two days previously to a campsite called Kande Beach, my Overland Truck group itinerary required us to drive about five hours farther North up the shore of the lake to Chitimba Campground, where we arrived by 1pm.  They offered a small room for $6 a night and since we were staying two evenings, the thought of not putting my tent up won me over!

The remainder of my day was quite typical for my trip–internet time–lunch–nap–take photos.  As I was gazing at the beautiful lake water, I noticed what appeared to be a few clouds of smoke far out on the water, and asked an employee what they were.  He said they were swarms of flies (millions) that gather to reproduce, lay eggs and die shortly thereafter.  This happens approximately once a month.  The locals like to catch them and make them into a cake or deep fry them!  That’s one of the things I like about travel…there’s always something new and unexpected!

After dinner we had a bonfire on the beach.  I read in bed and was asleep by 9:45pm.  It poured down rain for the first time on the trip in the middle of the night.  My roof was made from tin and it was so loud!  Snug as a bug in my bed, I was glad I decided to splurge for the room, rather than worrying if my tent would leak!

Here are a few of my photos from the day.  I like this photo because of the distinct strips of color…

The owner of the facility saw me taking photos and asked if I’d like to see something really special.  I said of course, so he took me to meet his pet deer…

It was a windy day and I kept trying to get a decent photo of this amazing flower that was swaying violently in the wind!

One of the employees at the campground/resort…

I awoke before sunrise again the following morning and the lighting was divine…

The water looks like a sea (well…lake) of diamonds…large diamonds…

I’ll say it again…Lake Malawi is amazing!

Kande Beach, Lake Malawi

Having driven through Malawi, the day before, which you can read about here, my G Adventures Overland Truck group was excited to have arrived to our first campsite as night fell at Lake Malawi…Kande Beach.  We were staying here for two nights.  The next morning, I was up before sunrise, so I walked the short distance to the lake and was pleased to have “Sid”, the campground owners’ dog accompany me and be my protector!  Lake Malawi is nicknamed the calendar lake because it is approximately 365 miles long by 52 miles wide.  You feel as though you’re at the ocean!  It is the third largest lake in Africa and the eighth largest in the world.  You’ll find the most species of fish of any body of fresh water on Earth here at Lake Malawi!  It’s also the second deepest lake in Africa…almost 2300 feet (almost a half mile) deep!

The colors were spectacular!  As I was taking photos I was reminding myself to soak it all in and experience the moments!  It almost seemed surreal!  The sky was bursting with gold and seemed ready to explode!

The day was perfect…not too hot, a nice breeze!  I had read that the Lake may have Bilharzia (a parasite) and could be risky to swim in.  We were assured that the two places we were staying at had no risk because it was moving water.  I did take a dip later that day!

My day consisted of laying on the beach reading a book for a while, some internet time, and a nap after lunch.  That evening we had a party.  We drew names from a hat and had to buy or use something we already had to dress that person up.  I drew our driver’s name–James.  I had a sheet with me so I wrapped it around him like a Toga!

Michael drew my name and dressed me as a Fem bot from the Austin Powers movie.  They have pictures and I hope they don’t blackmail me with them!  We had a Pig Roast and Rum Punch!

Lake Malawi is amazing!

Malawi or Bust

My G Adventures Overland Truck group left our campsite in Zambia at 7am (for a 10 hour drive) and thirty minutes later we arrived to the border of Malawi.  I was told that all five of the border crossings that our group went through were relatively quick and easy as far as border crossings go (usually 20-45 minutes).  Sometimes the Tour Director would gather all of our passports and our filled out forms and handle it and other times we had to do it on our own.  Tourists are usually given some type of preferential treatment because we represent money.

Once in Malawi, we stopped first at a stand selling coal and firewood and loaded up.  Here are the people selling it…

Next stop was a local market and as I was wandering around taking a few photos, a man approached me and seemed a little angry.  He said, “You need to ask before you take a photo”.  (Most people I encountered throughout six countries in Africa could speak English)  At that moment I was going to take a photo of some rice and sugar or something like that and said to him, “Even of this rice”?  He said “Yes.  People want money for the photos”.  I encountered this quite a bit on the trip and would not give money for photos.  Some people were very nice about it when I would ask to take their photo.

I wondered what these leather strips were used for…

This woman was so cute…she agreed to have the photo taken and every time she would move her baby away from her for the photo, he would cry.  That’s why she was laughing.  She has a stalk of cane sugar in her hand.  I tried it somewhere else on the trip.  After chewing on it, you spit it out.  It’s a nice little sweet treat.

These boys were fighting each other to get in the photo…

One boy rode up to me on his bicycle and said “Give me money”.  I said “No, you give me money.”

The landscape was becoming more tropical the farther East we went.  We stopped in the capital of Malawi, Lilongwe (population 1M) for snacks, ATM, etc.  I cut my toe on a wire that was hidden in the grass.  We finally arrived at Kande Beach on Lake Malawi around 5:30pm.  We set up our tents, took photographs (wait until you see the Lake), had dinner and were in bed by 9pm.

Rural Zambia

With a 12 hour drive (including breaks) looming over us, our G Adventures African Overland Truck group left at 6am from Victoria Falls in Zambia.  We stopped for lunch at an abandoned school yard.  There were some children playing and they came over to check us out.

I had some crackers, so I doled some out to each of them.  The older ones tried to trick me and returned for more, but I didn’t fall for that.  Jess, our Tour Director said we should try not to give things to the children, because it perpetuated a begging problem.  I started reading another book about Africa on the trip, “Dark Star Safari“, by Paul Theroux, and he mentions how many people feel that all of the charity and aid for the past 40 years may have made things worse in Africa.  Anyway, Jess said she would give them our left over bread from lunch.  Unfortunately, she didn’t dole it out and the oldest one took it and ran off.

One of the guys in our group got a soccer ball out of the truck and started playing with the children…

Driving through the Zambian countryside with tree covered rolling hills reminded me at times of the Smoky Mountains or parts of Kentucky.   There weren’t many cars on the road, but a lot of people walking or bicycling alongside the road.  I wondered where they could be walking to…at times we were out in the middle of nowhere.  The roads were mainly paved and there were both cement block homes and simple huts along the road.  I noticed there were high walls around many of the houses.  Whenever there was a small village (even a few huts), there would be speed bumps.  We couldn’t see out the front of the Overland Truck, so it felt like we were in a capsule being propelled along the road, shaken up like a martini!

We stopped at a local market…

I love the bright colors the women wear!

That evening we camped at a place called Mama Rula’s Campsite.  The lights don’t switch on in the shower area until after dark, so I took a cold shower in the dark (well…almost dark)!  Jess made Spaghetti Bolognese and garlic bread for dinner…yum yum!

 

Broke down in Africa

As I mentioned in my last post about Victoria Falls, that you can read about here, we switched Overland Trucks and Tour Directors on my 35 day G Adventures Overland Truck African Adventure.  I was relieved about the truck switch because we had broken down five times driving through Namibia and Botswana!

Originally, we were supposed to have a different truck, but the first morning of the trip, as they were beginning to load the truck with luggage, someone drove by and ripped the doors off of the truck!  I took a photo of the road and truck for most of them.

 

This first breakdown was the longest…over an hour…so the Danish girls decided to get some sun…

Road – breakdown #1

Road – breakdown #2

Road – breakdown #3

The next two days of my 35 day G Adventures African Overland Truck adventure were spent doing a variety of things…organizing my luggage, doing laundry (I only paid to have someone do my laundry twice on the trip), had another massage and a pedicure, internet time (usually I had to pay for wireless), napping, and dinner out with the new group,

The following morning we got on the road by 6:45am and drove 7 hours to Lusaka, Zambia and set up camp at the Eureka Restcamp.  There were some zebra roaming around the campsite…pretty cool!

Baobab Trees and Chobe National Park, Botswana

Day 17 of my 35 day G Adventures African Overland Truck adventure began with an hour-long mokoro ride back from bush camping in the Okavango Delta.  You can read about the amazing Delta here and here.  After unloading our supplies and gear from the boats and loading it back onto our Overland Truck, we drove 3 hours to our campsite…Planet Baobab, near Chobe National Park.  The bar/restaurant area is really nice.  Check out the chandeliers – they’re made out of beer bottles…

The campsite is located close to the town of Gweta in Botswana and Chobe National Park.  I did some laundry, got on the internet and took a few photos of the beautiful Baobab trees…

After setting up our tents, a few of us went for a swim.  For 295 Botswana Pula ($37.00) we went on a sunset cruise in the park.  It was amazing…

Chobe National Park was definitely one of my top three favorite experiences of the trip!

Okavango Delta – Beautiful Africa

On day 16 of my 35 day G Adventures African Overland Truck adventure my group went for a three-hour walk in the Okavango Delta in Botswana.  We were surprised to see so much wildlife!  We saw Giraffe, wildebeest, warthog, elephant, antelope, zebra, and hippo.  Here is a buffalo skull on the trail…

We didn’t eat breakfast before the hike, so we had brunch upon our return.  Usually, our breakfasts consisted of instant coffee, cold cereals, bananas, sometimes yogurt, and granola or oatmeal were offered.  If we had a long driving day in the overland truck, we would pack a sandwich and eat on the truck.  Sometimes, when we were able to stop, we would have a pasta salad or something more substantial.

Here are a couple of photos of the women.  I loved this girl’s shoes…

After a short nap and swim, I read some in my book, “The Last Rhinos”.   We went for a mokoro boat ride to find wildlife and saw hippos.  As the sun set, I knew it was a magical time…

Once we were gathered around the blazing campfire that evening, our Mokoro drivers (or polers…I’m not sure what they’re called), who also camped with us, sang native songs!  One of the songs was “Beautiful Africa” and with each stanza, it changed to “Beautiful Hippos”, or “Beautiful Giraffe”, etc.  They clapped their hands loudly to the beat!  We decided to sing songs from our countries to them.  There were three Americans and we sang…”Take me out to the Ballgame”!

The Okavango Delta is an area that is still pure and peaceful!

Journey by Mokoro to an Island in the Okavango Delta

After picking up a bushman in the Kalahari Desert of Botswana, that you can read about here, my G Adventures Overland Truck group left and drove 7 hours to the Island Safari Lodge in Maun.  It was basically a stop-over before we loaded our supplies and camping gear for a two-day trip to camp in the bush on an island in the Okavango Delta.  First, we loaded speedboats and traveled 45 minutes to an area with the Mokoros (dug-out canoes).  The supplies were then loaded onto the Mokoros and off we went.

It was like an African version of being on a Gondola in Venice!

An hour later we arrived to our camping spot, unloaded and set up our tents.  Bush camping is very basic – this was our toilet…

After working up a sweat, we went for a swim in the Delta.  The water is very clean and cold…the locals scoop it up and drink straight from the Delta!   The water lilies were gorgeous!

I took a short nap and then we went for an hour walk with the group and saw some hippos in the water!  The Okavango Delta was one of the highlights for most of our group!

Picking up Bushman in Botswana

With almost two weeks of my 35 day African Overland Truck adventure behind me, we were on the road again for 9 hours driving from the capital of Namibia—Windhoek—on our way across the border into Botswana to visit the San Bushmen.  Upon arrival to Ghanzi, which is located on the edge of the Kalahari Desert, I decided to spend $5 to upgrade from my tent to a Bushman hut.  It had electric and a bed with warm blankets!  Oh…the things we take for granted!

After getting situated, I made my way to meet the group and to say hello to the indigenous San Bushman.  I had brought a wand with bubbles to blow for children along the 8,000 km overland truck journey, and when our translator saw it, he took me by the hand over to the small group with their children and let me start blowing bubbles.  No one took a photo of me with the bubbles…but here are some of the people.

At first I thought they had horrible body odor…but later found out that they rub a plant on themselves to ward off mosquitos!

Later, I wanted a photo with them.  One of the fun things I do when traveling is pick up men…

I’m not sure he was enjoying it though!

Later that evening, for $10, we were treated to traditional dancing by the fire.  There was a funny moment when the translator was giving us some history of a local tradition that is performed by girls when they start menstruating.  I thought he said that they have to dance naked in front of the elder men of the tribe and was asking him more questions trying to clarify it.  Everyone had a good laugh, but I still didn’t find out what really happens!

We all had a great time with the San Bushmen of Botswana!

Sick in Africa and Windhoek, Namibia

I was on day 11 of my 35-day African Overland Truck adventure and was sick!  (I know I talked about it in my other post briefly, but wanted to share the details…goody for you!) We had spent two days in Etosha National Park in Namibia that you can read about here, and were now on the road for 7 hours towards the Capital of NamibiaWindhoek.  I had already taken two doses of Cipro, but they hadn’t kicked in yet.  I also took two Imodium (kept me plugged up for 6 days!) since I was going to be on the road without a bathroom on board.  I laid down in the back of the truck (the bumpiest area) and didn’t eat anything all day.  At one point, I felt nauseous, so I told one of the guides and by the time he radioed the driver, they stopped and unlocked the door to let me out, I was gagging!  Luckily it was just dry heaves!  I made my way through thorns and tall grass to a hidden area to go to the bathroom!  Seasoned travelers know this goes with the territory when you’re traveling in developing countries.  I had been sick in Peru twice and Cipro worked for me then!

When we arrived to the beautiful Namutoni campsite, two men from Australia (Dirk and Des) were kind and put my tent up for me.  As you can see, it was a beautiful area.   It looks like I was being quarantined!

Some of the group went for a long hike to the top of the ridge, which I would have loved had I not been sick…but I slept until dinner.  The antibiotic had kicked in so I took a shower, ate for the first time that day and felt much better!

The next morning we were on the road again by 7am and arrived in Windhoek around 1pm.  We stopped at a mall…

to go to the ATM, buy snacks/liquor, and use the bathroom, before driving to the hotel.  Here’s my room…

After checking in, I washed some clothes in the sink, hung them to dry, got my luggage organized, took a shower, had a drink at the bar, and then our group went out for dinner to Joe’s Beer House.  It was a fun, interesting and unique restaurant/bar!  Here I am with Kelly and Noreen…

These two girls were the youngest, Sarah and Kiki, from Denmark…

It felt great to be cleaned up, have some make-up on and not be camping!

Etosha Salt Pan, Namibia

As I mentioned in my last post about Etosha National Park, that you can read about here, my G Adventures African Overland Truck group was driving through the Park towards the East side of the Park.  We made a stop at the Etosha Salt Pan.  The salt pan desert is roughly 130 km long and in places as wide as 50 km. The salt pan is usually dry, but fills with water briefly in the summer months, when it attracts pelicans and flamingos.

It seems like you’re on the moon…it’s so flat, desolate and stark!  Speaking of the moon, I took my first photo of the moon on this trip.  The Tour Director showed me how to set it on timer so there wouldn’t be any movement (I had it on a Gorillapod tripod).  Then I cropped it.  I’m quite proud of it!  I know it could be clearer, but my zoom lens isn’t very powerful.  I posted it on facebook as the “African Moon” and then someone (a smarty pants) said, “I didn’t know their moon was different from ours”!

An African sunset to finish the day!!

The Wild Side in Etosha National Park, Namibia, Africa

Etosha National Park in Namibia is a great place to see a wide variety of African animals!  As we drove through the park on my G Adventures Overland Truck journey, we were excited to see many Zebra, Wildebeest, Elephant and … Continue reading

Exploring the lovely town of Swakopmund, Namibia

My second day in Swakopmund, Namibia started with a walk to the beach.

It was gorgeous!  The weather on the trip had been what I expected…40-50 degrees Fahrenheit at night, 80’s during the day and sunny!

I indulged in a decadent breakfast of cappuccino, homemade waffle, peaches and ice cream at an outdoor café.  I was transported to Europe!

After a little shopping…an inexpensive ring and a book, I experienced one of the best massages I’ve ever had.  She used hot stones  (which I’ve had before).  I dozed off…which I’ve never done during a massage.  Although I tipped her, she was most pleased with an inexpensive ring that I gave to her.

I made my way back to the hotel and had trail mix for lunch followed by a three-hour nap.  That evening I had dinner at Letty’s Oyster Bar at the end of the pier with two of the ladies on my tour.  The seafood was excellent!

They walked me back to my hotel, which was on the way to theirs.  I had asked the desk clerk the day before if it was safe to walk around by myself, because I noticed most places were gated and had barbed wire or electric fencing.  She advised me not to walk alone at night.

It was a lovely day and I enjoyed exploring the lovely town of Swakopmund!