Monday, December 14, 2009

The Final Analysis

Between leaving Prague on March 2nd 2009 and flying out of Cape Town on 30th November 2009 we travelled 20,642 miles (according to GoogleMaps) over 274 days. We passed through 21 countries (not including Czech Republic and Slovakia which were but a snowy blur from our train window) took 6 trains and 10 boats, rode on the back of 3 trucks and 3 motorbikes, squeezed into 13 or so shared taxis, hired 3 cars for a total of 33 days and boarded at least 88 buses. We spent time, money and oodles of patience.

The bottom line is that we spent £12,221.25GBP between us in total (plus a further £219.19GBP in ATM cash withdrawal fees) over 279 days (the previously mentioned 274 plus our stopover in Dubai) at £21.90GBP per person per day, or around $35USD. This included any visas, permits or registration fees applicable for any of the countries, which amounted to a combined total of $1159USD, or just over £700GBP at todays rates, mostly payable in USD only! Monikas visas totalled $672USD, Allans came to $487USD. This also included two safaris (a 3-day safari in Kenya and a 4-day safari in Tanzania) which totalled $1800 (£1100) spent over 7 days at $129 per person per day.

Obviously the average daily budget for each country varied widely both from the trip average and the other countries, therefore a country-by-country breakdown gives a more accurate record (Daily averages generally include all costs except visa/registration costs unless otherwise stated):

From Prague To Istanbul
4 days, £228.45GBP @ £28.55 per person per day.
Prague - Budapest - Novi Sad - Belgrade - Sofia - Plovdiv - Istanbul
Mostly travelling by train, staying in hostels and self-catering.
For a full cost breakdown click here
For a trip report click here for English, here for Czech

12 days, £458.97GBP @ £19 per person per day. Estimated budget £15 per day.
Visa: most nationalities enter free, some nationalities require a visa issued at the border/airport, costs vary but for British passports the fee is $20USD.
Istanbul - Cannakale (Gallipoli, Troy) - Ephesus - Cappadocia
Travelling by bus, staying in hostels, self-catering with one cheap meal, read 'kebab' out most days.
For a full cost breakdown click here
For a trip report click here for English, here for Czech

13 days, £228.54 @ £8.79 per person per day. Estimated budget £10 per day.
Visa: Can be difficult to obtain and should be applied for in country of nationality. Costs vary wildly but for British passport holders in London the cost is £50 for a 3 month multiple-entry visa. For Czech nationals in Prague the same visa cost around £40.
Aleppo - Lattakia (plus Ugarit and Qalat Saladdin) - Hama (plus Palmyra, Crac de Chevaliers, Sarouj and Qalat Ib-Wardan) - side trip to Lebanon - Damascus
Travelling by train and bus, staying in hotels and guesthouses, eating delicious street food such as falafel and more kebabs.
For a full cost breakdown click here
For a trip report click here for English, here for Czech

5 days, £151.69 @ £15.16 per person per day. Estimated budget £15 per day.
Visa: most nationalities can enter visa-free for up to 28 days.
Baalbak - Beirut - Sidon - Byblos - Tripoli - Qadisha Valley
Travelling by bus, staying in cheap guesthouses, self-catering and enjoying more delicious Middle Eastern street food.
For a full cost breakdown click here
For a trip report click here for English, here for Czech

7 days, £176.73 @ £12.62 per person per day. This figure does not include the extortionate cost of the ferry from Aqaba to Nuweiba which at £50 per person for a 1.5 hour trip would increase the daily spend up to £20! We regarded the cost of this international ferry as outside of either Jordan or Egypt! Estimated budget £15 per day.
Visa: Cost 10JD (approx £10) each and are granted on arrival. A further 5JD (£5) is levied as a departure tax at all exit points.
Amman (Dead Sea and Jerash) - Petra - Wadi Rum - Aqaba
Travelling by bus and sometimes hitch-hiking, staying in cheap guesthouses, self-catering and enjoying more delicious Middle Eastern street food.
For a full cost breakdown click here
For a trip report click here for English, here for Czech


23 days, £784.50 @ £17 per person per day. Estimated budget £15 per day.
Visa: $15USD granted on arrival to almost all nationalities, but check beforehand.
Nuweiba - Tarabin - Dahab - Mt.Sinai - Suez - Cairo - Luxor - Aswan
Travelling by bus and train, staying in beach huts, guesthouses and cheap hotels, yet more delicious Middle Eastern street food, including Egypts unique Kushari, we visited most of the major sites at a rate of at least one every two days including the Blue Hole, Mt. Sinai, Suez Canal, Egyptian museum, the Pyramids, Karnak temple, and the Valley of the Kings.
For a full cost breakdown click here
For a trip report click here for English, here for Czech

9 days, £211.87 @ £11.77 per person per day. Estimated budget £10 per day.
Visa: $100USD must be issued before arrival. Can be problematic but Cairo is one of the easier places to apply, takes 24 hours and requires a letter of introduction from the applicants embassy. The British embassy will issue a letter on the spot for around £30, the Czech embassy is far less helpful and refuse to issue letters, sadly this ambassador is a rude and pathetic embarrassment to his country, furthermore a letter of complaint to the Czech Foreign Office resulted in this issue being dismissed. There is a loophole however and to read more on Sudanese visa applications click here.
Wadi Halfa - Abri - Kerma - Dongola - Khartoum - Gedaref
We travelled by pick-up except the trip from Khartoum to Gedaref, stayed in Lokandas and camped at Blue Nile in Khartoum. Ate mostly street food although in Khartoum all that seemed to be available were burgers!
For a full breakdown of how to travel in Sudan click here
For a trip report click here for English, here for Czech

17 days, £359.12 @ £10.56 per person per day. Estimated budget £10 per day.
Visa: MUST be issued beforehand, DO NOT arrive at the border without a visa. We heard of one person who made the horror trip up from Nairobi to Moyale without a visa! Cost $20 in Khartoum ($30 in Cairo), issued within 24 hours for up to a one month stay.
Gonder - Debark (Simien Mountains) - Bahir Dar - Lalibela - Dessie - Addis Ababa - Dila
Staying in good value hotels, eating delicious plates of injera and travelling by bus everywhere. We also trekked for 4 days in the Simien mountains.
For details of the Simien mountains trekking click here, for a full cost breakdown of travelling in Ethiopia click here
For a trip report click here for English, here for Czech

21 days, £815.12 @ £19.40 per person per day (this included a $300 per person 3-day safari). Estimated budget £15 per day.
Visa: available on the border for most nationalities costs $25 and is valid for 3 months. Part of the EAC agreement between Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania is that with single-entry visas for all three countries it is permitted to travel between those three countries as often as needed within the validity of the visas. Once you leave these three countries however the visas are void and new visas will be required. It can be a very useful system.
Moyale - Isiolo - Nanyuki - Mt. Kenya - Nairobi - Mombasa - Lamu - Nairobi - Masai Mara NR - Lake Nakuru NP - Lake Naivasha - Hells Gate NP - Nairobi
Camping or staying in guesthouses, self-catering or eating cheap meals of pilau, githeri or chapati, travelling by bus or on the back of a truck, undertaking one organised safari and entering 3 national parks. We did not climb Mt. Kenya because of the ridiculous price increases. Well done KWS.
For full costs and tips click here
For a trip report click here for English, here for Czech


30 days, £1617.65 @ £26.96 per person per day (including a 4-day safari). Estimated budget £15 per day.
Visa: costs $50 for most nationalities (Irish pay $100) and are available for most nationalities at most borders but inevitably there are exceptions. See above for details of the EAC visa agreement.
Arusha - Tarangire NP - Serengeti NP - Ngorongoro NCA - Moshi - trip to Uganda via Nairobi - Bukoba - Mwanza - Dar Es Salaam - Zanzibar (Stone Town and Jambiani) - Mbeya
Staying in hotels or camping, travelling by bus and boat, eating cheap meals in canteens or from street stalls. Includes an excellent 4-day safari organised by Forsters Tours.
For full costs and tips click here
For trip reports on Northern Tanzania click here for English, here for Czech
For trip reports on the rest of Tanzania click here for English, here for Czech


15 days, £337.35 @ £11.24 per person per day. Estimated budget £10 per day.
Visa: Costs $50 available at the border for most nationalities. Student visas used to be half-priced on presentation of ISIC card but this no longer seems to apply.
Mbale - Sipi Falls - Jinja - Kampala - Fort Portal - Lake Nkuruba - Rwenzori mountains - Masaka - Ssese islands
Staying in hotels or camping,eating street food or the excellent food served by community campsites Lake Nkruba and Ruboni and travelling by bus, on the back of boda-bodas (motorbike taxis) and in shared taxis.
For full costs and tips click here
For a trip report click here for English, here for Czech

22 days, £604.22 @ £13.73 per person per day. Estimated budget £10 per day.
Visa: free for most nationalities, those that doe require visas should apply before. The embassy in Dar Es Salaam charges $100 and takes 4 days. If you are lucky they may let you pass the border and apply for a visa once in Malawi, and may charge you only $70 for taking this risk and flaunting the rules.
Nkhata Bay - Viphya Plateau - Nkhata Bay - Chizimulu island - Likoma island - Blantyre - Mt Mulanje - Lilongwe
Camping every day apart from those spent on the Ilala ferry, self-catering often and travelling by bus/boat (except for one indulgent taxi ride!). One main expense was beer, here they only sell smaller bottles and the costs is the same or more than for a bigger bottle in Tanzania, Uganda or Kenya.
For full hints and tips click here
For a trip report click here for English, here for Czech

12 days, £542.41 @ £22.60 per person per day. Estimated budget £12 per day.
Visa: $50 available at borders (but not when travelling by train from Tanzania) or from embassies.
Chipata - South Luangwa NP - Lusaka - Livingstone (Victoria Falls)
Camping except in Lusaka where we took dorm beds, self-catering almost exclusively and travelling by bus.
For full tips and costs click here
For a trip report click here for English, here for Czech

Why we didn't go

9 days, £450.81 @ £25.04 per person per day. Estimated budget £18 per day.
Visa: most countries can visit visa-free but for those that require visas, which includes most of Eastern Europe (inc Czech Republic but not Poland) and Israel, the process can be expensive, very time consuming and ultimately fruitless. Hotel bookings and onward tickets may be required plus a detailed planned itinerary, the process could take from one week to two months and once the application has been made the fee is non-refundable, regardless of its success or lack thereof.
Kasane (Chobe NP) - Nata - Gweta (Planet Baobab) - Maun - Okavango Delta
Public transport is scarce so hitch-hiking is a very useful option, food in restaurants is expensive so self-catering or eating from supermarket deli counters is the only viable option, camping is available in most touristic areas.
For full hints and tips click here
For a trip report click here for English, here for Czech

12 days, £668.96 @ £27.87 per person per day. Estimated budget £18 per day.
Visa: free for most nationalities. For those that require visas (inc. Czech Republic) they are available at Namibian embassies at a cost of $50, taking around 3 days to issue.
Windhoek - Swakopmund - Walvis Bay - Namib-Nauklauft NP (Kuiseb, Nauklauft mountains, Sossusvlei) - Marienthal - Keetmanshop - Fish River Canyon
Public transport is non existent so the only option is to hitch (if you have the time) or hire a car (if you have the money), camping wild is an option as the country is deserted.
For full hints and tips click here
For a trip report click here for English, here for Czech

South Africa
40 days, 2571.80 @ £32.14 per person per day. This included 26 days car hire (25+1) and all of our souvenir shopping. Estimated budget £15 per day.
Visa: Free 3-month temporary residency permits issued at border to most nationalities.
Cape Town - Cape Peninsular - Hermanus - Cape Agulhas - Mossel Bay - Buffels Bay - Knysna - Plettenburg Bay - Tsitsikamma NP - Jeffreys Bay - PE - Addo NP - Port Alfred - East London - Chintsa - Coffee Bay - Mthatha - Durban - Drakensburg Mountains (Monks Cowl and Royal Natal) - St Lucia (and Hluhluwe) - side trip to Swaziland - Nelspuit - Blyde River Canyon - Kruger NP - side trip to Mozambique - Johannesburg - Bloemfontein - side trip to Lesotho - Cape Town
We camped and self-catered almost all the time and also received a WildCard as a gift, meaning we had hardly any park entry fee's to pay, Hiring a car was the most cost-effective way to see as much as possible.
For a full costs breakdown click here
For trip reports English click here, here or here, in Czech click here, here or here

3 days, £80 plus R200 road permit and 3 days car hire at 187ZAR per day so £140.88 @ £23.48 per person per day. Without the car hire the cost of travelling in Swaziland would be similar to that of Lesotho (see below). Estimated budget £10 per day.
Visa: free for all nationalities that do not require a visa to enter South Africa.
Manzini - Ezulwini and Malkerns Valley - Mbabane
camping at Sondzela Backpackers in Mliliwane Nature Sanctuary, self-catering and travelling in our hire car.
For full costs and tips click here
For a trip report in English click here, in Czech click here

16 days, £568.21 @ £17.75 per person per day. Estimated budget £12.50 per day.
Visa: costs vary wildly, the current best place to apply is in Swaziland where a visa costs $12 and is issued in the same day, visas at the border cost around $25 whilst from embassies in South Africa the cost in around $100.
Maputo - Vilankulos (Bazaruto Archipelago) - Inhambane and Tofo - Maputo
A mixture of beach huts and camping, treating ourselves to excellent seafood as well as self-catering, travelling by bus. Also includes two trips - one to the Bazaruto archipelago and one 'Ocean safari' in Tofo (with a discounted second trip).
For full hints and tips click here
For a trip report in English click here, in Czech click here

4 days, £100 @ £12.50 per person per day. Estimated budget £10 per day.
Visa: Free for most nationalities, for others it maybe worth trying just turning up as the cost of acquiring a visa beforehand can be rather high.
Maseru - Semonkong - Malealea - Maseru
Camping, with one night in a dorm, enjoing lots of street snacks and one nice dinner but otherwise self-catering, travelling by bus.
For full hints and tips click here
For a trip report in English click here, in Czech click here


6 days, £260.56 @ £21.71 per person per day. Estimated budget £15 per day.
Visa: free for many nationalities, others may receive a 96 hour visa upon arrival or will have to find a sponsor (UAE resident or hotel/travel agent) within Dubai to apply on behalf, the cost is around £120 including mandatory health insurance.
Dubai - Abu Dhabi - Siwa Oasis - Al-Ain - Ras-Al-Khaimah - Sharjah - Dubai
Staying as guests of a friend, shared car hire for three days between four people, most attractions are free entry. Enjoying a welcome return to Middle Eastern cuisine.
For a trip report in English click here

So, as you can see, our actual costs far exceeded our estimated forecast, it came as shock (even after having travelled for over 3 months in West Africa in 2007) just how expensive Africa is as a continent to travel in. Not only expensive but incredibly poor value for money. We camped a few times up until Tanzania but then about 99% of the time after that spending more on camping than we would pay for a luxury double room with hot shower, air-con and TV in most parts of Asia!!!

Finally, if you are still interested, see our exhaustive list of Top 5's here

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

High Five!

In a true example of post-modern, Generation X Hornbyism we have compiled pages of lists, top fives for every conceivable aspect of our journey. Our claim of justification is that it might help someone or provide inspiration...


1. Safari in Tarangire, Serengeti and Ngorongoro in Tanzania
2. Swahili culture along coastal Kenya and Tanzania (specifically Mombasa, Lamu and Zanzibar)
3. Likoma and Chizimulu islands, Malawi
4. People of Sudan
5. Seafood in Mozambique



1. Malawi
2. Ethiopia
3. Namibia
4. Uganda
5. Tanzania

This is a difficult list, no country on this trip had a perfect mix of people, food, sights, wildlife, value for money and the other mitigating factors. Malawi came out number one principally because of the people. Ethiopia came second despite some of the people but due to the stunning scenery and the fact that everything there is completely alien! In Namibia it was the landscape, in Uganda a similar combination to Malawi but ruined by our experiences in South-West Uganda. Tanzania made the list because it was the location for two of our best experiences (Serengeti/Ngorongoro and Zanzibar) and that other places including Dar Es-Salaam and Mwanza were also very pleasant.

Boy in Malawi


1. Cairo
2. Cape Town
3. Istanbul
4. Damascus
5. Dar Es-Salaam
= Maputo

Interesting that 3 of the 5 are Middle Eastern, highlights that Africa is not good at doing cities. The one exception is Cape Town, known as the Mother City, which could keep a visitor enthralled for weeks on end. Dar Es-Salaam and Maputo vy for fifth place on a list that would be better of as a 'top 4'!



1. Cappadocia, Turkey
2. Wadi Rum, Jordan
3. Sinai Peninsular, Egypt
4. Petra, Jordan
5. Qadisha Valley, Lebanon


Wadi Rum


1. Likoma and Chizimulu islands, Malawi
2. Zanzibar, Tanzania
3. Simien mountains, Ethiopia
4. Lamu island, Kenya
5. Namib-Nauklauft National Park, Namibia (inc. Sossusvlei, Kuiseb canyon and the Nauklauft mountains

Jambiani beach, Zanzibar


1. Moyale, Kenya
2. Mbeya, Tanzania
3. Masaka, Uganda
4. Marienthal, Namibia
5. Mthatha, South Africa

Why? Moyale is the border town between Ethiopia and Kenya and sits at one end of the most infamous road on the 'Cairo to Cape Town' grapevine. It is also right in the middle of a big qat (the slightly narcotic plant) chewing region, which means all the hotels are filthy and the staff are lying around totally whacked out with a giant bunch of qat leaves stuffed in their mouths. Mbeya in Tanzania, close to the Zambian and Malawian borders was populated by people with more standard addictions - alcohol and marijuana - who seemed to be roaming the streets and hanging about in hoodies on every corner (Sound familiar?), not good when arriving at 11pm to find all the cheap hotels full. Masaka in Uganda was simply the epicentre of some of the most primitive and unfriendly group of people in Africa, all of a sudden Ugandans went from being friendly, cheerful and welcoming to uncivilised, nefarious rude and obnxious, which was a shame. Marienthal in Namibia was just one of those places which you pass through and a shiver goes down your spine - small-town, everyone looking like the result of some inter-breeding program, a lot of knocked-out teeth and groups of old women hitch-hiking at midnight. Inevitably we found ourselves passing through, and stopping at the petrol station, three times! Mthatha was not so bad but was the place where we were stuck without a spare tyre because of South Africa's archaic Sunday trading laws, it seemed down-trodden and slightly dodgy but in the end was not so bad and the people were helpful on Monday! It only got on the list because there really were no other places that were bad (pretty good for a nine month trip!) and it begins with M, just like the rest of the list, which is strange!


1. Imet Gogo in Simien mountains, Ethiopia
2. Fish River Canyon, Namibia
3. Wadi Rum, Jordan
4. Lake Nakuru, Kenya
5. Sipi Falls, Uganda

Lake Nakuru, Kenya


1. Namibia
2. Jordan
3. Ethiopia
4. South Africa
5. Lesotho

Sossusvlei, Namibia


1. Chobe National Park, Botswana
2. Serengeti National Park, Tanzania
3. Cannakale, Turkey
4. Chizimulu, Malawi
5. Hornbill camp, Ssese islands, Uganda

Chobe National Park, Botswana


1. Sudanese
2. Syrian
3. Zambian
4. Malawian
5. Swazi

Sudanese Girl


1. On safari in Tarangire, Serengeti and Ngorongoro, Tanzania
2. Snorkelling with whale sharks at Tofo, Mozambique
= Simien mountains trekking, Ethiopia
3. Taking the Ilala ferry, Malawi
4. Taking the ferry from Aswan, Egypt to Wadi Halfa, Sudan
5. Self-drive safari in Kruger National park


1. Ghion Hotel, Bahir Dar (Ethiopia)
2. Bahari Hotel, Lamu (Kenya)
3. Oasis Hotel, Luxor (Egypt)
4. Cairo Hotel, Hama (Syria)
5. A+A Hill Street Accommodation, Moshi (Tanzania)

To clarify I should add that from Malawi onwards we almost exclusively camped in either 'backpackers' or municipal campsites, which is why none of these are from Southern Africa. This also does not include either of the posh places we stayed, Kempinski in Dar Es-Salaam and Pezula in Knysna, as the comparisons would not be fair. Budget here means up to $15 per night.


1. Planet Baobab, near Gweta (Botswana) (see here)
2. Croc Valley, Mfuwe, South Luangwa (Zambia)
3. Mabuya Lodge, Lilongwe (Malawi)
4. The Old Bridge, Maun (Botswana)
5. Chameleon Backpackers, Windhoek (Namibia)


1. Buccaneers, Cintsa (South Africa)
2. Sondzela Backpackers, Mliliwane Nature Sanctuary (Swaziland)
3. BiBs, St. Lucia (South Africa)
4. Semonkong Lodge, Semonkong (Lesotho)
5. Naval Hill Backpackers, Bloemfontein (South Africa)

Sondzela Backpackers


1. Casa De Comer, Tofo (Mozambique). Delicious seafood presented exquisitely in a luxurious location.
2. Deli Chez, Moshi (Tanzania). A curry house to rival the best on Brick Lane!
3. Olympic Restaurant, Lamu (Kenya). Fantastic fresh fish accompanied by a veritable feast of side dishes.
4. Lookout Restaurant, Plettenberg Bay (South Africa). Tasty food with good portions eaten whilst admiring the views from the terrace.
5. Moyo, Johannesburg (South Africa). Nice food but the real highlight is the setting and the free tribal face painting!
= Dros, Stellenbosch (South Africa). a 500gr steak (for Monika), 'nuff said.

Again this was a list where the top 4 stood out, the last spot was probably between the only two other reasonably decent places we ate on the whole trip (unless you count Nandos?!).


1. Black and White, Tofo (Mozambique). Fish, squid, prawns or chicken served with rice or chips. Friendly service of cheap, tasty and very filling meals.
2. Unique Restaurant, Lalibela (Ethiopia). The food more than makes up for the location, especially their 'fasting food' vegetable injera. The offer to watch the cooking of injera in the kitchen was a highlight.
3. New Peoples Hotel, Mombasa (Kenya). Big trays of pilau, spaghetti or 'half-and half' were the staple, the giant curried fish with chips was a special treat!
4. Demera Cultural Restaurant, Gonder (Ethiopia). A nice introduction to the weird and wonderful injera.
5. Ruboni Community Campsite, Rwenzori mountains (Uganda). Piles of tasty matoke (mashed plantains), rice and beans washed down with good beer at dirt cheap prices.

Black and White, Tofo (Mozambique)


1. Night market, Stone Town (Zanzibar). Stalls offering divine snacks such as lobster, prawn, squid or fish kebabs and the ubiquitous 'Zanzibar pizza' (something like an Indonesian 'murtabak').
2. Felafel, Middle East. The best were in Aleppo (Syria), Sidon (Lebanon) and Aqaba (Jordan)
3. Fish or Chicken Tikka, Mwanza (Tanzania).
4. Lentil samosas (Ethiopia). Often the only option for a midday snack!
5. Boerwors hot dog, across Namibia and South Africa but the best was in Windhoek.

Night market, Stone Town (Zanzibar)


1. Nile Special (Uganda)
2. Tusker (Kenya)
3. Castle (South Africa)
4. Mosi (Zambia)
5. Maluti (Lesotho)

In terms of countries Uganda and South Africa had the best range of beers, Mozambique had some options but they all tasted similar. Tanzania had a really good range but the brands often tasted totally different from one place to the next, Serengeti beer drunk in Arusha would probably have made this list but the same beer bought in Dar Es-Salaam was terrible, vice versa for Kilimajaro beer!


1. Masaka to Kalangala, Uganda
2. Looking for Dwesa, South Africa
3. Dar Es-Salaam to Mbeya, Tanzania
4. Mfuwe to Chipata, Zambia
5. Moyale to Isiolo, Kenya

The first was the worst due to a combination of terrible roads, dilapidated vehicle (this one really on the verge of collapse), primitive behaviour by the driver and conductor which the passengers did nothing to try to prevent, awful weather and long delays waiting for the minibus to fill up! Our search for Dwesa was conducted in our hire car but involved getting lost, driving on really bad 'gravel' roads in treacherous weather conditions and bursting a tyre in the middle of nowhere just before sunset. The journey from Dar to Mbeya included our change being 'dropped', almost being left behind at the lunch stop and arriving after dark in a total shithole of a town where all the hotels were full. Mfuwe to Chipata was memorable not only for the poor road and battered bus but because it departed at 3am and our lodge would only allow pick-ups until 9pm meaning we had to spend the evening in the pubs and clubs of Mfuwe (not many) watching our driver sink several beers before getting an hours sleep and tackling this terrible road in the dark. Finally, the Moyale to Isiolo road is so infamous on this route that it could not be omitted. An 18-hour 1000km journey where there are no roads at all, almost like driving in a ditch, on the back of a truck full of sacks of beans with about 100 other people all holding on for dear life! At least we didn't have any problems with the authorities or other passengers, unlike the 16 Ethiopian guys on board who felt the full force of some totally primitive, xenophobic behaviour. Just when we thought the bad journeys were behind us Africa had one last laugh on the journey from Maseru to Semonkong in Lesotho. Just 130km this journey managed to jolt our memories of all the rest of the combinations of crap roads, shit buses, and demon drivers!


1. Lalibela in Ethiopia. Vastly over-rated.
2. Not climbing Mt. Kenya due to ridiculous fees levied by KWS.
3. Okavango Delta. If you cant get to the Inner Delta the Eastern Delta is not really much of a substitute.
4. Weather in South Africa, Swaziland and Lesotho.
5. Coupled with our expensive, high quality tent suddenly losing its ability to be pitched in conditions resembling a white-water river!


- Tulip Guesthouse, Istanbul (Turkey)
- Emres Hostel, Capadoccia (Turkey)
- Spit-roast chicken in Lattakia (Syria)
- Bicycle safari at Hells Gate NP (Kenya)
- Community campsites in Uganda
- taking the ferry across Lake Victoria
- trekking Mt. Mulanje (Malawi)
- meeting up with my relatives Ken and Marie and their family and friends in South Africa
- watching cricket at the Wanderers and at Newlands!

and finally....



1. I Am The Walrus (from the Magical Mystery Tour EP, 1967)
2. Come Together (from Abbey Road, 1969)
3. A Day In The Life (from Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club band, 1967)
4. Day Tripper (single, 1965)
5. Dear Prudence (from The White Album, 1968)
6. Two Of Us (from Let It Be, 1970)
7. Sexy Sadie (from The White Album, 1968)
8. Paperback Writer (single, 1966)


1. The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and The Spiders from Mars (1972)
2. Heathen (2002)
3. Hunky Dory (1971)
4. Reality (2004)
5. Lodger (1979)

Sunday, December 6, 2009

All that glitters...

The worn cliché about the clash of old traditions and modern lifestyles really does apply to Dubai. The high rise skyscrapers, sprawling shopping malls and luxury hotels are surrounded by old souqs, ramshackle buildings housing tailors, laundrettes and Indian cafes. Somehow the whole aura of Dubai reminds of Singapore, or even Hong Kong. Ruled since 1833 by the Al Maktoum dynasty, the current emir Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum is also prime minister and vice-president of the UAE, the country made up of the seven emirates – Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, Ajman, Umm Al-Quwain, Ras Al-Khaimah and Fujairah – which celebrated its 38th birthday this week, prompting the entire population to decorate their cars in the colours of the flag (or even adorn them with photos of the various emirs.

We have been lucky enough this week to be guests of our friend Stepan (who has already made appearances on this trip in both Egypt and Tanzania), although he had just flown in from Dusseldorf when we arrived and forgot to change the time on his watch, meaning we had two hours waiting at the airport trying to adjust to being in the northern hemisphere again and in a more conservative culture where perhaps swimming shorts and bare feet are not as usual as in the Western Cape. Stepans brother was also visiting this week so we have been moving around in a small tour group!

Up until just twenty years ago Dubai remained a quiet town but in the past two decades uncontrolled development has totally altered the shape of the city, and its skyline silhouette. Buildings such as the famous Burj Al-Arab hotel on Jumeirah beach, whose design was based on that of a traditional sailing dhow, and the new Burj Dubai which once open will be regarded as the worlds tallest building at 808m are very tangible evidence of the effect a massive influx of wealth and capital can have on a city! The extravagance doesn’t stop at the view from outside – within the Mall of the Emirates is the indoor ski resort Ski Dubai which features an 85-meter high indoor mountain with 5 slopes including the world's first indoor black run and a 90-meter-long quarter pipe for snowboarders. Ski lifts carry skiers and snowboarders up the mountain. Adjoining the slopes is a 3,000-square-meter Snow Park play area comprising sled and toboggan runs, an icy body slide, a snowball shooting gallery and snowman making area, an ice cave, and a theatre! Luckily for the shivering sheiks in their dishdashas winter clothing and skiing equipment are included in the price of admission!

The largest of the Emirates with 87% of the countries land area is Abu Dhabi but somehow it always seems to be playing catch-up to Dubai. Where some Emiratis complain that Dubai has ‘sold its soul’ Abu Dhabi by contrast has managed to combine development with retaining its traditions. Indeed, the highlight of Abu Dhabi is definitely a visit to the Sheik Mohammed bin Zayed mosque, which is a modern development of the most traditional style, a beautiful mosque that really emphasises the spirit of Islam. A drive along the Corniche of Abu Dhabi prompts comparisons not with Dubai but with other, less glitzy Arabian cities, Muscat for instance. Trading on these traditions Abu Dhabi has been promoting cultural tourism in a big way, and at any museum, fort or palace you visit within the borders of Abu Dhabi you can be sure of an extremely friendly welcome, offers of Arabic coffee and fresh dates and a very proud and knowledgeable guide, often a women.

200km south of Abu Dhabi close to the Saudi border lies the Siwa Oasis, one of the last stops before entering the ‘Empty Quarter’ where you could probably walk (or take a camel) for 1000km and not bump into anyone else until you reach the Yemen! The whole area is surrounded by giant sand dunes, glowing in the sun in every shade from white to red, appearing as if they have been sculptured by a giant spatula.

Another oasis within Abu Dhabi is Al-Ain, 130km east of Dubai close to the Omani border. Leaving the city behind and passing long caravans of camels along the way before the city rises out of the desert. One of Wilfred Thesiger’s main stops during his Arabian explorations nowadays the oasis, fort and palace are surrounded by a fair sized modern town. The oasis is certainly not the stuff of fairytales, it is very much a working oasis with hundreds of date plantations squeezed together, but is still a very peaceful place to escape the heat and wander under the palms.

North of Dubai in the Ras Al-Khaimah emirate lies the historic site of Shamal, which historians claim was one of the many homes of the Queen of Sheba. Nowadays it is in a terrible state of neglect and hardly receives as much as a mention in the tourism brochures, however the views of the surrounding mountains from the ruins perched up on hill are worth the visit alone.

Closer to Dubai are the small emirates of Ajman and Sharjah. Although we only passed through Ajman we did stop in Sharjah. A stones throw form Dubai and yet worlds apart Sharjah is perhaps the most conservative of the emirates. It is populated by many of the lower income immigrant communities from the Indian Subcontinent giving a friendly and relaxed atmosphere. Perhaps it is just the shock arriving from Africa (where days could go past without receiving a smile let alone a greeting) but here everyone seems so happy and friendly, laughing and joking in the streets. It was definitely a shock to be wandering around the streets here long after sunset without even a thought as to personal safety and it also took a while to get used to being able to leave the car anywhere without a care in the world. Even the Bangladeshi guys trying to sell all kinds of dodgy stuff made me happy, it was so good to see some enthusiasm for life after months of trying to encourage shop-keepers to get up and serve me! This feeling continued as we wandered around the gold souqs of old Dubai, the fervent whispers of ‘copy watches, special price, cheap and best’ were music to my ears! The souqs in the heart of Dubai reminded me of all the best parts of the Middle East, the Indian Subcontinent and beyond. The Middle East really is the centre of all things, influences from Europe, Asia and Africa all get chewed up here before being spat out again in all different directions.

We have enjoyed a busy week here but we did find time to relax by our rooftop pool, sunbathing under the Dubai airport flight-path and watching the constant stream of Emirates jets fly off into the sun. Tomorrow we will be on one of them, the behemoth A380 in fact, but something tells it won’t be into the sun that we will be heading!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

How to travel in South Africa

Visas - free 3 month multiple entry 'temporary residency permits' are given to most nationalities on the border.

SAN Wild Card - costs around 1600R for a non-South African card valid for two people. This gives unlimited access to almost all national parks in South Africa as well as some in Swaziland. It is probably not worthwhile for a short visit but for longer stays it can prove to be more economical. It is especially worthwhile if you receive it as a gift!

Camping at Ashanti Lodge, Cape Town - 70R p.p.p.n. Nice place with clean kitchen, pool and travel centre. The upstairs bar has fantastic views of Table Mountain and big-screen sports but can be very noisy in the evening, and the music is piped through the hostel all day. Situated in the lovely Gardens suburb just 10 mins from Long St.
Bottle of drinkable South African wine in a supermarket - from 30R. Particular favourites include Nederburg and Drosty-Hof.
Boerwors hot dog from street stall - 9R.
Internet on Long Street - from 15R per hour. Fast connections, often with headset for Skype.
Entry to V+A Waterfront, Cape Town - FREE
25 days car hire from AroundAboutCars - 5308R - 177R per day plus 10R per day zero excess cover (optional), 33R contract fee, 200R cross-border permit for Swaziland and a 400R one-way drop-off fee. Amazing price.
Petrol - around 7.5R per litre.
Camping at Millers Point, Cape Peninsular - 130R per site.
Entrance to Cape Of Good Hope National Park - 75R p.p. (WildCard valid).
Entrance to TMNP Penguin Colony at Boulders - 30R p.p. (WildCard valid). Over-touristed and not worthwhile.
Camping at Olrus river, near Hermanus - 120R per site. Good facilities including bath tub (like most South African camp sites).
Whale watching from cliffs at Hermanus - FREE
Visiting Cape Agulhas NP (southernmost point of Africa) - FREE
Full tank of petrol in a VW Chico - around 360R which lasts around 600km.
Camping at Mossel Bay campsite - 130R per site.
Staying at luxury Pezula Hotel and Spa, Knysna - Free if guests of family, if not who knows? It is listed in the Worlds Greatest Spas!
Meal deal at King Pie (fast food chain) - 15R for a pie and chips.
Tasty meal such as Haloumi salad or tuna steak at The Lookout, Plettenburg Bay - around 50-100R. Excellent food, good portions, nice location, great views.
Mitchells draft beer in the Western Cape - 15R per pint.
Self-catering groceries for 25 days - around 1200R
Coffee and cake at Ile de pain cafe, Knysna - around 40R
Entry to Tsitsikamma NP - 88R (WildCard valid)
Camping at Island Vibe, Jeffreys Bay - 55R p.p.p.n. On the beach at a world famous surfing spot. Friendly and good facilities, camping is unprotected from the wind.
Entry to Red Location, Port Elizabeth - 12R p.p. Incredible moving apartheid museum, well presented, located in the New Brighton township.
Entry to Addo NP - 130R p.p. (WildCard valid)
Camping at Kowie Backpackers, Port Alfred - 60R p.p.p.n. set in the gardens of a small suburban bungalow.
Camping at Buccaneers, Cintsa - 55R p.p.p.n Nice place, secluded setting, many activities, including volleyball with wine.
King Steer burger with chips at Steers (South African fast food chain) - 40R
Double room at Bomvu backpackers, Coffee Bay - 200R per room. Nice place but Coffee Bay overrated in my opinion.
Double room at Blues Ally, Mthatha - 350R per room
2 large pizzas from Debonairs (pizza chain) - 185R
Dorm bed at Nomad Backpackers, Durban - 100R p.p.p.n
Bunny Chow (bread and curry) from Victoria St market, Durban - 25R
Visit to the Alayam Hindu temple, Durban - FREE
Pair of new flip-flops from Bata - 29R
Entrance to Monks Cowl Nature Reserve, Drakensburg Mountains - 30R p.p.
Camping at Inkosana Lodge, Monks Cowl - 75R p.p.p.n. Well run place, slightly expensive but with great views.
Camping and entry fee to Royal Natal NR, Drakensburg - 60R p.p.p.n (70R on weekends) including camping in the beautiful Mahai campsite.
Hot dog from road side stall - 13R
Double room at BiBs, St. Lucia - 220R. As they were full we were offered an ensuite room at the price of a room w/o bath. Relaxed place, nice kitchen and bar. Trips on offer.
Entry fee for St. Lucia Wetlands NP - 25R p.p. plus 30R per car. Scenic route through to Cape Vidal beach, with game viewing en route. Especially good for rhino spotting.
Entry fee to Hluhluwe-Imfolozi NP - 90R p.p. (WildCard valid). Big 5 in resident but can be difficult to spot, again rhinos in abundance however.
Map for Hluhluwe-Imfolozi NP - 30R. Well worth it.
Camping at Hluhluwe Backpackers (Daves Place) - 60R p.p.p.n. inc. decent breakfast, slightly weird place though.


Double room/Dorm bed at Nelspruit Backpackers, Nelspruit - 130R/120R p.p.p.n (maybe 80R for the dorm if you are lucky). Camp site there is not really functional. Friendly staff but a little bit run-down, there is a pool table, fussball, free breakfast, kitchen, pool, braii and bar.
Good quality biltong and droewors from proper biltong shops - around 170R per kg, although 200gr is more than enough!
Entry to Bourkes Luck potholes at Blyde River Canyon - 25R. OK as there is no entry fee at the other Blyde River Canyon sites.
Camping at Forever Resorts, Blyde River Canyon - 60R p.p.p.n. Great value as this is a proper holiday resort with restaurants, pool area, lots of walks and other activities.
Entry to Kruger National Park - 160R p.p. (WildCard valid)
Map of Kruger National Park - 25R.
Camping at any of the Kruger National Park sites - 75R p.p.p.n. Must book in advance. Two recommended sites are Sakara and Lower Sabie as they are in areas of high concentration of game.
Meat for proper South African braii (BBQ) - around 70R per kg for beef, 50R per kg for chicken and 40R per kg for sausages.
City2City bus from Nelspruit to Maputo - 130R. Cramped and stuffy but cheap, more expensive yet more comfortable carriers such as Translux charge from 160R.


Tickets for Twenty20 International between England and South Africa at The Wanderers, Johannesburg - 200R
Entry to Apartheid Museum, Jo'burg - 40R. Almost compulsory!
Delicious pizzas at Col'Cacchio, Bryanston (Jo'burg) - from 60-100R, very creative menu.
Dinner at Moyo restaurant, near Johannesburg Zoo - dishes from 50-210R including complimentary face painting.
Translux bus from Johannesburg to Bloemfontein - 190R, 5 hours
Camping at Naval Hill Backpackers, Bloemfontein - 60R p.p.p.n. Unique place set in an old water pump house, cool interiors. Friendly and relaxed staff. No bar but self-catering kitchen.
Taxi from Naval Hill to Central Bloemfontein - 40R
BigSky Bus from Bloemfontein to Maseru Bridge (Lesotho) - 50R, 140km, 3 hours. Service is on a 'city style' bus.


Entry to Naval Hill Nature Reserve, Bloemfontein - FREE
Entry to Olwienhus art gallery, Bloemfontein - FREE
Intercape Sleepliner bus from Bloemfontein to Cape Town - 330R, 13 hours, 1000km.
Internet at Chinese places around The Strand, Cape Town - from 5R per hour.
Pint of Bobs Brew Beer at Bobs Bistro, Long Street - 12R
Ticket for Labia cinema on Kloof Street - 25R. Only two screens at this intimate venue.
Entry to District 6 museum, Cape Town - 20R. Slightly disappointing after Red Location and the Apartheid museum, the exhibits were not really clear.
Guided tour to Robben island - 180R p.p. inc. boat transfer from V+A Waterfront, 45 minute guided coach trip around the island and tour of the former prison guided by a former inmate.
One day 'Cape Special' car hire from AroundAboutCars - 280R including 10R zero excess fee and 40R contract fee.
Wine tasting at Fairview, near Paarl - 25R p.p. including cheese tasting. A warm welcome to a beautiful vineyard in stunning settings. Highly recommended.
Wine tasting at Tokara, between Franschhoek and Stellenbosch - FREE, but the staff were quite snooty and made no effort to make guests feel welcome, we did not even stay for the free olive tasting.
500gr sirloin steak with pepper sauce served with chips at Dros, Stellenbosch - 105R. Incredibly tasty giant steak. Other menu items such as burgers start from 40R.
Admission for Laurie Levine concert at DorpStreet Theatre, Stellenbosch - 60R, but as it was a restaurant concert guests were required to order food also or pay an extra 30R cover charge. After the steak we could only manage a dessert, which cost 35R. This is the common practice at the DorpStreet. It is a nice place worth visiting if there is a good show on but be warned, don’t eat before!
Suburban train from Central Cape Town to Newlands - 5.5R
Ticket in North Stand at Newlands for ODI between England and South Africa - 220R. North Stand is best for the views of Table Mountain behind the stadium. All sorts of food, drinks and souvenirs available at the ground.
Climbing Table Mountain - FREE, but it is a tough, steep climb taking between 2-2.5 hours. Cable car tickets for the lazy people - 160R return. Entry to this part of Table Mountain national park is free.
Shuttle bus from Ashanti Lodge to Cape Town airport - 70R p.p. approx 30mins depending on traffic.
1l bottle of Amarula in duty free - 95R.

Approx costs - 220R per person per day, including 26 days car hire (25 days + 1 day)

Exchange rate - 7.5R=$1USD, 12.5R=GBP1

This is my land

The South African government has made great efforts to eradicate all the lasting effects of the horrific apartheid regime. A seemingly impossible task it is incredible that at no time has the country descended into a pit of race-related violence. The government has embarked on a program of affirmative action in the belief that to continually treat unequals as equals is to perpetuate their inequality. The global argument in favour of affirmative action is that the disproportionate representations are the result of institutionalised and involuntary forms of discrimination that permeate the society. This is particularly true in societies that have had a long history of racial, ethnic, or sex based discrimination, such as South Africa.

There is a strong argument against affirmative action however, that it devalues the accomplishments of people who are chosen because of their background and not because of their qualifications. Some people also feel that affirmative action is discrimination in itself since it judges on ethnicity albeit in a positive way. It is also claimed that affirmative action in the form of positive discrimination, also called reverse discrimination, has negative side effects in the community by promoting racial disharmony and hindering reconciliation efforts and undermining the self-esteem of individuals, even encouraging them to identify themselves as disadvantaged. Whilst it can be argued that none of these factors ever concerned the apartheid goverment the old adage 'two wrongs do not make a right' should also be noted.

The methods the government has introduced to bring equality into society include such measures as positive discrimination in employment laws, the appointment of government officials and members of parliament, in admission levels at educational institutions and quota-based selection policies regarding national sport representatives. In addition the government has also introduced a very strong income-based payment system with regard to services such as electricity and water, often referred to by the media as 'wealth taxes', referred to as 'white taxes' by many disgruntled white South Africans.

Many of the new laws do not only promote positive discrimination towards black South Africans but also specifically disadvantage the other citizens. The new laws favour black-owned companies and also state that 80% of new jobs should be reserved for black South Africans. In the context of these laws the term 'black' includes all people of “colour" including Cape Malays, rural tribe members and those of Indian and Chinese origin. In the complex, quota-based system firms are required to meet specific levels not only of the workforce as a whole but also in how their company is represented at board and management levels, which other companies they deal with and how their company behaves in the local community.

Some of the laws have been very unsuccessful, how many South Africans, regardless of their racial background, would rather see a sports team that meets the quotas rather than one which is going to bring pride to their country. Personally I disagree with these laws also. What the government should do is put more emphasis on the development of these sports at grass-root level, to ensure that in coming generations the selections will be racially balanced naturally. Again, it also cuts both ways - the players and fans of cricket and rugby may be predominantly white but regarding football the players and fans are overwhelmingly from the black community, in fact there is only one white player in the South African national football team, whose name, Bafana Bafana, is a Zulu word meaning 'boys'. This also creates strong opinions however, people complain that white South Africans refuse to follow football on racial grounds and that many are hoping that the World Cup 2010 will fail. Personally I do not believe this for a second, imagine the economic impact should the tournament fail which would affect all South Africans. Some members of the press argue that white South Africans are discouraged from attending football matches due to the threat of crime and violence, this is partly true, although I would insert the word 'perceived' before threat, or even 'paranoia' instead of 'threat'! The fact that the standard of football played in the South African league is perhaps also a factor - why should people waste their money to attend the games when they could attend good quality rugby or cricket matches and then watch the top European football leagues on TV? The lack of quality spills over into the national team as well whose last ten games have yielded just two draws amongst eight losses!

Another part of the governments actions is the concept of land claims. Since 1994 the South African government has pursued a policy of trying to return land to its rightful owners after it had been taken from them during apartheid. This is a noble and justified project but has had some very unsuccessful and undesirable results. Many of the disputed lands have been operating as successful farms for many years, providing essential employment to the region as well as producing food to supply both the local community and beyond. When a group produces a valid claim to the land they may be offered cash or other land as an alternative or the government will enter negotiations with the present owners to come to a fair remuneration package. Often in these cases, after years of high production levels the farms will crumble within months of the change in ownership - fields will go fallow, the boreholes will dry up and the members of the community will sell off as much as they can before moving on to another settlement. In one particular case a farm showing an annual profit of 7m rand was given away in a land claim to a group that had already received compensation in lieu of the land and should not have been eligible for any more claims, a fact the judge overlooked. Within months there were just 6 people remaining on the farm from the hundreds that moved in, the machinery had all been sold, the buildings dismantled and the farmland destroyed. The real crux of this matter is that ALL South Africans complain as they suffer from less food being available leading to higher prices and even having to import such products as oranges from abroad.

Subjects such as these have done my head in during our couple of months in and around South Africa. It is a challenging country for liberal, open-minded travellers! I am in total support of the ANC's vision but it always seems that there is too much emphasis on making the country appear more equal rather than concentrating on actually promoting equality. Of course the second factor is far more difficult to achieve but surely its the only viable option? Questions such as ‘Why is the crime rate so high?, Why is there so much disharmony?, Why are the people much less friendly and welcoming than in neighbouring Lesotho, Swaziland or Mozambique?’ create forceful discussions in hostels around the country. Where do you draw the line in these efforts? When does common sense prevail?

Monday, November 30, 2009

Out Of Africa

Arriving in Johannesburg from Maputo we were relieved to find it was not the big, bad Jo’burg of traveller myth. In fact it is quite a pleasant city, at least during the day. Everything is very spread out and there are many parks, gardens and woodlands, in fact it is said that there are more trees than people in Johannesburg, although I am not sure how true that is. The downtown area is obviously less verdant but looked a lively place, not deserted as I imagined, it resembled any other African city.

As we were guests of my relations, Ken and Marie, we enjoyed a relaxing stay, indulged in some nice meals (Col’ Cacchio being possible the best pizzeria in Africa!) and were able to get an insiders look at Johanensburg. Apart from the obligatory trip to the Apartheid museum, which was moving and depressing but extremely well presented and informative we also managed to sneak a look at the new stadium that will host next years World Cup final, visited the brilliant Bryanston market, several of the northern suburbs glitzy malls and casinos and of course managed to attend the Twenty20 International between England and South Africa, escorted by Lauren (Ken and Marie’s daughter) and her boyfriend Sean. Luckily England won, if only by 1 run on Duckworth and Lewis! On the same day South Africa also played rugby against France, a game which caused national uproar, not because of the result but because of the presentation of the South African national anthem, sung by the (tone-deaf) Ras Dumasani. I am not sure how much coverage this received in the international media so if you want a laugh, watch this:

We left Jo’burg still laughing at Ras Dumasani as he had an even more hysterical interview on the radio that morning!

Our next stop was Bloemfontein, in the heart of the Free State. The Free State is generally considered to be almost an apartheid stronghold, where the clocks stopped several years ago. I must say however that we saw no evidence of this belief, at least no more so than other South African cities, and can only comment on the warm and friendly nature of all the local people. Bloemfontein is another clean and spacious city with wide streets and tree-lined avenues. We camped at Naval Hill Backpackers, just below the Naval Hill nature reserve; it is a place worth mentioning as it is housed in an old water pump-house.

I should add that South Africans can be the most friendly and welcoming people. During this trip whenever we have met South Africans, in whichever country, they have always welcomed us with open arms, thrusting beers at us and inviting us to stay at their place in South Africa, or at least to come for a home cooked dinner. This kind of hospitality is at odds with the reputation of South Africans, regardless of their race, colour or creed.

The Kingdom of Lesotho is a country in the unusual position of being totally contained within another countries borders, the only other country I can think of in the same situation is San Marino. However once across the border it feels worlds apart from South Africa. In a similar way to Swaziland it is a very rural country, although our first impression was of the chaotic and bustling Maseru market, although to be honest the whole of Maseru seemed to be one big market, traders selling all manner of goods, a lot of Chinese plastic crap and an incredible variety of cheap and tasty street food. An horrific bus journey, one of the worst on our whole trip, took us right into the heart of the mountains, to a tiny village called Semonkong, which means “place of smoke”. From here were amazing views over the mountain range, eerily reminiscent of Tibet or Mongolia, even down to the manner in which the people are dressed. A further comparison with Mongolia can be made in the country’s main tourism niche – horse riding. There is also good trekking but when it rains constantly, and even snows a bit (at the start of their summer) there is not much else to do than appreciate the warmth inside Semonkong Lodge. Admitting defeat we retreated back over the snowy passes to Maseru and down to Malealea, another tiny village but this time in the foothills of the mountains. The views across to the start of the range from here are amazing, simply stunning. There is also pony trekking or hiking offered and this time the weather held, of only for a long morning walk!

After a second brief stopover in Bloemfontein, the highlight of which (apart from staying at Naval Hill) was visiting the Oliewenhus art gallery, we took a long overnight bus back to Cape Town, the “mother city”. As we did not do so much sight-seeing last time it left us with a busy schedule for our last week in Africa. Our first outing was to the District 6 museum, charting the history of the pass laws and the cynical manner in which areas were cleared of blacks and coloureds to make way for white settlements. Although the subject matter made arresting reading the museum itself was a slight disappointment, not as well planned as neither the Red Location in Port Elizabeth nor the Apartheid museum, both of which portray similar subject matter in a far more coherent fashion. It did serve as a taster for the trip to Robben island, the offshore prison where many anti-apartheid political activists were incarcerated, including Nelson Mandela who spent 18 of his 27 years on the island. It was interesting to see the island and in particular the prison (where Mandela’s former cell is the highlight for most visitors) but for me the highlight was our guide, a former inmate, Ngotse, who was also a fantastic orator. He was sentenced to 25 years imprisonment for treason in 1984, a sentence he was relieved to receive as he was facing the death penalty, if he would have served his whole sentence he would have been released just 4 days before we visited Robben island, a fact which sent chills down every visitors spine.

We had a much more pleasant experience as we set out on our self-guided tour of the Winelands although we only actually visited two vineyards. The first was Fairview, a relaxed and welcoming place close to Paarl with beautiful views from their immaculate garden, they offered a delicious range of cheeses to taste in addition to the wines. The second place we visited was Tokara which had an exquisite modern design and more stunning views. The staff here were rather snooty however so we only tested a few wines and did not stay even long enough to taste their olives and chocolates. The principal towns in the Winelands are Paarl, Franschhoek and Stellenbosch and we found time to visit all of them as well. Both Franschhoek and Stellenbosch are quaint little towns, many buildings whitewashed and shining in the valleys. When we first arrived in Cape Town back in September we heard an interview and performance on the radio from the Jo’burg singer Laurie Levine, who just happened to be playing in Stellenbosch the evening we were there (Actually we planned it that way). It was a strange concert however, rather than standing up everyone was seated at tables and in addition to the cover charge all visitors were obliged to eat as well. Unaware of this we had already been for dinner, Monika ordering a 500gr sirloin steak, so it was with trepidation that we were forced to order desserts whilst watching the concert. Luckily it was a great show and distracted us from the complaints our bulging stomachs were making!

Enjoying a great run of beautiful weather we were relieved to wake to another sunny day on Friday and made our way across town to Newlands for the ODI between South Africa and England. Surely one of the most beautiful cricket grounds in the world I was pleased to see the research I made on the seating had paid off as we sat down to a perfect view of the pitch with Table mountain proving the perfect backdrop. It was a great afternoons cricket, the sun was shining, everyone was having a good time and then disaster struck, and I am not talking about England’s batting collapse... they ran out of beer! Now, there is a Castle brewery just opposite the ground and many people were suggesting a pipe should be connected direct from the brewery. Some people reverted to hot chocolate as the sun had already disappeared behind the mountain but we waited and luckily, avoiding a sure riot, new barrels arrived!

The last activity on our list was to climb Table Mountain. Going against the weather forecast the sun shone again on Saturday as we set out. We started directly from our lodge in Gardens, a tough walk up to the base of the mountain, we were already wilting in the heat before we started the gruelling 2 hours climb to the top. Many people were lying exhausted in the precious few scraps of shade on the way up. Once on top however it was worth all the exertion. The panoramic views of the cape peninsular proved to be a perfect finish to our long journey through Africa. It was our final fantastic experience, unless you count the turning on of the Cape Town Christmas lights last night, but as we missed the actually turning on its not really worth mentioning!

In just a few hours we will be flying out of Africa. All that remains for us is a week in Dubai before returning to England. A week in an Islamic country which might be a welcome rehab after the last few months of sundowners in Africa.

pres Lesotho do Kapskeho mesta

Tak Vazeni pratele ano, uz je tomu tak, dneska odpoledne opoustime Afriku!!!! Bude Nam smutno, ale uz se samozrejme tesime domu. Byla to krasna cesta, i kdyz trochu precerpala nase finance a obcas byla jak psychicky tak fyzicky narocna, tak presto jsme si to naramne uzili.

Naposledy jsem psala z Maputa z Mozambiku, odkud jsme jeli do Johannesburgu, kde jsme stravili par hezkych dni s Allanovym strejdou (bratranec mamy) a jeho rodinou v luxusni vilce s bazenem a tenisovym kurtem, jeden den jsme zasli na kriket, hrala Anglie s Jihoafrickou republikou, zacalo prset a tak podle propoctu Anglie vyhrala.
Nase par denni zastavka na ceste do Kapskeho mesta, byla malinke kralovstvi Lesotho, hornata zemicka obklopena ze vsech stran Jihoafrickou republikou. Krasne hory, trochu nam to pripomelo Tibet nebo Mongolsko. Vsichni ve slamenych kloboukach, zabaleny v tlusty dece na ponikach. Krasny malinkly vesnicky s fajn lidma.

Podle informaci cesi potrebuji vizum, ale bylo mi receno, ze kdyz si zazadam predem tak to bude trvat 3 tydny a bude me to stat 100 euro a tak jsem to proste riskla bez viz. Vetsina narodnosti vizum nepotrebuje a stejne nikdo nevi na hranicnich prechodech, co vlastne Ceska republika je:):) no a tak to proslo, jenom mi dali razitko na 30 dni.
Meli jsme 5 dni a z toho 3 prselo a dokonce pres noc i nasnezilo, 2 dni jsme zustali v horach v Semonkongu a jeden den jsme meli hezky ve vesnicce Malealea. Ale doprava byla docela pomala a tak jsme skoro celej den ztravili cekanim nez se naplni autobus, nastesti v hlavnim meste Maseru byl autobusak plnej stanku s dobrotama a tak jsme se tam nenudili.
Zpet do Bloemfontein a nocnim autobusem do Kapskeho mesta, kde nam cely tyden svitilo krasne slunicko a vyslapli jsme si na Stolovou horu, to bylo docela narocny, ale vyhled stal za to.

Jeden den vylet na Robben Island, vezeni na ostrove asi pul hodinku od Kapskeho mesta, kde byli vezneni hlavne politicky vezni, co byli proti politice apartheidu, Nelson Mandela tu ztravil 18 let ze svych 27 let ve vezeni.
Vinice v okoli Kapskeho mesta s ochutnavkama vin a syru.

Celodenni kriket opet Anglie s Jihoafrickou republikou, docela narocny kdyz clovek zacne pit pivo uz rano a kriket byl az do 10 do vecera, takze hodne vykalencu a JAR tentokrat vyhrala.

Dneska jsme rano zabalili, vyhazeli prochozeny boty a vetsinu obleceni a jedem pres Dubaj domu.

Tak se vsichni mejte, omlouvam se za sve odflakle psani a dekujem za prizen.
zdravi monika a allan

Friday, November 27, 2009

Lesotho Tips

The Kingdom in the Sky completely surrounded by South Africa and yet feeling more like Swaziland,Malawi or Zambia.

Visa: Free for most nationalities. Even nationalities requiring visas can risk it as the immigration officials are less than thorough!

Minibus from Maseru Bridge (border post) to Central Maseru - 4M
Plate of BBQ Pork with pap and greens at Maseru market - 20M
Bus from Maseru to Semonkong and v.v. - 30M, 4 hours, 130km. Very bad road. Duration does not include the up-to-5hours waiting time
Camping/Dorm at Semonkong Lodge, Semonkong - 60/100M p.p.p.n. Nice place set right in the mountains. Various walks and pony treks available as well as activities such as the worlds longest abseil (or something like that!). All weather permitting of course!
Dinner at Semonkong Lodge - 50-80M from choice of three mains plus starters and desserts.
S/M/L frankfurter from Maseru market - 1/2/2.5M
Apples, bananas, guavas, tomatoes, onions on Maseru market - 1L per piece.
Deep fried 'fishcakes' on Maseru market - 2.5M
Frozen guava juice on Maseru market - 2M
Minibus from Maseru to Malealea and v.v. - 30M, 2hours, 100km, good road. Again, not including waiting time.
Camping at Malealea Lodge, Malealea - 60M p.p.p.n (from 2010 will be 70M) Nice place with stunning views to the mountains. Trekking and pony trips available, table tennis and table football if it is raining. Nice bar.
Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner at Malealea Lodge - 55/60/90M, from a set menu. Overpriced in my opinion.

Average Daily Budget - 160M p.p.

Exchange rate - 7.5M=$1USD, 12.5M=GBP1

Mozambique Hints

Crossing from South Africa into Mozambique is like stepping back into steamy East Africa:

Camping at Fatimas Place, Maputo - 200M p.p.p.n. An OK place with nice yard but the staff are exceedingly lazy and inept and the campsite is on a flat roof with no shelter from the storms.
Internet at Twingos, Maputo - 45M per hour
Dos M beer - 40M per 440ml can
Cafe com leite at Twingos cafe - 28M. Cakes and Pastries from 15M
Tomatoes/Onions/Garlic from street stall - 15M per kg/5M piece/7M head
Bread - 5M loaf
Draft beer in local cafe, Maputo - around 17M small glass
Admission to Maputo Art Gallery - 20M (FREE for ISIC holders)
Admission to Maputo Fort - FREE
Bus from Maputo to Vilankulos - 600M, 10 hours, approx 700Km. Rough ride.
Camping/Dorm/Hut/Beachfront Hut w/bath at Baobab Beach Backpackers, Vilankulos - 150 p.p.p.n/200p.p.p.n/500 per room/1000M per room
Fruit smoothie at Baobab Beach Backpackers - 30M
Bananas/Bread on Vilankulos Market - 10M for 4
One day sailing trip to Magaruque island, Bazaruto archipelago inc. snorkelling and Seafood BBQ - from $40USD (around 1200M p.p.)
Minibus from Vilankulos to Maxixe - 180M, 5 hours, approx 300km
Ferry from Maxixe to Inhambane - 10M, 20 mins
Minibus (chapa) from Inhambane to Tofo - 25M, 22km, 1 hour
Camping at Fatimas Nest, Tofo - 200M p.p.p.n
Tasty meals of chicken, fish, squid or prawns with rice or chips w/salad at Black and White restaurant, Tofo - 50-110M
Local beers - 40M bottle
Ocean Safari with Tofo Scuba to try to snorkel with whale sharks, manta rays, turtles and other marine life - 1000M, 2 hour trip in rib including gear (with wet suit, useful if it takes time to spot anything). If not sightings then a repeat trip may be offered for 370m pp.
Delicious indulgent meals at Casa de Comer, Tofo - 160-180/260-300/150-200 (starters/mains/desserts). Commonly touted as Mozambiques best restaurant, I can agree. Highlights include the crab mayonnaise starter, the carappacio of fish and the prawn and crab curry.
Beer at Dinos Bar, Tofo - 40M, with access to big screen international sports!
Internet in Inhambane/Tofo - 0.5M/3M per MIN
Shuttle bus from Tofo to Maputo - 450M p.p
Ice cream from street vendor, Maputo - 15M
Translux bus from Maputo to Johannesburg (South Africa) - 198ZAR (approx 750M)

Average daily costs - 700M p.p. (This included the sailing trip to Bazaruto and the Ocean Safari with the repeat trip in Tofo).

Approx. Exchange rate - 28M=$USD, 45M=GBP1

Swaziland Costs

Swaziland can be a welcome retreat from the stress and cost of travelling in more developed South Africa, however there are enough ways to spend your money if you have the urge!

Road tax (Compulsory for all cars crossing the border) - 50L
Cross border permit from Tempest Car Hire - 200ZAR
Entry to Mliliwane Nature Sanctuary - 25L p.p one-off fee
Camping at Sondzela Lodge, in Mliliwane Nature Sanctuary - 45L p.p.p.n. Very nice place with friendly staff, good kitchen and lounge area, patio and pool and resident ostriches and warthogs
Beer at Sondezela Lodge, Mliliwane - 6.5L 330ml can
Chicken and Chips at Shoprite - 36L
Groceries for 4 days (with spares) from Shoprite - 180L
Papaya - 10L per piece
Internet at Swazinet, Mbabane - 45L for 200min account
Oranges on Manzini market - 25L for 7kg
African fabrics on Manzini market - 25L per 2m
Entry to House on Fire gallery, Malkerns Valley - FREE
Entry to Kings Memorial Garden, Ezulwini Valley - 20/10L Adult/Concs. OK but not really worth it.
Sibebe beer at liquor store- 7.75L per bottle

Our trip also included our South African car hire which cost 187ZAR per day in addition to the 200ZAR cross border fee.

Average budget per day - 160L p.p. (plus the 187R car hire)

Exchange rates - 7.5L=$1USD, 12.5L=GBP1

Wednesday, November 11, 2009


Tak uz se nam to krati a zitra opoustime Mozambik.
V Mozambiku jsme meli jen 14 dni a tak jsme se rozhodli uzit si plazi na jihu zeme, nez travit polovinu casu drncanim se v autobusech na prisernych silnicich na sever zeme. Myslim, ze uz nam to stacilo, to drncani...
V Maputu, hlavnim meste se nam libilo, prijemna atmosfera, hezka portugalska architektura a par peknych trzist a hodne kavaren. Pomerne zanedbany, ale ma to docela smrnc, hodne lidi co bylo na Kube, to prirovnava k Havane.

Kempovali jsme na betonovy strese hostelu a v noci zacalo prset a pekne nam prosakla podlazka ve stanu. Druhej den jsme vsechno ususili a v noci znova.

Vsechno mokry jsme zabalili a v 5 rano jsme nasedli na autobus do Vilankulos, snad nase posledni opravdu africka dlouha jizda autobusem. Lidi byli fajn a i jsme platili stejnou cenu jako mistni, ale celej den prselo a to ne jenom venku, ale i vevnitr autobusu, 12 hodin jizdy jsme meli reprak na plny pecky portugalsky disko nad hlavou a jen jednou jsme zastavili na zachod a to vsichni sli jen do krovi, ze nas z toho jeste 2 dny bolela hlava. Vilankulos prijemna rybarska vesnice, ubytovali jsme se v bambusovy chatce kousek od plaze, protoze jeste prselo a my jsme meli vsechno mokry.

Peknej sobotni trh a v nedeli jsme vyrazili na vylet do Narodniho parku souostrovi Bazaruto, ktery je znamy krasnyma plazema a podmorskou faunou. Jeli jsme jen na ostuvek Magaruque a protoze bylo po bource, viditelnost na snorchlovani nebyla nejlepsi a byl moc silnej proud a tak jsme se spokojili s bilyma plazickama a tyrkysovym morem a bajecnym obedem s krabama a kalamarama. Bylo by krasny na ostrovech Bazaruto zustat par dni, ale ubytovani je tam jen luxusni a vsechno stoji kolem 10 000kc na noc za osobu, a tak snad nekdy jindy:):)

Minibusem, za kterej nam zase nauctovali vic nez mistnim jsme dostali do Mixixe, pak trajektem do Inhambane a minibusem do vesnicky Tofo, kde je krasna nekonecna bila plaz, par hotelu a kempu, maly trziste a asi 200 obyvatel. Kde jsme kempovali jen par desitek metru od plaze a zustali jsme tam 8 dni, to jsme nezustali snad nikde jinde tak dlouho na tomhle vylete. Jeden den jsme jeli na organizovanej vylet, snorchlovani se zralokem velrybym, ale hodne foukalo a more bylo fakt divocina a nic jsme nevideli a ani by se nikomu nechtelo do takovejch vln skocit a tak nam nabidli, ze muzem ject znovu a to jen za cenu benzinu a tak jsme cekali na peknej den bez vetru. Nas posledni den jsme vyrazili a videli jsme 3, prvni asi 8 metru dlouhej, vsichni naskakali do vody a on si jen tak plul par metru od nas....uzasnej zazitek a dalsi byl jen asi 3-4metry a nekde v hloubce mel brachu. Je to nejvetsi paryba na svete a cloveku neni nebezpecna, ale stejne je to divnej pocit, vypada spis jako zralok nez velryba, sedivej s bilejma teckama a placatou hlavou. Opravdu nezapomenutelny zazitek!!! taky par delfinu a zelv jsme videli po ceste.
Jinak zbytek tydne jsme si uzivali slunicka a plaze, obcas jsme si varili morsky priserky z trziste, a ochutnali jsme par mistnich specialit, vyborny ohromny krevety, kalamari a uzasnou barakudu. Doprali jsme si a navstivili restauraci Casa de comer, prej nejlepsi v Mozambiku a verim tomu, bylo to luxusni.

Jeden den jsme navstivili mestecko Inhambane s krasnou architekturou a pohodovyma lidma.

A minibusem zpatky do Maputa, kde jsme ted.
Zitra odjizdime smer Johanesburg, navsteva Allanovych pribuznych, a jedna vecerni hra kriketu Anglie s Jihoafrickou republikou.

ahoj monika a allan