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...

THE TOP FIVE

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

Serengeti

TOP 5 COUNTRIES

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

TOP 5 CITIES

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'!

Cairo

TOP 5 PLACES - MIDDLE EAST

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

Capadoccia

Wadi Rum

TOP 5 PLACES - AFRICA

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

WORST 5 PLACES

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!

TOP 5 VIEWS

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

TOP 5 LANDSCAPES (BY COUNTRY)

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

Sossusvlei, Namibia

TOP 5 SUNSETS

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

TOP 5 MOST FRIENDLY NATIONALITIES

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

Sudanese Girl

TOP 5 EXPERIENCES

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

TOP 5 BUDGET HOTELS/HOSTELS

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.

TOP 5 CAMPS/BACKPACKERS

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)

TOP 5 CAMPS/BACKPACKERS IN SOUTH AFRICA, SWAZILAND AND LESOTHO

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

TOP 5 'DECENT' RESTAURANTS

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?!).

TOP 5 'CANTEEN' RESTAURANTS

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)

TOP 5 STREET FOODS

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)

TOP 5 BEERS

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!

WORST 5 JOURNEYS

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!

5 DISAPPOINTMENTS

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!

THE TOP OTHER HIGHLIGHTS:

- 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....

THE TOP 5 (or so) BEATLES SONGS AND DAVID BOWIE ALBUMS WE HAVEN'T HEARD IN AFRICA

BEATLES SONGS

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)

DAVID BOWIE ALBUMS

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)


6 comments:

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