A Travellerspoint blog

Eastern Europe

Berlin. I have been before and preferred it first time round, perhaps in part due to the novelty. It’s okay but not my favorite place aesthetically, a bit grey. Brandenburg area and Tiergarten is nice and some good museums re DDR and the wars. The cold war bunkers and bomb shelters in Gesundbrunnen were very interesting, you could almost imagine the misery of staying there for weeks on end, the guides were that good. It was really nice to speak some German 20 years after leaving school, I enjoyed that.

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Prague Just as you will have heard from other visitors, it is very nice. Loads of old buildings, squares, a castle, a palace and of course some rather nice bridges on the river. Found some great museums, one dedicated to torture which was eye watering, another in the crypt of the church of Saints Cyril and Methodius where Jan Kubis and Jozef Gabcik were killed for having assassinated Reinhardt Heydrich during WWII. I’d watched a film about it as a little kid and it really stuck with me, perhaps the first serious film that had caught my attention as a child. I never imagined I’d visit the place where they died. The film was so sad and seeing the place, well, yes, sad too I but was really pleased to go. The castle was great, I adored the ancient Golden Lane which is composed of about a dozen tiny little shops that used to be houses that are painted in lovely pastels. I can’t remember the measurements but they only cover a few square meters. There is a fantastic display of armour there too. Not something that has even seized my imagination before but it was wonderful to see suit after suit and the weapons.

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Terezin (aka Theresienstadt) on a day trip. Very sad indeed with it‘s Arbeit Macht Frei sign painted over the entrance. This was an old fort that had been turned into a concentration camp for Czechoslovakians by the Nazis. The really unique feature of this place was that it was used to dupe visiting red cross workers into believing that the Jews were well cared for and happy. One room really showcased the deception. There were rows of wash basins that were just for display, they had never been plumbed in. The Germans spent an age planning the visit and even made a propaganda film there. Gavrilo Princip who sparked the first world war by assassinating Archduke Ferdinand died there years before. The cell that he was in was tiny, much like the others, poor people.

I met a really nice Aussie girl in Prague and we ended up on the same train to Krakow which was really lovely.
Enjoyed the castle and main square which is really large, one of the biggest in Europe I seem to recall.

We made a day trip to Auschwitz and Birkenau. Auschwitz was grim but can’t say that there was anything eerie about the place. The events that took place are just too extreme to be able to relate too them. Have read a few books about the war so mildly informed but still, it’s like trying to imagine a trillion. You can give a convincing description of how many zeros that is but it remains essentially incomprehensible. Some of the barracks housed displays of things that had been confiscated or more accurately stolen from the victims. There was a display case of spectacles, another of all sorts of brushes, you know, shaving brushes, clothes brushes, toothbrushes and of course hair brushes. Another, which I found the saddest was a large display of all types of prosthetics, I couldn’t help worrying about how people would cope without them even though it’s obvious that the rightful owners would have been killed straight away. Finally there was a huge display of nearly 2 tons of women’s hair, pretty grim. I had never realised how awful humans can be to one another and was learning a lot on this trip from the museums that I had already visited. But here, they had four standing cells used as a punishment which are just awful. They are solid cells with no light and a tiny door that four inmates had to crawl through to enter. Once inside there was just enough room for them to stand. At no time could they manage to sit even one person down to rest and they would be left like this for days on end, weeks even with very little food.

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Birkenau was really, very sad. It is just enormous. Everyone comments on how big it is but even after hearing it many times, you are just not ready for the scale of it. It was heart breaking to see the crematorium that the Nazi’s failed to completely destroy. You can see where those poor people had to undress and where the “showers” were. There were also ash pits nearby where bodies were burned above ground and in that area you are walking on flecks of bones, they look like big snow flakes on the earth. Wish we had been warned, I really think that once your dead it does not matter what happens to remnants of your body afterwards but somehow it did feel very disrespectful to be treading on these poor, poor people.

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Back in Krakow, my friend headed back to London and I spent the day at a super modern dentist getting a sore tooth sorted.

Zakopane was the next place I went to which is in the High Tatras in the Carpathians on the Polish side. This is apparently a well known ski resort and I absolutely loved it. It was so nice to be in the countryside again. Cities are great for things to do, easy entertainment but the countryside brings you peace and happiness. The houses are just gorgeous, all wood with tiered roofs unique to the area. I ventured up the nearest mountain and it was quite an odd place, sort of part funfair, part market, part sports facility and some mountain. I walked away from the crowds and had people passing me in horse drawn carts which appeals enormously to the ruralite in me if there is such a word. I’d love to see that place again.

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Next I crossed into Slovakia and went to the other side of the Tatras. I was on the bus to Poprad but decided to jump off early as it looked so nice. There are three towns very close together called Stary Smokovic, Horny Smokovic and Nuevo Smokovic. Really cute little places but pretty much covered in a few hours. I headed up the mountain and went for a walk in the forest. I was so excited to see a fox! I have never seen one before and this one was so bold, coming within less than a meter of me. It even stole someone’s lunch! It was lovely in the forests, I spent hours walking there but was quite scared of bear encounters. And I saw the first youngish kitten in my own living memory, I had to phone home and share the excitement.

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I went to Bratislava which I liked a lot. Again, there is an old town which is very attractive and of course a castle, as is mandatory in East European cities, I suspect.

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From there, I went to Ljubljana in Slovenia which I really fell in love with. It’s very compact and I did some of my most impressive navigating there. (I’d stopped of in Budapest in Hungry for a couple of hours on the way and managed to walk completely the wrong way and did not see a single tourist sight, truly atrocious effort on my part). So Ljubljana, I have to tell you a bit about this place. There is a river running through it, a castle perched on the top of a very steep hill, the main square is lovely, filled with tourists, musicians, cafes and students and surrounded by history. Leading from the square is The Triple Bridge which is very pretty. Across the river is the market, a ton of restaurants (in fact they are all over the place), more squares, narrow lanes, statures, The Dragon Bridge, The Butcher's Bridge and The Shoemakers Bridge. I’ve never seen so many musicians and singers performing. I met a lovely physicist called Bendict Popescu who was playing the Theremin which is an awesome piece of kit you play by placing your hands near to it but not touching. It looks wonderfully expressive when he is playing. There is also a huge park that you can walk in and the forest merges with it. Again, I got super excited at another animal first. I saw this guy walking a dog and I was thinking that it was ridiculously small until I got closer and realised it was a ferret! I’ve longed to see one for years and used to love looking at their pictures on the internet and here was a real live one! The man that owns her said that because of the weather, she had not been able to walk much in the last six months and so was very unfit. He was trying to coax her into doing some walking but all she wanted to do was squirm and roll around on the floor. Gorgeous beyond belief. And he let me stroke her too so I was super happy that day.

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Bård came and joined me for a week in Slovenia. First we went to Bled which is impossibly picturesque with a lovely lake with an island in it towards one end with a church sitting on it. At the other end there is a fantastic castle hanging on to the cliff face and another very pretty church behind it. We did a little side trip to Vintgar Gorge which is really lovely with bright waters flowing through and a couple of waterfalls but crammed full of tourists which was a shame.

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We also visited Kanjska Gora which is another ski resort. Not too much too do but worth a stop over. We spent a night at a fantastic place called Radovljica and our home for the night was a gingerbread bakery and restaurant which served wonderful food. We both really enjoyed that and in the morning it was wonderful to look from the town walls and see the morning mist drifting in the valley below, really magical and beautiful. We then headed down to Piran which is on the coast and has the familiar Mediterranean feel. It was lovely there too, and so very different. The man who ran our hostel was a brilliant source of information and we even saw the town mayor who is apparently the only black man in the whole place (he drives a Skoda in case you are wondering)! 5 starts for equality for Piran. We also went to see the superb Skocjan caves.

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Bård then left and I headed off to Belgrade in Serbia which at first glance was a miserable looking place round by the train and bus stations. However, once you get up the hill there is a nice pedestrianised shopping area and an old fort housing a good military museum. The Nicola Tesla museum is brilliant, I got to hold a fluorescent tube and when the guide switched on the Tesla coil it illuminated and of course we all felt like Jedi knights for a short while. We were also given electrical shocks but I can’t remember what unit’s the electricity was in, but something in there had a million of something electrical.

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Next Split in Croatia which was very nice and I made another great new friend, this time a woman from Argentina. The centre of Split is an ancient Roman palace where people still live with a lovely promenade along the shore and a very peaceful area called Marjan where I spent hours walking alone. There is a mix of different buildings also including Greek and I can’t remember what else and a multitude of narrow lanes and squares, really beautiful. From there I did a day trip to the stunning Plitvice Lakes National Park. This has to be one of the most beautiful places I have ever been, I didn’t know the world harboured such a wonderful place. It is a chain of 16 lakes that spill into one another through hundreds of waterfalls and cascades. You walk along wooden walk ways which for some reason pleases me enormously and the plant life is rich with ferns and mosses which I really love. I really cannot recommend this place enough.

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From Split I went to Mostar in Bosnia & Herzegovina which is gorgeous. It has two lovely bridges and an old town with winding cobbled alleyways homing various craft shops, some of which actually sell cool stuff rather than tat. It’s here that I started seeing the effects of war in the form of derelict bombed buildings. This destruction was hugely evident when I got to Sarajevo. I really liked the place though, the old town was wooden buildings which is unusual in a capital city. The hostel where I stayed ran a very good guided tour that I joined, conducted by the husband and wife owners. We visited the old Olympic bobsled that was destroyed during the war and went to the tunnel near the airport that was the only means of obtaining supplies and weapons during the siege. The husband was actually born in a concentration camp during WWII and managed to survive, although I thought it better not to ask how his mother achieved this. He is a Bosniak so left the city when the trouble began and had a house that was taken over during the war. It was destroyed by the Serbian family that moved in but luckily his hostel remained intact. We also headed up into the mountains and looked down on the city. It’s in a very narrow valley so the snipers had the perfect vantage point up there. They used to pick off people in the streets and worse still, they would shot people through their apartment windows. Back down in the city, you cannot imagine the battle scars. Apartment blocks all over the city are covered in bullet holes and there are the shells of buildings all over the place. I just can’t imagine what it must have been like, terrible.

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I went back to Croatia, this time to Dubrovnik which well deserves it’s reputation. Again, there was a lot of damage inflicted on the city during the Croatian war but they have done an amazing job of restoring it. It is pristine and the Croatians have really got tourism sussed, the main tourist areas are spotlessly clean and litter free. I really enjoyed Dubrovnik despite staying in what was one of the worst “hotels” I have ever encountered, but it was so bad it was fun. You never knew when the lights would suddenly go out, the door to my room would not lock, the windows would not close, the shower was freezing, the place smelt awful and the bed had never been comfortable I’m sure! Everyone walks the walls as I did but I have to say, for me, the highlight is roaming the little lanes and endless stairs on the hill at night, they are incredibly cute and you mostly have them to yourself. Near the bottom of each set of stairs there are tiny little restaurants which look very romantic with their atmospheric lighting, like they are out of a film.

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Next I went to a miniature Dubrovnik in Montenegro called Budva. My backpack weighed very little so I was able to spend a few hours trotting around before heading to Virpazar at Lake Shkodra where I met a wonderful man called Dyen who was my guide for a few hours on the lake. We spent most of the time talking rather than looking at things, he’d been a seaman for years before settling down to get married and was really worldly wise and wise in general. The lake is huge and there are lilies on it’s surface in the summer and masses of birds. I stayed at a place called the Pelikan Hotel where the owner seemed to have a talent for getting money from tourists, not in a thieving way, he was just an astonishingly good business man. Added to this talent of his, he seems to own half of the town and it’s boats so he can’t help but make a profit. I was reluctantly impressed.

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I then spent a long day in the pissing rain and some not very interesting but dry museums in a pleasant town called Cetinje whilst I waited for my bus to Podgorica. Now Podgorica is an odd place. It’s very industrial and is not geared to tourism at all. The old town was destroyed during their war leaving only a clock tower and I think that this is about it. I engaged in some more spectacularly poor navigating (the girl at the hotel was incredulous when she realised the route I had accidentally taken and I was very embarrassed!) so I may be doing the place a disservice but somehow I really liked it and it keeps popping into my mind, bit of a mystery. I did see my first lenticular clouds whilst I was there and coming down the mountain onto the planes, you could see what I have too assume was an inversion where the thick industrial smoke suddenly flattened out at the top and spread sideways. So whilst it wasn’t much in the way of pretty, I did get to see some cool atmospheric stuff.

I then went to Skopje in Macedonia which was really impressive. I could not believe the size and number of the statues there. All pretty new by the looks of it and some equally impressive fountains. I had a ferret around the bazaar and looked in the shops and got some laundry done then headed off to Pristina in Kosovo as my friend who was going to join me in Skopje could not make it at the last minute.

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Pristina isn’t much for the tourist to be honest, there is a nice enough shopping area and the newborn sign is a happy declaration of their independence. It was ok but not somewhere I would really recommend, a lot of hardcore road works and pavements being dug up, perhaps it will evolve into a wonderful city, I hope so, the people in Kosovo have to be the sincerest and friendliest I have ever encountered.

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I headed west to Peja for the afternoon. I got off the bus and walked through the town as there is nothing much to see there apart from the usual traffic carnage, dodgy infrastructure and basic shops and stalls. Beyond the town there is a gorge that it very nice and barely anyone around. I walked for some time but had the sudden thought that if a bear ran out of one of the many caves near the roadside that I was buggered because I can’t outrun a bear. So I got a bit scared and headed back to catch my next bus to Prizren further south. On my way back to the town, an old chap stopped me to talk but we couldn‘t understand each other although I did work out that he was offering me cake, so nice. On the bus to Prizren, this very scary looking bloke suddenly came over and asked my name and where I was from. I was on my guard but it turned out that he just wanted to ask and to wish me a happy stay in Kosovo. I was in Prizren all of a couple of minutes as I was just changing bus and heading to Albania. The sweet and very old guy at the bus ticket desk could thankfully speak German and he ran at full tilt to stop the bus for me and everyone was helping to yell for it to stop so I could get on it. I loved these people and will never forget their kindness.

So next, I find myself in Tirana in Albania which I liked very much. In fact, I liked the whole country even though it is covered in litter and the roads are collapsing. Tirana has a gorgeous square and I splurged and stayed in a four star hotel overlooking it. I really like Tirana at night as they have nailed the lighting there, the buildings look fantastic. There is the Tanners Bridge which is really cute, covered in cobblestones and there is a nice walk from the main square to get to it. I had another nose about during the following day but it had lost it’s charm with the sun, at least for me. So I headed south to Himara for some beaches and sunbathing. Well, I finally went for a swim in the sea but compared to the beaches of Jersey they are not so good so I flaked out on my balcony instead. Met a fantastic couple whilst I was there, we were more or less the only tourists there.

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My last real stop was a place a touch further south called Saranda. Again coastal and to be honest, nothing to write home about. I was mainly there for the sun for one day as I was running out of time.

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Then I made my way to London, a 40 hour trip involving travelling back to Skopje, flying to Istanbul and home via the UK where I visited various relatives. I might have been able to plan that part a little better!

I truly adored Eastern Europe. It is absolutely gorgeous and I cannot believe that there are so few tourists in a lot of these lovely places. The further south I went, the warmer the climate and the people that I met. It also got cheaper but the cities and towns are modern so you can have your five star hotels and flash meals if that is what you want. Go there, help boost their economies with your tourist pounds. I am a terrible traveler in that I normally don't care about meeting locals, I'm just not a people person, at home or abroad. But in places like Albania, Kosovo, well, the people there caught my attention with their kindness and friendliness. I hope they get their towns and roads built and prosper in the future. I will certainly be going back to check one day.

Posted by Sarnia 04:44

Manly - Cairns - Sydney

East coast of Aus

So after 3 weeks in the city in Sydney I catch a boat to Manly. It occurred to me that a girl that I used to work with, Julie, had moved to either Australia or NZ. I got hold of her on Facebook on the first night there and incredibly that is actually where she lives! So we met for a drink and it was fab to catch up again.

The next day I headed off to the Manly Oceanworld where they had some cute fish and starfishes. I then had a nose round an art gallery / museum and a stroll round the Corso looking in the shops (and buying clothes and shoes!).

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Beyond this, it gets a touch blurry for the next two weeks, mainly because I didn't get round to updating my diary so I can't remember when I did what.

I visited the Quarantine Station which was interesting and surprisingly pleasant and I saw a lot of sulphur crested cockateles walking home.

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I made quite a lot of trips to Manly Beach and Shelly Beach, can't go home without a tan!

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And did a spot of shopping again. And I also headed up to Palm Beach with Julie which is where Home and Away was filmed but like many people I spoke to, I didn't recognise it at all!

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I also did a whole heap of drinking as there were a lot of lovely people staying at the hostel to party with, most nights in fact but strangely did not have the usual pounding head and nausea which is probably why I did so much of it! I had to leave because the temptation to stay was strong and I really wanted to see more of Australia so I jumped on the ferry and caught a bus to Port Macquarie.

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I arrived late at night and found my way to the YHA and got some sleep. The next day I visited the Roto House and the Koala Hospital which housed some animals that had suffered horribly due to road accidents or fire. Some had suffered really horrific burns in a fire in the nearby Bonny Hills but the hospital brought them back to health. Many koalas suffer from chlamydia and females will die a horrendous death from it as well as often suffering from cancers in their mouths. So I sobbed my way back home, glad I was born human.

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Back at the hostel I had met a lovely old chap called Jack, a real gentleman from Melbourne. We got on well and went out in his hire car to look at the painted rocks down at the coast and enjoyed a few meals out together.

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He even stayed up very late on my last night there so that he could run me down to the bus station so I didn't have to walk there in the dark. I like Jack because he is very easy to talk to and shares a lot of my own interests. He even built his own house and ran his own business and enjoys travelling. Also, if you ask him a question that he does not know the answer to, he will say that he doesn't know which is very refreshing.

My next stop is Byron Bay. I foolishly thought that I had left the hardcore drinking behind in Manly.... My first day, I just mooch around familiarising myself with the place. Next day I am up at 6:30 and head off to a little airport, climb into a little plane and then jump out of it. It is a 14,000 jump with over 60 seconds of freefall which is fantastic but oddly, is also a shame. The rush that I get from skydiving is the overwhelming of my senses during freefall. Your brain has trouble deciphering what is going on since the whole event is quite alien to you. But with the extended freefall you start to get accustomed to the sensation and this takes the edge off of the rush a touch. None the less, it is still an outstanding experience and the feeling of calm that washes over you when the canopy opens is sublime. Post jump I headed to the beach until it started to rain again.

The following day was the obligatory trip to Nimbin. What a laugh! So we climb on board the Happy Bus and John who is also very happy and possibly a touch mad drives us to the town.

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On the way we stop at a waterfall and hug the biggest water gum tree in the whole wide world. Ahhh! John declares "Welcome to Nimbin" as we arrive and we spot what is possibly the most stoned person on the planet trying to walk down the road, I use the term walk very loosely. He looks like one of the zombies out of Shaun of the Dead, I'm sure he is over acting. We have a quick stroll around Nimbin which is essentially a single street and then we head off for barbequed sausage sandwiches. Yumbles. Then back to Nimbin for a longer look around. There is an odd little museum there which was quite enjoyable and the whole place feels kind of nice. Funny to have someone's granny trying to sell you weed on the street!

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We leave Nimbin and pass through a place called Lismore which John tells us is noted for two things. The horrendous flooding that the place suffers and a high concentration of lesbians in the local population. We do see sign of the flooding, it's incredible. There are markers for floods occurring in different years on the telephone poles and they are right up high. I was unable to determine wether the bit about the gay women was true. Further down the road we stop at John's wifes shop in Bangalow which is lovely but out of most backpackers budgets.

The next day I walk up to the lighthouse at the other end of the bay and enjoyed the views there. The return trip is through rainforest and pops out bu the beach where I see some lovely art in the form of yin/yang symbols cut into the sand for a wedding.

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I return to the hostel and meet some lovely lads from England. One is amazing as he lost 95% of his sight 2 years ago but is still travelling alone, I am in awe of him. I also met a self employed missionary called Joshua who lives in Brisbane. Whilst I can't agree on the religeon, I have to say that he is one of the kindest people I have met in a long while. He just wants the world to be happy and his personality is such that he will improve the lives of many people I suspect. That night we all head off to Cheeky Monkeys where we have a spag bol, potatoe wedges and a beer for the measley sum of $2. The next day Joshua and I walked along the beach for a few hours then got on with a spot of reading in the sun and seruptitiosly perving on the gorgeous surfers. Back to Cheeky Monkeys for dinner, this time steak, chips, salad and beer plus a champagne for the girls for $7.50. I'm thinking of moving in.

Eventually Adam and I catch a bus to Brisbane. We arrive and I head off to the botanical gardens and explor the South Bank Gardens which are lovely.

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The next day I have another look around the Botanical Gardens via the Mangrove Walk since I like them so much and head off to the Maritime Museum which has a good exhibition on lighthouses.

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Later I meet my friend Shane at the Pig and Whistle in the city. I have not seen Shane for donkey's years and it is fantastic to see him again. Naturally we put away a few beers and I at least am a touch squiffy by the time Cam arrives. We head back to their house and Cam makes us a lovely stir fry. The first home cooked meal I've had in a while.

The next day it is so nice to catch up on some sleep in a room that you are not sharing with other travellers. I wash all of my clothes which is a bit thick because then I have nothing at all to wear so cannot go out in public. But I get to spend some time on the internet looking at overland trips through the Silk Road and generally catching up. Also, they have a tv which is fascintaing as I have not had a telly at home since something like 1998/9 so I am captivated. That evening we have another home cooked meal and chat.

The following day I head back through the gardens, over the Goodwill Bridge and off to the Queensland Museum. Later I catch up with Shane for more drinks and meet some of his friends.

Similarly the next day, I'm out for strolls then meet Shane at the Pig. We head over the river and go to a working man's bar which was a bit of an experience. We later bump into Cam and head out for dinner to celebrate a birthday. We then head off to a bar where I have a brilliant but very drunken night chatting with all sorts of random people including one guy that was up to all sort of mischeif and had me in stiches for the night.

Next morning I have my first proper hang over in a while and I am no good to anybody so I'm left for dead in bed. I manage to extract myself and gingerly head out for a long stroll around the neighbourhood which clears my head a bit. I then head into town to meet Shane, Cam and Dean at the Plough Inn. Shane must act as a translator for Dean who is totally spannered and incomprehensible to me which results in a night of hilarity.

The next day I am supposed to meet my uncle that I have not seen for about 20 years but he does not call me as agreed to finalise meeting plans so the morning is a write off. We head down to the Bowls Club for lunch which is lovely and then move on to the Powerhouse for more beers.

The following day I am very sad to say goodbye to Shane and Cam as I don't know how long it will be before I see either of them again. Maybe they will nip back to Jersey one day or I will find myself in Aus again, I remain hopefull. Had a brilliant time with them and it's nice to talk to someone that you haven't only recently met, you know, someone you can say "do you remember when" to. That's one of the hardest things for me, travelling alone. Sometimes you just need to be with people that you've known for a long time.

Anyway, I'm off to Airlie Beach to see the Whitsundays and excited. On the way there is a major cockroach infestation on the bus and it's impossible to sleep with them crawling all over us passengers, rather unpleasant but a novel experience I suppose. The first day is spent sloping around looking at the place and scoffing a gigantic burger.

I book a boat for the next day, it is called Eureka II and costs just $325 for three days and 2 nights which is brilliant when you consider that $50 for 2 nights at the hostel, approx $60 to hire snorkelling equipment plus food back on dry land. Meals are provided on the trip so it really is very good value for money. Not only is the boat used for tours of the islands, it is also used for racing so there is a touch of glamour too. It is a beautiful yatch, 80' long with enourmous sails.

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My bunk is tiny but I like this and it feels authentic! The crew and passengers on the boat are great, I have landed on my feet. Particulalry enjoy the company of Paulina and her husband Tomek who are from Poland. She is very intelligent and knowledgable and he takes some outstanding photos. We are encouraged to get involved with running the boat which is fantastic. We help with raising and lowering sails and scramble from side to side as we turn to keep our speed up. This is so much better than being a passive passenger. We enjoy a snorkle and although the coral looks quite dull, there is a ton of fish to admire.

The next day we are up early and head to Tounge Beach where we climb up to a view point where we go nuts taking photos of the white sands, it is extraordinarily beautiful.

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We enjoy lunch on the beach and some more snorkelling where I see a sting ray that doesn't seem to mind me following it about before moving the boat for the night. Curiously, despite the cler skies, there is no sign whatsoever of the moon but the tides seem to be behaving so it must be around somewhere.

The next morning we go snorkelling again and I stumble across a clam that is about 1 meter wide, astounding. After lunch we set sail for Airlie Beach and race a boat called Hammer that used to belong to Mal who now owns Eureka II. We lost the race but it was tremendous fun, the speed feels marvellous out at sea and we work well together for a bunch of novices. I've really enjoyed learning a bit about sailing having only tried it once before back home. Mal is great because he is used to training crew members so you can ask him anything and he is able to explain in full and with patience.

I'm sad on my last day in Airlie because I learn that an old friend has died, it's hard to be away from home at this time but I guess it's part of travelling, it can't all be fun and adventure. I decide to move on to Cairns catch another bus and once I'm there I head off to the Botanical Gardens. You'd be right in assuming that I have developed a taste for greenery. The rest of my time in Cairns is taken up with general sloping about in the company of a girl called Sami. I buy a didgeridoo and a mask that is shipped back home to Jersey and generally mooch around the shops. I then fly back to Sydney and it is like coming home, I really love this city, more than any other I have ever been to.

I am off to New Zealand now so goodbye Australia, I will see you again soon on my return trip home xxx

Posted by Sarnia 16:54 Archived in Australia

Down under

And loving every moment (apart from the hangovers)!

sunny 24 °C

Hello there,

How is everyone? I'm fine thank you for asking, in fact better than fine, I'm extremely happy! I'm in Sydney right now and I'm very much in love. So far I haven't managed to stray too far as I keep getting captivated by things that I'm seeing, like today I spent hours and hours at the Chinese Gardens of Friendship down in Darling Harbour area. They are just spectacularly beautiful. I wish I had brought my spare camera battery and a jumper so that I could have spent even longer there.

Round gate, Chinese Gardens of Friendship, Sydney, Australia

Round gate, Chinese Gardens of Friendship, Sydney, Australia

Chinese Gardens of Friendship, Sydney, Australia

Chinese Gardens of Friendship, Sydney, Australia

I later headed off for a stroll round the rest of Darling Harbour and visited the submarine and "Vampire" destroyer moored outside the Maritime Museum there. It was fantastic, I've always wanted to look around a submarine since I was little and here I was in an amazing ship choc full of valves and pipes and gauges with precious little space for the 68 crew to live in. I nearly cried I was so happy! And the destroyer was very cool too, obviously a bit more spacious. It had some pretty huge guns in place and it was really interesting to be able to roam around freely, snapping photos on a boat and sub that would once have been strictly off limits to the public.

Vampire and Onslow, Darling Harbour, Sydney, Australia

Vampire and Onslow, Darling Harbour, Sydney, Australia

I have also done a bit of clothes shopping, GBP 49 for a pair of jeans, a hoody, a pair of wedged sandals and four tops thank you very much. I love George Street and China Town and the Rocks and Darling Harbour and I have already been looking at estate agents for property prices! I don't yet know what the rest of Sydney is like or indeed Australia, never having visited before, but if it is anywhere near as good as the bit's that I've seen in the last 2 days then I'm emigrating!

The Rocks, Sydney, Australia

The Rocks, Sydney, Australia

Ooh, and the Harbour Bridge and Opera House are nice too and I love that there is a little monorail running around the city centre. It really is such a pleasure to be here, it's very clean and civilised and the city feels like it has been carefully designed with the sole aim of making people feel happy. And the people that I have spoken to are so friendly and helpful. Even arriving at the customs desk in the airport I was greeted with a cheerful "Good morning, how are you?" Trick question perhaps???!!!! Generally speaking, not what I have encountered in other countries.

I've also enjoyed a t-bone steak and a burger but god grief; did the beef ever make my stomach feel heavy?! I'm also very much enjoying staying in backpackers hostels again, Gideon and I didn't really meet anyone in Morocco or India as there just isn't the same sort of backpackers set up in place. So the social life should pick up some. I've already met a couple of nice girls and we went out for beer and pizza the other night which was an enjoyable evening. Oh and I love that it's only about 20 degrees C at the moment, such a relief from the heat on India.

The only thing I am struggling with is the cost but I think that this is coming from places like India and Africa. It's still cheaper here than at home. I just remind myself of the price of a crappy room in London Victoria and I feel better!

Right, that's all for now, hopefully I will be presenting you with numerous glowing reports for the various fantastic locations in Aus that I inflict myself on over the next few months.

Everyone take care and enjoy the weekend which is looming!
Sarnia xxx

A few weeks later.............

Well, what can I say. This place is just wonderful!!! I've been here about 5 weeks now and still haven't managed to get away from Sydney, there is so much to do!

So what have I been up to? Well, plenty as it happens, including spending a whole lot of cash! I was living in the city for the first three weeks and have spent the last two weeks in Manly.

Whilst in the city I visited a ton of museums. Not my usual haunt but somehow I find myself getting totally engrossed in them and everything else here and spend hours and hours in everyplace I visit. Here is a quick summary of where I have been since I arrived.

Paddy's Market
China Town
Chinese Gardens of Freindship
Darling Harbour
National Maritime Museum
Visited HMAS Onslow and HMAS Vampire
The Powerhouse museum (twice!)
The world's biggest IMAX screen at eight stories. I watched "The Wildest Dream" which is a National Geographic film about Everest. It wasn't in 3D but I did feel a touch queasy at some points watching such a huge image!
Sydney Museum
Australian Museum
Justice and Police Museum
The Mint
Hyde Park Barracks Museum
Royal Botanical Gardens
Governer's House
Hyde Park
Domain
Mrs Mcquarie's Chair
Anzac memorial and museum
Cadman's Cottage
The Rocks weekend market
Susannah Place Museum
The Rocks walking tour
The Observatory and museum at The Rocks
The Contemporary Arts Gallery
Circular Quay
Harbour Bridge
Opera House
Not really a true tourist attraction but I went to the magical puppet shop in The Rocks
Wildlife World
Sydney Aquarium
Queen Victoria Building and The Strand, both of which are Victorian shopping centres.
Taronga Zoo
Manly Oceanworld
Manly Quarantine Station
Palm Beach (Summer Bay from Home and Away)
Art gallery and museum in Manly - don't know what it's called
Shely Beach
Manly Beach
Quite a few pubs

I think that is all.

So, the bits that I have explored are still blowing me away. I just love The Rocks with a passion, it has a great number of truely gorgeous buildings that were thankfully saved from demolition in the 70's by the local residents. The whole place has been renovated and looks very fresh.

Argyle Place, Sydney, Australia

Argyle Place, Sydney, Australia

The Botanical Gardens are lovely, especially the avenue of peach tree which were in full blossom when I visited along with the wisteria and a mass of other gorgeous flowers.

Peach Blossom, Royal Botanical Gardens, Sydney, Australia

Peach Blossom, Royal Botanical Gardens, Sydney, Australia

I also liked the herb garden which was beautifully laid out. There are a load of flying foxes living in the gardens, it's strange to see them all hanging upside down in the trees. They are actually threatened with eviction because they are killing the trees there.

The Satyr by Frank Lynch, Royal Botanical Gardens, Sydney, Australia

The Satyr by Frank Lynch, Royal Botanical Gardens, Sydney, Australia

Rainbow laurakeet, Royal Botanical Gardens, Sydney, Australia

Rainbow laurakeet, Royal Botanical Gardens, Sydney, Australia

Wildlife World was quite good, I got to see my first Kangaroos and Koalas, just as well the speed I'm travelling at, I worry that I will not make it to the countryside before my visa expires!!

Ant's nest, Wildlife World, Sydney, Australia

Ant's nest, Wildlife World, Sydney, Australia

Snake necked turtle

Snake necked turtle

Forest Dragon, Wildlife World, Sydney, Australia

Forest Dragon, Wildlife World, Sydney, Australia

Big croc, Wildlife World, Sydney, Australia

Big croc, Wildlife World, Sydney, Australia

Big croc underwater, Wildlife World, Sydney, Australia

Big croc underwater, Wildlife World, Sydney, Australia

Centralian Know Tailed Gecko, Wildlife World, Sydney, Australia

Centralian Know Tailed Gecko, Wildlife World, Sydney, Australia

Koalas, Wildlife World, Sydney, Australia

Koalas, Wildlife World, Sydney, Australia

Catching the last rays, Wildlife Word, Sydney, Australia

Catching the last rays, Wildlife Word, Sydney, Australia

Afternoon nap, Wildlife World, Sydney, Australia

Afternoon nap, Wildlife World, Sydney, Australia

Laughing Kookaburra, Wildlife World, Sydney, Australia

Laughing Kookaburra, Wildlife World, Sydney, Australia

Here are some more animal pics, this time from Taronga Zoo.

Two headed fishing cat Taronga

Two headed fishing cat Taronga

Fishing cat with missing front left legTaronga

Fishing cat with missing front left legTaronga

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Forest fur balls Taronga

Forest fur balls Taronga

Pink flowers Taronga

Pink flowers Taronga

Baby something Taronga

Baby something Taronga

Snow leopard I think Taronga

Snow leopard I think Taronga

Kodiak Bear with big claws Taronga

Kodiak Bear with big claws Taronga

Kodiak Bear Taronga

Kodiak Bear Taronga

Kodiak Bear looking cuddly Taronga

Kodiak Bear looking cuddly Taronga

Aldabra Tortoise Taronga

Aldabra Tortoise Taronga

Tiger Taronga

Tiger Taronga

Tiger yawning Taronga

Tiger yawning Taronga

Tiger jumping Taronga

Tiger jumping Taronga

Posted by Sarnia 21:08 Archived in Australia

A month in India

0 °C

Eventually Gideon and I made it to India and arrived early one morning in Delhi. We were grinning like idiots on our way from the airport to Main Bazaar where we planned to find accommodation. As we pulled into Main Bazaar we could not believe our eyes, the fronts of the buildings had been pulled down and were lying in the road! The taxi couldn't drop us off where we wanted to go exactly because the road was just covered in rubble so we picked our way to a hotel on foot. Quite a first experience for us!!

Main Bazaar, Delhi, India

Main Bazaar, Delhi, India

We had a long sleep after a couple of lengthy days travel and slept till late. We finally woke up and had a bite to eat. The bit I was dreading because whenever I've been to an Indian restaurant I've not enjoyed any of the food at all. I was really relieved to find a nice dish, Kashmiri Biryani.

The next day we had a stroll around, walking up to Chandni Chowk which was a bit hectic but satisfyingly exotic, and on to the Red Fort which was closed unfortunately in preparation for the Independence Day celebrations.

It was pretty hot and humid in Delhi so we decided to head for the mountains in a bid to cool off a touch. So we embarked on our first train trip!

I had heard from numerous sources about the people in the New Delhi train station trying to misdirect you away from the tourist ticket office and boy was it true. They will say anything to get hold of your money, incredible. But we ignored everyone and made our way upstairs where we were confronted with the ticketing/reservation system. At first it looked really scary but it does actually work well and is reasonably efficient, much easier than trying to get in a non tourist queue with everyone queue jumping. Anyway, we had to get more expensive seats on the train to Kalka as the cheapies were sold out and what an excellent experience! As we sat down we realised that we had forgotten to get some drinks and snacks for the trip, silly us. But we need not have worried.

A man came round handing out newspapers. Ooh, thank you kindly! Then we were given a litre of mineral water each. Ah, cheers mate. Then everyone was given a rose, er- thanks very much! We were then served tea and coffee with biscuits and sweets. Next came a bowl of cornflakes. Then we had a croissant. Following on from that we received 2 vegetable cutlets. And just in case we were still hungry we received a banana each and a fruit juice (read syrup) to wash it down with. Can't grumble about the service!

We arrived in Kalka a touch late and had to run for our train to Shimla which was the narrow gauge Himalayan Queen. This is a nice little trip up the mountain with some very tight turns, pretty scenery and about 102 tunnels (the people in the carriage in front of ours cheered through every tunnel and bizarrely it somehow remained amusing to hear right to the last tunnel!). We arrived quite late as the ground under the track was washed away at one point so they had to effect some repairs and the driver crawled over the filled section very slowly which was just as well because there was a very noticeable dip in the track. When we arrived at Shimla we were greeted by a lot of hassle but we made our own way and found a hotel. We took the lift in the hotel up 10 floors and found our way to The Mall and had a walk around. It was lovely at night with cool temperatures and well thought out lighting. We went for a bite to eat and a couple of beers which was a jolly nice conclusion to the day.

The next day we explored a bit and decided we both quite liked Shimla, especially the fact that the Mall is pedestrianised and that smoking, littering and spitting are banned in the core of the mall. This is particularly helpful as I have been trying to stop spitting in public for years now so aided me in my efforts. Oh sorry, I meant smoking. I've managed to last a whole month without a cigarette now.

Dog masacre in Shimla

Dog masacre in Shimla

Anyway, we tried to buy bus tickets to Dharamsala but could not because the road was closed so we had to stay another day in Shimla. This is due to the major flooding that killed so manay people in Ladakh aroud Leh. We headed off to look for the Hanuman temple with all of its monkeys. We took our brollies with us to protect ourselves as a stick is recommended and to Gideon’s enduring amusement sticks are available for hire or purchase in the vicinity of the temple!! I hate monkeys and they are really, really creep and scary so I was hugely relieved to abandon the expedition. A big monkey was walking along the road and I got a bit terrified actually and accidentally opened my brolly in its face. I was shaking and really frightened, wondering which side of the brolly he would appear round or would he just tear straight through it with teeth and claws?! The nasty monkey didn't even seem to notice me! Git. That evening there were loads of monkeys running around on the roof of our hotel making a racket on the corrigated tin roof so we made sure our windows were firmly closed!

Intruder at our Shimla Hotel, Himachal Pradesh, India

Intruder at our Shimla Hotel, Himachal Pradesh, India

The next day we took a bus to Dharamsala, it wasn't a bad bus but where we were sat at the back it was incredibly bouncy and our bums did leave the seats completely a few times but the bouncing stopped the ache that you get when you sit in one position for too long so I was pleased! Once we arrived in Dharamsala the next morning we caught a taxi up to Mcleod Ganj which is a really nice, peaceful place. We found a place to stay and headed out for a walk. There is a lovely, highly decorated and very colourful temple there with a load of prayer wheels around it that we really liked. Further down we encountered the markets selling Tibetan and Kashmiri wares. Fab shopping! I ended up buying a singing bowl, a rug, a shawl and a bronze of the elephant god Ganesh.

The Tibetan food by the way, very nice. I have to recommend momos and chow chow, lovely sauce.

The next day we were up early and strolling around to the temple where the Dalai Lama conducts his business. I hadn't realised he was going to put in an appearance and was surprised to see him. He looks like a nice chap and everyone seemed to be very pleased to see him. In fact it was very moving to see people’s sincere reactions. Once he had gone we had a look around the temple but to be honest it was very tacky and not up to much. Hope his home is a bit better. We then had a stroll down in that direction but ended up getting lost.

Candy floss for sale in McLeod Ganj

Candy floss for sale in McLeod Ganj

That night we left for Manali on a rickety old bus and arrived at 4am. Strangely as we walked through the town we were followed by a load of dogs. A few would escort us then another couple seemed to take over. Really odd. But it worked in our favour because our last escorts started barking at some other dogs and woke up a fellow in a hotel and we were able to get a room for the night/morning! We later headed out for a stroll and visited a tiny shrine near the Beas River where we saw and smelt a load of weed growing wild. We then visited the Hadimba Temple which was lovely. In its grounds was a lady with a gorgeous, so cute you could cry, albino, angora rabbit that you could cuddle and photo for a price and a gent with a yak. So the bunny got hugged and then we headed off to the nearby museum.

Buuuuuunny!!!!

Buuuuuunny!!!!

Temple in Manali

Temple in Manali

The next day we strolled up to Vashisht which is a few km out of Manali and is well worth the trip. Again I revelled in some shopping; this time cobra shaped bronze door handles and cheesy lightshades, a couple of pictures and a small trumpet! There are some gorgeous temples there too that we visited, I really like the style of them and it was great to be able to visit them.

The following day we were up early and on a very cheap tour to Rohtang Lah (cheap - fools that we are!). We were supposed to stop at various sights but to be honest it wasn't that good. The waterfall we stopped at for 30 minutes was bit rubbish and we had passed a load on the way up that were much nicer. Then we stopped for lunch at about 11 am but at least there was a temple to see. Then we carried on up an increasingly knackered road to the pass. It took forever to get anywhere as it was single lane traffic in many places and the road was in a horrible state which was a bit alarming because there were some pretty big drops off the side of the road! It was kind of nice when we entered cloud level because you couldn't see where the edges were so much!

Roads at Rotang Lah

Roads at Rotang Lah

Anyway, we got to the pass but we were in thick cloud so we could see bugger all.

Yak at Rotang Lah, Himachal Pradesh, India

Yak at Rotang Lah, Himachal Pradesh, India

Glad we didn't pay to do the horseback sightseeing tour

Glad we didn't pay to do the horseback sightseeing tour

We went for a stroll and got soaked and headed back to the minibus for the lengthy trip home. But although the day was bit rubbish, we both managed to enjoy it a huge amount, it was a bit of an adventure. When we got back to Manali we went for a walk round the little national park that they have in the town. After we headed off for dinner and tried Gyokok which is a pretty mad Tibetan dish that appeared at our table alight and contained all sorts of chicken dishes with veg and an omelette on top served in what looked like an oil lamp. Quite nice overall with one particularly stunning chicken dish.

The next day we were due to head off to Solang Nullah to do some zorbing but the weather was poor so it was cancelled. Instead we lolled about a bit and then caught a night bus to Delhi.

We arrived near Janpath next morning and dumped our backpacks at the New Delhi train station. We then headed off to the All American Dinner in the hope of finding a beef burger or steak but we were very disappointed with the place in general, particularly when it transpired that all of the burgers were chicken. We then walked to the India Gate and up to Connaught Place. From there we realised that we were running out of time so we caught a tuk tuk to the train station but we somehow managed to find the calmest, most patient auto rickshaw driver in Delhi. But happily we managed to get to our train on time and headed off to Varanasi in the sleeper car.

We arrived the next morning and headed to the Dasawamedh Ghat and jumped on a boat for an hour's rowing up and down the ghats on the Ganges. They were quite interesting and definitely worth a look.

Ghats at Varanasi

Ghats at Varanasi

Ghats at Varanasi II

Ghats at Varanasi II

Flower seller, Varanasi, India

Flower seller, Varanasi, India

A quick stop for souvenir shopping followed by a big breakfast and a trip to Sarnath which has a few temples and a deer park. There are big slabs of granite there with script in various different Asian texts which were interesting to see and really quite lovely.

We then caught a sleeper train to Khujuraho which is a brilliant place. Early the next morning we were walking around a complex of temples which were just smothered in carvings, some of it a bit sexy, they are known as the erotic temples. Personally I think they should have the word "contortionist" somewhere in their name. The amount of work that went into their decoration is incredible, I couldn't tell you how many man hours must have gone into it but it would have been very considerable.

Temples at Khujuraho, India I

Temples at Khujuraho, India I

Khujuraho Temples, India

Khujuraho Temples, India

Khujuraho Temples, India III

Khujuraho Temples, India III

We then had a stroll around the village where a local lad showed us the divisions between the areas that the different castes live in. Next we caught an auto rickshaw to the southern temples then on to a waterfall which was quite something. Then yet more souvenir shopping and a very nice dinner rounded off a most excellent day. (Despite the many beetles that flew into us over dinner!!).

Sweet shop, India

Sweet shop, India

The next morning we caught a bus to Agra which took the whole day so we got in when it was dark, although there are great views of the Taj Mahal from the roof of the hotel where we stayed we couldn't see anything! But I took a photo with a 30 second exposure and caught a sneak preview!

Taj Mahal from the rooftop of our hotel, Agra, India

Taj Mahal from the rooftop of our hotel, Agra, India

The next morning we visited the Taj Mahal and it really is a wonderful place, very, very pretty indeed, we both loved it. Even the surrounding gates and gardens are quite lovely so we spent a good few hours there admiring the beauty of the place.

Goats, walking to the Taj Mahal, Agra, India I

Goats, walking to the Taj Mahal, Agra, India I

Rickshaw, walking to Taj Mahal, Agra, India

Rickshaw, walking to Taj Mahal, Agra, India

Taj Mahal, classic view

Taj Mahal, classic view

Taj Mahal detail

Taj Mahal detail

We then splurged on a taxi ride back to Delhi rather than get on the wait list for the train. We picked up our backpacks from the train station and headed up to our hotel near the airport.

The next day we took a flight to Goa and caught a taxi to Colva. It is very green in Goa and although very humid, it's not too, too hot so more comfortable than the plains. The next day was dedicated to souvenir shopping and strolling around.

The following day we were due to leave but I was feeling really rough and ended up spending the day in bed feeling sorry for myself and aching all over. However the next day I was back on my feet and we left for Anjuna where the stallholders are really aggressive and will physically drag you to their stalls!

Market stalls, Anjuna, Goa

Market stalls, Anjuna, Goa

Then we headed off to Madgaon. We were going to go to Hampi the next day but found that it was too much of a tight schedule so we abandoned that plan. Instead we spent a day in Benaulim and then moved down the road to Varca for three nights in a 3 1/2 star hotel. The room was lovely but to be honest I didn't enjoy our stay much because the food was terrible and my plans to lie by the pool were completely ruined by being stared at all of the time and having people sneakily take photos of us. In the end we had to resort to sunbathing on our balcony where we could not be seen by anyone. I was really fed up with being under siege in India by this point and the people there did nothing to improve matters. For this reason I have been looking forwards to leaving for the last week.

Finally Gideon left and I stayed in Colva for the night. Now I am off to Australia so will get my flight to Delhi tonight and fly to Sydney tomorrow. India had a lot of good points but I am loath to stay for the remainder of my visa, it's not a country I am terribly keen to visit again, just because of the hassle.

Well, that's all for now.
Take care,
Sarnia x

Posted by Sarnia 03:08 Archived in India

Out of Africa and back again

Details of my rather peculiar travel route

Hello again,

Right, so in my last entry I was in Nairobi, Kenya and I soon left and flew home to Jersey for two weeks. I then headed off to Lanzarote of all places with my friend Emma. I was a bit dubious about going there but in fairness it's not the horrific place I imagined it to be. And I only saw one inflatable crocodile that my brother had warned me about!

It turned into a lazy cheap holiday in the sun and I have to say I quite enjoyed doing nothing. We didn't get to see a terrific amount as the bus service is truly woeful there and does not take you to any of the main tourist sites so you have to either hire a car or go on expensive tours. Since we were both treating it as a budget holiday we did a bit of walking and hopped over to Fuerteventura for a day instead. We also went to the Teguese market which was quite good and very big.

Here's a couple of photos:

House in Fuerteventura

House in Fuerteventura

Windmill in Fuerteventura

Windmill in Fuerteventura

The scenery doesn't lend itself to photos with an amatuer like me in charge of the camera so that's your lot I'm afraid.

I then spent a week in Worthing with my Aunt which was great as we really got to know each other and I very much enjoyed her company. We did a fair bit including a visit to Wildbrooks where we saw this shaggy individual:

Highland cattle at Wildbrooks, Southern England

Highland cattle at Wildbrooks, Southern England

We had a look around the town centre and did a spot of shopping and walked along the promenade. We visited family and spent a lot of time chatting and she is a very, very good cook so I was well looked after.

After that I stopped off to see my Uncle in Poole for two days and he took me out and about. We went to the penninsula where we found this lovely pub.

Pub somewhere near Poole

Pub somewhere near Poole

We also visited Corfe Castle which is a lovely ruin.

Corfe Castle

Corfe Castle

Corfe Castle

Corfe Castle

Then it was time for Glastonbury which was celebrating it's 40th this year. Rather a drunken affair and happily it didn't rain but my god was it hot! Muse were very good, The Flaming Lips were spectacular and the new Arcadia area was cool too.

The photo is of my brother and I with friends engaged in traditional Glasto silliness.

Ant and I at Glasto

Ant and I at Glasto

Following the festival I had a bit of time to kill (2 weeks in fact) whilst I waited for Gideon to sort himself out ready to meet me for Morocco and India. So I bought a National Express coach pass in the hope that it would have a positive effect on the share price that is loosing me money. The pass was £139 ish and valid for two weeks. You could not use it to go to Stanstead or Oxford and although you can use it to get in and out of Scotland you're not able to move about in Scotland with it. But although I didn't do a huge amount of travelling with it, it paid for itself because I also effectively had two free nights accommodation going to Inverness and back to London.

So I spent a couple of days in London whilst I waited for my Indian visa and did a whole lot of walking. From this point on I must have walked for a minimum of 3 hours a day for the next month. It took a while for my feet to toughen but now I can go a good few hours without them hurting which is a huge improvement given that I normally sit down all day. So I visited St Jame's park which is quite nice, found myself wandering around Chelsea and Sloane Square and up and down Oxford St, Tottenham Court Road and Marble Arch. I did a bit of clothes shopping there and had a brainwave. I now only buy blue, white or cream clothes because given that you are very limited as to the amount you can fit in your backpack, it makes sense if everything is similarly coloured because I will always have matching clothes. Genius!

Once my visa was safely in my sweaty mitts, I set off for Inverness and spent a day there and found it to be very much to my liking, very peaceful and had a lovely atmosphere as I arrived. I don't know, it made me smile from the moment I got there. I found a wonderful B&B run by a lovely lady called Alison. The first thing she did was sit me down with a cup of tea and some biscuits. Perfect! I then went for a walk around the islands in the river which were very scenic. The next day I headed off to Urqhart Castle which is sited on the shore of Loch Ness and it really is a lovely ruin with a good information centre which came in very handy when the rain kicked off. It was nice too that when I got off of the bus, there were some pipers playing their bagpipes who later entered the castle to play in spite of the drizzle. A beautiful and atmospheric place.

Castle Urqhart near Inverness on Loch Ness

Castle Urqhart near Inverness on Loch Ness

The next day I headed off to Fort William and somehow got extremely lost in a housing estate and a car park. Eventually though I extracted myself and found my way to the foot of Ben Nevis. A very enjoyable walk.

I caught the bus to Glasgow where I had a few hours wait so out of consideration for my aching feet I went to the cinema to see Letters to Juliette which was rather amusing. Then the long ride back to London Victoria and I jumped on a coach to Stratford on Avon which is just gorgeous with so very many old houses. Then I had a call from Bard saying that he was coming to London for a few days so I headed back to Victoria to meet him and we had a lovely time visiting the Imperial War Museum (for 5 hours!) which has an excellent Holocaust exhibition and other good displays. We spent a day in Camden Town and visited Covent Garden and China Town as well as Hyde Park and St Jame's park as well as having a walk around Embankment.

Bard left and I headed up to Stanstead airport to meet Gideon. We stayed the night in an excellent B&B nearby and had a fantastic Thai meal there. The next day we flew to Agadir in Morocco. We got in quite late so headed out for food once we'd found ourselves a place to stay.

The next day we went for a walk around and along the beach but to be honest I didn't really like the place much so we headed off to Essaouira which is incredibly windy. We had a stroll round the souk for a few hours and really liked it. They specialise in marquetry work there and there was plenty to choose from and the prices were very good. We also bought a loaf of bread for 9 pence which amazed us both for days!

We then headed off to Marrakesh which I liked a lot. The souks there are a complete maze and we were immediately lost but I really like that and felt quite safe throughout our two weeks in Morocco so was happy to just wander around the souks. But good grief, it was so hot. We saw thermometers reading 39 degrees c and take a look at this one which is actually in shade! Gideon saw a reading of 55 degrees in the sunshine.

Bit toasty today

Bit toasty today

There were some lovely old gates into the medina and the stalls in Djema el Fna sold the nicest orange juice I have ever had for about 27 pence a glass so we drank a fair bit of juice. Later in the evening the square really comes alive and we saw dancers and poor little trained monkeys as well as a snake charmer. Pretty amazing stuff.

Marrakesh

Marrakesh

Fruit stall in the Djema el Fna in Marrakesh

Fruit stall in the Djema el Fna in Marrakesh

The following day we headed off to the Marjorelle Gardens in the hope of enjoying some shade and they really are very lovely. We then walked back and had to have a lie down as neither of us were coping too well with the heat. That night Gideon's thermometer read between 36.5 and 37 degrees in our room at 22:10. Needless to say it was hard to sleep in that heat. After that we decided that we should have found somewhere with air-conditioning! We then headed off the Casablanca so as to cool off a bit. Unfortunately our coach broke down about and hour out of Marrakesh so we were stranded at the side of the road for nearly an hour without air-con but once we all went and stood outside in the shade of the coach it wasn't too bad. We arrived in Casa and of course went for another long walk. Gideon can be a very awkward person when he wants to be and this did prove to be an asset when dealing with hustlers in Casa. We found a fantastic little place on the street selling baguettes and had one each plus a soft drink each for just £1.87 which is just incredible.

The food in Morocco. Well, I didn't like my lamb tajine but I love the chicken tajines and had quite a few of them. The Salade Maroccaine which is basically onion, tomato, cucumber and green pepper is very refreshing and tastes lovely. We had some very tasty chicken rolls with subtle spices and salad. The cous cous is very nice but is not served in the way I am used too so when I ordered some expecting a side portion I was surprised to receive a great mountain of the stuff with a sizable portion of vegetables and a chicken quarter! I ate well that day I can tell you! We tried steaks and beef skewers and these were also very nice. One of the steaks was cooked or marinated in bay leaves and tasted delicious. Harissa soup is also good. So yes, a fairly limited choice but all rather nice. Ooh and the The de Menthe is good too.

Anyway, after dinner we headed off for another walk and found ourselves in a long, long road with stalls selling all manner of things although nothing touristy. I was a good experience to see a "normal" market. We then found our way to the Hassan II mosque which is a very impressive building indeed.

Mosque Hassan II Casablanca

Mosque Hassan II Casablanca

Satisfied that we had seen everything we wanted to in Casablanca we headed off to Tangier which I quite liked. It's set on a hillside and we took a stroll up to the punic tombs from which we had a great view of the Straight of Gibralter. We then headed into the souks and I don't think we managed to get as completely lost anywhere as we did there! We knew we should head downhill but that wasn't always possible and we did see a few lanes more than once! But it was great fun and we saw a lot. We then headed back to our hotel and had a rough night with the traffic passing by and all of the fumes coming into the room so the next morning we found a hostel round the corner to stay in and moved. We didn't do a huge amount that day because Gideon had an upset stomach and mine wasn't too clever either so it was more of a rest day. That night all hell broke loose on the streets at 3am with what seemed to be every car in Tangier hooting it's horn. A riot perhaps? Nope, a wedding it transpires. This is something we heard a few times. Cars just drive around hooting their horns like mad for half and hour or so, seemingly about 3 am is the preferred hour. I assume it's the richer people that have this strange procession as part of their wedding. But once you get used to the idea it is quite sweet.

The next morning we left Tangier behind and headed to Tetouan. We dumped our bags at the CTM office ready for our coach to Chefchouan later that day and spent a few hours there. Somehow a man managed to establish himself as a guide, I still can't work out how he did it. It was quite useful though because he took us round the souk and into the tanneries and then of course we found ourselves in a carpet shop so that we could look at the view from the roof. But in fairness we didn't feel very pressurised to buy anything (although the exit seemed to have mysteriously disappeared!!) and as soon as I told the owner that we didn't want a carpet he gracefully thanked us for our visit and let us go!! The guide also to us to a lovely Riad in the hope that we would have something to eat but we just weren't hungry (we were down to an evening meal only by this point, the heat killed our appetites completely) and again there was no real pressure to stay. He eventually dropped us at the Hassan II square as agreed.

Then it was time to catch our coach to Chefchouan.......

What can I say? I loved it completely! The buildings in the Medina are painted pale blue, at least on their lower half and the effect is just gorgeous, absolutely lovely and psychologically it just feels a bit cooler surrounded by sky blue. Oh it's a wonderful little place. Go there!! We walked around for some time admiring everything and stumbled across what has to be my favourite restaurant in the whole world. It's quite new and the waiter and chef are lovely and spent an age explaining how to make The de Menthe to us (my limited French slows the conversation a little) and telling us about the restaurant and he was happy for me to take photos. We had the place to ourselves which I found amazing because the prices were the same as you would pay in some grotty little restaurant and the food was really good. But it meant that I could snap photos without bothering anyone so I was happy!

After dinner we strolled around the souks and squares which were illuminated and looked magical. We nearly skipped Chefchaoun and headed straight for Fes and I am so grateful that we didn't go with our original plan. I was looking forwards to heading out early the next morning when it was really quite and getting some more photos.

That night was horrible though because there were fleas in our beds, I could feel them landing on me and ended up with several bites. Then there was another wedding with early morning hooting followed by about half an hour of singing from the mosques and then the early morning call to prayer. It was actually quite lovely, the singing that is and it was very odd to hear it in such a quiet place. Normally I when I have heard the call to prayer there are cars tearing around or people yapping in the streets but in Chefchouan it was near total silence so I was able to enjoy the song.

Despite the poor night's sleep we did manage to get up at a reasonable hour and head out and the happily the streets were extremely quiet, probably also because it was a Friday. I managed to bag another load of photos and we found our way down to the river where people were washing clothes and carpets.

Sacks of paint in Chefchouan

Sacks of paint in Chefchouan

Chefchouan

Chefchouan

Chefchouan

Chefchouan

Chefchouan

Chefchouan

Chefchouan

Chefchouan

Chefchouan

Chefchouan

Chefchouan

Chefchouan

Chefchouan

Chefchouan

Chefchouan

Chefchouan

Chefchouan

Chefchouan

Chefchouan

Chefchouan

Sadly we had pre-booked our bus ticket to Fes and so had to leave. I could easily have spent more time there. So a fond and reluctand fairwell to Chefchouan and hello to Fes.

Well this time we said to hell with the expense and found a hotel with air-conditioning which turned out to be a blessing because somehow or another I caught a bad cold. Probably the sodding fleas gave it to me! The lobby of the hotel and the dining room were pretty amazing, covered in mosaic and zelij work. A touch chaotic and all set of by a whopping great chandelier, it was impressive non the less. And not bad at £37 a night for the pair of us. The next day we left our bags at the hotel and armed with our toothbrushes we headed of to Meknes for two days. The first day we went to Volubilis which is a Roman town that has become a ruin over the years, what with people nicking bits of it to build their own monuments. But you can still get a good idea of the layout and some bits are in good condition. There is an amazing amount of detail there, I'd love to have seen it when it was intact, it must have been gorgeous. There are some lovely mosaics there which have survived well, it's just a shame that they have been left to fade in the sun. All together, a place well worth a visit.

Volubilis near Meknes

Volubilis near Meknes

Mosaic at Volubilis near Meknes

Mosaic at Volubilis near Meknes

The following day we headed off to the medina and I have to say, it is an impressive place is Meknes. We visited the mausoleum of Moulay Ismail as well as the museum Dar el Jamai where our guide gave us a very entertaining narrative about the palace. The walls in these buildings really are sumptuous and must have taken an age to carve. The hareem was very grand indeed and Gideon was treated to a few smirks here!

Hareem in Meknes

Hareem in Meknes

We then went underground and visited the so called "Christian slave prisons" which probably were not cells but used for storage. I loved these, not only because they were lovely and cool but because they were so spacious and the simple arches grouped together produced so many different views. Also we had them entirely to ourselves for nearly all of our visit. And I love being underground so I got my monies worth and went down every corridor! There are vents in the roof at intervals which created lovely pools of light. I've tried to capture the lovely effect, if you can see past the haziness of the image I hope you will see how pretty it looked.

P1060188.jpg

P1060189.jpg

We then headed off into the souks and had a nose around. Can't say I was too keen on the butchers there, rather unpleasant smelling and stuff like goats heads on display and bits that I can't even identify. A big difference to shopping at our local supermarket.
Tajine stall in Meknes

Tajine stall in Meknes

Spice stall in Meknes

Spice stall in Meknes

Dried fruit stall in Meknes

Dried fruit stall in Meknes

Fruit stall in the Meknes souk

Fruit stall in the Meknes souk

Vampire problem in Meknes??

Vampire problem in Meknes??

Another thing that was really nice about this part of Meknes is the huge amount of space, it is nothing like the alleyways of the souks or the chaos of the roads in the new town.

Meknes

Meknes

Ooh, and I bought some amber in the spice market. If you get a chance to have a sniff do so, it has a wonderful smell and apparently lasts for years. You wrap it in cotton wool and put it in your wardrobe and your clothes will smell of it - at least this is what I have been told, I'll find out I suppose! I later bought some more amber in Fes and some musk as well which is not as sweet and so is a touch more manly. The jasmine and sandalwood are also very nice and I could smell all four despite my horrendous cold.

Our last stop was Fes again and we headed off into the souks full of trepidation. Our guidebook made it sound like carnage but in fairness the book was seven years out of date so perhaps things have changed. We found it no worse for hassle anywhere else and easy enough to navigate compared to other places, perhaps because it is sat on a steep hill which helps to maintain bearings. I did manage to have a really good haggle over some strings of beads for my mum in one shop but in another where I bought a load of ceramics it was really difficult to get the price down and I only managed to knock 50Dh off of the original price of 350Dh. But it was good fun shopping in Fes and I did buy quite a lot and literally spent my last dirham on our second day there!

Fes

Fes

Fes

Fes

Fes

Fes

Bab Boujeloud in Fes

Bab Boujeloud in Fes

We also visited the Batha museum which was a nice building but which also seemed to show a lot of wedding attire.

So on our last day it was back into the souks because unfortunately the gardens that Gideon wanted to visit were closed which is a real shame because peering through the gates, they looked fantastic. Most of the gardens that we saw in Morocco were probably nice once but they seem to have been neglected for a while but these gardens looked to be well cared for so we should like to have spent a few hours there. But the souk is a great place so we had another good old nose around. Then we headed back to the hotel to pick up our bags and to repack mine which was a bit of a mission I can tell you!

So that was our two weeks in Morocco. I'm home for a couple of days and then we head off to India next week, hopefully on Friday once Gideon finally sorts out his visa. So I expect to be posting some tiger pictures which I hope you will like and some snaps of the Himalayas which is where we plan to head to so as to try and avoid the 40 degree plus temperatures and high humidity of the monsoon season.

Take care and have fun whatever you are up to xxx

Posted by Sarnia 13:22 Archived in Morocco Tagged backpacking

Life in a truck part III

Botswana to Kenya

Hello again. Better late than never, I'm sure you will agree.

Ok, so in the last section we had our flight over the wonderful Okavango Delta. From there we had a 600km drive to Kasane and we saw a few little cuties along the way:

Baboon Chobe

Baboon Chobe

Elephant and baby

Elephant and baby

From Kasane we headed off to Chobe in 4X4s and saw a fair bit, buffalo, elephant, jackals, warthog, baboon, giraffe, a male lion under a tree which had the audacity to roar at us! We also saw hippos, a crocodile, fish eagle, lilac breasted roller, greater kudu, impala (lively little fellows), maribu stork, yellow billed hornbill, banded mongoose, lechwe antelope, Egyptian spitting cobra, guineafowl and a rare wild dog which was sadly dead at the side of the road. We then jumped on a boat and saw a tonne of hippos which was fantastic.

Hippo in Chobe

Hippo in Chobe

Hippo in the Zambezi

Hippo in the Zambezi

The next day we left Botswana for Zambia and headed straight for Livingstone and the Victoria Falls. We had plenty of time to look round the falls which really are something and the spray is incredible, even at a distance and we all took an impromptu shower there. There was a small market there and I bought/traded for some wooden carvings. That night we had a booze cruise on the Zambezi river which was a very drunken affair and not the smartest move as the next day I was doing a 111m bungi jump at the falls....

Victoria Falls

Victoria Falls

The bungi jumping bridge

The bungi jumping bridge

Victoria Falls

Victoria Falls

The gorge where we did our bungi jump at Vic Falls

The gorge where we did our bungi jump at Vic Falls

Zambia this side, Zimbabwe on the other side of the bungi shelter

Zambia this side, Zimbabwe on the other side of the bungi shelter

Not the best of experiences being flung about helplessly at the end of a bungi cord and hanging upside down when you have a hangover! First I did the flying fox canyon glide which was very brief but quite pleasant, then the bungi jump which wasn't the rush I had hoped for, then heading off of the bridge I was getting pretty freaked out about being on the edge of the drop so when it came time for the canyon swing I bottled it and headed off to firm land. There is something horrible about jumping off a bridge feet first that really put me off although why head first is ok is a mystery to me.

The next two days were spent in Livingstone and most of our group left which really was very sad. Some new people joined us afterwards so we all got to know each other a bit.

April 24th we said goodbye to our trainee guides Jaco and Yasmin and also to Moses who was heading off alone despite our encouragement to continue to Nairobi.

So we headed off to the Kafue River and boarded the world's slowest boat which eventually took us to a remote campsite down river. We were given local food and a display of dancing and singing was put on for us. The next day we were taken to look round some nearby villages so that we could see how the people there live. I'm still uneasy about viewing people's poverty stricken lives, it just feels wrong but I have to admit that it was quite interesting at the same time. We did learn a bit about how they farm and saw mango and banana trees growing there and this rather cute dog too!

Cartoon dog at Kafue River

Cartoon dog at Kafue River

Corn drying at Kafue River

Corn drying at Kafue River

From our campsite we took a speedboat back to the truck and headed off to Lilongwe where a bit of souvenir shopping took place! We then camped at Eureka campsite and were very pleasantly suprised to find a load of zebras roaming around our campsite!!

Zebra at the Eureka Capmsite

Zebra at the Eureka Capmsite

We had some problems with the truck due to a modification that should have allowed for the use of both fuel tanks but was instead letting in air and preventing the engine from running. Poor Patrick was up half the night bleeding the system and trying to get the truck running again. But the next morning the problem resurfaced so we stopped for a while at a petrol station and he managed to fix it, hurrah!

April 27 and we are camping at Songa Bay on Lake Malawi after a very long day of driving. I slept on the beach which is a first for me and managed to avoid the sandflies somehow. I think I will start sleeping on the roof of my house when I get home!

The next day we headed to Kande Beach, also on Lake Malawi where I bought a small, folding, wooden table. Starting to get the hang of haggling and was able to exchange some of my unwanted clothes for souveniers too. That night it absolutley tipped it down with rain and as none of us had put our rain covers on our tents we all evacuated to the bar where it was drier. Eventually the security guard found Patrick who unlocked the truck and everyone climbed in there to sleep. Katie and I moved in with Patrick and I kid you not, I woke up to find myself floating around in about 2 inches of water where our room was being flooded. My glasses and flip flops had floated off and my backpack was soaked but it really was quite a memory!!

Then next day should have been a lazy day of sunbathing but the weather was crap so I retired to the bar at 10am and got chatting with a fascinating guide called Tim from another truck. So we did the only sensible thing possible and spent the whole day drinking beer and nattering. A very satisfactory day in my opinion!

We also saw a huge cloud of lake flies that day in the far distance which was pretty amazing given that the flies are only small.

Lake flies at lake Malawi

Lake flies at lake Malawi

That evening we had some goat which had been especially bought for our dinner but to be honest, I don't thing I will ever be a fan of the stuff, bit too strong a taste for me.

April 30, we got stuck in a load of mud after a landslide for 1 1/2 hours. We were all pushing the truck and laying down rocks and stones to try and give it some purchase. The truck was all over the place and there was a horrendous moment when it looked like Cath was going to fall under the wheel, I think everyone's heart stopped for a moment there. We could not have gotten out without the helps of the locals who were delighted to assist for a fee, fair play to them.

Stuck in the Malawian mud

Stuck in the Malawian mud

Sausage tree at Lake Malawi

Sausage tree at Lake Malawi

May 1st, we had the biggest bread rolls I have ever seen for lunch today and a very long drive to Iringa in Tanzania. The place where we stayed was lovely with a fab bar and a very nice restaurant that had table cloths, napkins, glasses made of glass and china plates. Absolute luxury!!! The pumpkin soup that they served was really very tasty.

The next day, yet more driving and we saw quite a few crashed vehicles along the way. This time we headed to Dar es Salaam. Unfortunately a truck had jack-knifed in the road ahead and we were stuck for 3 hours waiting for it to be pulled out. Patrick later told us that he would have turned around had it taken much longer because the risk of being robbed on that road at night was just to great. Thankfully we got through in one piece although arrive in Dar at night, Maritje insisted that we switch off all of the lights in the cabin as otherwise we might be attacked. For fun or something more sinister I'm not sure but we complied!

The next day we met the two lads that had joined our group and we all headed off to Zanzibar on the ferry. Upon arrival we had a look around Stone Town which I have to admit, I absolutely hated and can't understand why anyone would ever go there. Things improved a touch when we headed off to a spice farm and were given a tour. We had the opportunity to eat jackfruit, passionfruit, custard apple, pawpaw, avocado and coconut as well as try a number of teas including the rather delicious lemongrass tea. That evening we went to Stone Town's one redeeming feature which was the night food market and I have to recommend the Stone Town Pizza which is very nice indeed. Also the sugar cane drinks is quite refreshing.

Collecting rubber from the trees

Collecting rubber from the trees

They abviously heard I was coming, Stone Town, Zanzibar

They abviously heard I was coming, Stone Town, Zanzibar

The following two days were beach days which resulted in quite a lot of beers being consummed as well as manicures and pedicures for the ladies. Jolly nice. We also met Leila who was my new tent buddy and very easy to spend time with.

Zanzibar on the beach

Zanzibar on the beach

May 6th, we had a two hour ferry ride back to Dar and my god was I feeling rough, not sure what caused it but I just went straight to bed when we got back to our campsite with an upset stomach and aches from head to toe, especially my hips and feet for some unfathomable reason. The weird thing is I felt nearly 100% after a few hours sleep and a some Neurofen, just a bit tired. The human body is pretty smart I suppose. Also Jim joined us as we were leaving Zanzibar.

The next day was another long driving day and we were very badly delayed leaving Dar so we had to stop for the night at Zebra Camp. Ooh, the mozzies!! But it was nice because there was a little bridge over the river that we could sit on and drink in the peace and quiet.

The next day was a lot more driving but we did manage to catch a glimpse of Kilimanjaro. We stayed at the Snake Park which is a cool place that specialises in the treatment of snake bites and malaria. We were taken around the Masaai village the next day and then to visit the clinic. It's all charitable and the couple have been treating people for years. That afternoon Dani and I decided that the best course of action would be to undertake a spot of sunbathing having viewed the snakes and crocs at the sight already.

May 10th. No for the good stuff. No, one of the real highlights of the trip. Serengetti and Ngorongoro Crater. Totally and utterly awesome, beautiful, breathtaking, wonderful and that's just the scenery. The animals that we saw were incredible.

We headed off in two 4X4s and headed up to the crater rim to take a look.

Ngorongoro Crater rim

Ngorongoro Crater rim

We stopped for lunch and hid our lunch from the circling birds that apparently love to steal peoples food!

We then headed into Serengetti and we saw masses of zebra, ostriches, giraffe,white bearded blue wilderbeast, Thompson's gazelle, Grant's gazelle, secretary birds, Lichtenstein hartbeast, kori bustard, vultures, lions, jackals, hippos, monkies and ducks. Phew, my camera was being kept pretty busy!

That night we slept in a camp in the middle of the Serengetti and fell asleep to the sound of lions roaring about 2km away, marvellous!!

The following day we headed back out to continue our animal spotting and saw many of the animals that we had seen the day before plus spotted hyena, lovebirds, maribu storks and a cheetah. Fair play to Jim, he spotted one in the distance which was quite a feat given that it was just a well camoflagued speck in the distance. It was just incredible to see the huge number of animals, especially the wilderbeast which were undertaking their migration. At one point we were completly surrounded by them. If you ever want to see a wide range of animals in huge numbers I have to recommend this place. We had lions coming out of our ears, including two males with a wilderbeast kill right at the side of the road, just amazing!

We then headed off to Olduvai Gorge where we enjoyed learning a bit about the discoveries made there by Mary Leeky and her husband relating to five different types of early humans. We then set up camp at Simbon capsite which is right on the rim of the crater. We went for dinner and emerged to find a load of rhino walking around our campsite!! There were some guys with guns just in case any of the rhino became dangerous but apparently they will not attack or walk into the tents but will instead go around them so we all survived the night!

The next morning we woke to find that we had a fabulous view and we all eagerly set off into the crater. We again saw a tonne of animals including some new ones such as eland, crowned crane, Egyptian goose, flamingo and greater flamingo. Again it was just incredible, the number of animals that were to be seen and the scenery was truly stunning. We also saw two male lions walking along the very same path that we were driving on. We watched them for ages, they were fantastic and so close that you could reach through the window and touch them if you didn't value your arms! They were rubbing up against our vehicles and rolling around on the floor and didn't seem to be in the least bit bothered by us. Unfortunately the battery on my camera died just as we approached them so I cannot offer you a nice close up of them but take it from me, they were amazing!

Here are some photos of the little critters.

Entry to the Serengeti

Entry to the Serengeti

Zebra keeping an eye on stuff in the Serengeti

Zebra keeping an eye on stuff in the Serengeti

Zebra in the Serengeti

Zebra in the Serengeti

Young lions in the Serengeti

Young lions in the Serengeti

Male lion

Male lion

Grumpy lion in the Serengeti

Grumpy lion in the Serengeti

Lion in the Serengeti

Lion in the Serengeti

Male lion

Male lion

Acacia in the Serengeti

Acacia in the Serengeti

Acacia in the Serengeti

Acacia in the Serengeti

Cheetah in the Serengeti

Cheetah in the Serengeti

Cheetah in the Serengeti

Cheetah in the Serengeti

Masaai giraffe

Masaai giraffe

Tree hugger in the Serengeti

Tree hugger in the Serengeti

Lion with it's wilderbeast kill in the Serengeti

Lion with it's wilderbeast kill in the Serengeti

Lion eating wilderbeast in the Serengeti

Lion eating wilderbeast in the Serengeti

Hyena trying to get rid of the flies that were plaguing it in the Serengeti

Hyena trying to get rid of the flies that were plaguing it in the Serengeti

Hare in the Serengeti

Hare in the Serengeti

Suckling Zebra in the Serengeti

Suckling Zebra in the Serengeti

Warthog in the Serengeti

Warthog in the Serengeti

Elephant in the Ngorongoro crater

Elephant in the Ngorongoro crater

Wilderbeast in the Serengeti

Wilderbeast in the Serengeti

I was really sorry to leave but we had to head back to Snake Park, the last couple of days were just incredible and I will never forget them.
Anyway, we were nearing our trip so we all wrote our names on a t-shirt and Katie did some amazing free hand drawings on it and we hung it up in the bar where I hope it will remain for years to come. Had a few beers and chatted to Tris till stupid o'clock and managed to get an hours sleep before getting up to leave for Kenya. There's nothing wrong with Kenya but I didn't want to go, just wanted to see more of the park and crater!

However we did have a fabulous time visiting the giraffes at the sanctuary in Nairobi, sorry, but I don't have photos as I forgot to put the battery back in my camera but you could hug the giraffes from a viewing platform and hand feed them. You also had the rather slimy option of putting food between your lips and having the giraffe take it from you. It looked like one was going to swallow Dani's face at one point so I declined this singular, slippery experience! We also went to the elephant orphanage nearby. I had watched a documentary about the place years before and remembered that the keepers forged very strong bonds with the little ellies and seeing it with my own eyes I could see how true that is. The keepers clearly love the elephants very much and the elephants reciprocate. They were led out to be fed milk from big bottles and to have a little time to roll in the mud and they were almost unbearably cute. I've always quite liked elephants but after seeing these little guys they have stolen my heart. Some of them had really sad stories and a lot of them seem to have fallen down wells and ditches and had to be rescued. If you ever go to Nairobi I figure that seeing the orphans is just about the best experience you can have.

Getting friendly with the elephant orphans

Getting friendly with the elephant orphans

Baby elephant at the Nairobi orphanage

Baby elephant at the Nairobi orphanage

Baby elephant at the Nairobi orphanage

Baby elephant at the Nairobi orphanage

Baby elephant at the Nairobi orphanage

Baby elephant at the Nairobi orphanage

So that was the end of our truck trip. I was so sad that we could not continue further north, I'd have loved to kept going for another month or so. The only other option was the go to Uganda to see the gorillas but it was very expensive and I don't like apes much so that was not an option for me although I was sorely tempted for a while.

In summary, I strongly recommend the truck journey. For me it was the best thing I could have done, I would not have acheived even half as much travelling independently and wouldn't have felt safe, didn't want to hire a car and have the hassle of paperwork and navigation and I would never have learnt anywhere near as much as Maritje and the others taught us about the animals and the countries we passed through. Instead you would have had pictures of antelope type thingies and large birds and some mountain but not sure which one. Also I really think that doing it myself would have cost a lot more and you would have to do all of the work alone and would not have the chance to socialise. If you don't mind camping, spending a few days doing a lot of driving and mucking and helping out then you will love this trip and the people on it. I did.

Posted by Sarnia 07:31 Archived in Tanzania

Life in a truck part II

sunny

Hi again!

Well I thought I would start off this entry with a piccie of our truck, Tana. Would you like that? Here you go then.

Tana at sunset, Fish River Canyon, Namibia

Tana at sunset, Fish River Canyon, Namibia

So, where were we? Have just left Swakopmund and heading to Cape Cross where there are more seals than you can shake a stick at and smelly little blighters they are too. I couldn't decide which were the cutest photos to post as seals are so very photogenic so here are a few to ooh and aah over.

Seals at Cape Cross, Skeleton Coast,  Namibia

Seals at Cape Cross, Skeleton Coast, Namibia

Swimming seals at Cape Cross, Skeleton Coast,  Namibia

Swimming seals at Cape Cross, Skeleton Coast, Namibia

Posing seals at Cape Cross, Skeleton Coast,  Namibia

Posing seals at Cape Cross, Skeleton Coast, Namibia

sleepy seal at Cape Cross, Skeleton Coast,  Namibia

sleepy seal at Cape Cross, Skeleton Coast, Namibia

Aw, don't you just love them. But they are a bit aggy, despite their sweet faces, I saw a fair few attacking each other and good grief, are they ever noisy?!

From Cape Cross we headed to Spitzkoppen which was in the middle of nowhere and very peaceful.

Spitzkoppe, Namibia

Spitzkoppe, Namibia

Outside loo at Spitzkoppe, Namibia

Outside loo at Spitzkoppe, Namibia

We had a quick guided walk where we saw some ancient cave art.

Antelope cave painting at Spitzkoppe, Namibia

Antelope cave painting at Spitzkoppe, Namibia

Zebra cave painting at Spitzkoppe, Namibia

Zebra cave painting at Spitzkoppe, Namibia

Odd looking tree at Spitzkoppe, Namibia

Odd looking tree at Spitzkoppe, Namibia

We slept outside that night, some in a sort of cave and myself and Susie next to the camp fire and again it was wonderful to see the stars above you. Very nice place indeed.

Then onwards to Etosha National Park where we saw giraffe, springbok, blue wilderbeast, zebra, kudu, ostrich, kori bustard, secretary birds, orix - including a dead one being eaten by some lions, black faced impala, black backed jackals and black rhino.

Giraffe in Etosha, Namibia

Giraffe in Etosha, Namibia

Springbok in Etosha, Namibia

Springbok in Etosha, Namibia

Orix (Gemsbok) with Springbok in background in Etosha, Namibia

Orix (Gemsbok) with Springbok in background in Etosha, Namibia

Giraffe in Etosha, Namibia

Giraffe in Etosha, Namibia

Wilderbeast not enjoying the rain, Etosha, Namibia

Wilderbeast not enjoying the rain, Etosha, Namibia

Zebra in Etosha, Namibia

Zebra in Etosha, Namibia

??? in Etosha, Namibia

??? in Etosha, Namibia

Black Back Jackal in Etosha, Namibia

Black Back Jackal in Etosha, Namibia

Impala in Etosha, Namibia

Impala in Etosha, Namibia

Springbok in Etosha, Namibia

Springbok in Etosha, Namibia

Cheeky little fellas in Etosha, Namibia

Cheeky little fellas in Etosha, Namibia

Lions with Orix (Gemsbok) kill in Etosha, Namibia

Lions with Orix (Gemsbok) kill in Etosha, Namibia

Lions with Orix kill and lurking jackal  in Etosha, Namibia

Lions with Orix kill and lurking jackal in Etosha, Namibia

Lions with Orix kill in Etosha, Namibia

Lions with Orix kill in Etosha, Namibia

Black rhino, Etosha, Namibia

Black rhino, Etosha, Namibia

That night we had another downpour and yet again our tents blew away, when would we learn?! I did spend some time at the watering hole trying to get a picture of the lightning but this is the best I could come up with. At this point I had started investigating the different settings on my camera (Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ6 in case you are wondering) and I hoped that going forwards my photos would improve as my lion pictures were a bit hazy to say the least.

Watering hole in Etosha, Namibia

Watering hole in Etosha, Namibia

So we had a few game drives and saw the above which is not bad at all. We then moved on to Windhoek which is the capital of Namibia. We hada little stroll around the shops but it wan't terribly exciting but then again I don't enjoy cities very much so don't let me put you off of visiting. That night we went to a plce called Joe's Bar which was nice, although I was not too keen on the crocodile that I swipped off of Suzi. But my meal was very tasty. We managed to fit an awful lot of people in our taxis there and back which was a touch more uncomfortable after a big meal but fun and cosy, We said goodbye to John and Nellie and early the next morning Lisa also left. When Tana pulled out of Windhoek we also left behind Heidi which was a shame because I got on really well with her.

From Windhoek we headed off to Botswana, wohoo, a new country! We camped at a place where we upgraded from our tents to traditional thatched huts - the hieght of luxury.

Luxury campsite, Botswana

Luxury campsite, Botswana

Sizable centipead thingy, Kalahari, Botswana

Sizable centipead thingy, Kalahari, Botswana

The next morning we were taken on a bushwalk and they dug up various roots and explained their uses for food or medicine. We were given a demonstration of how to start a fire....

Making fire, Kalahari, Botswana

Making fire, Kalahari, Botswana

and how to extract water from a root which was amazingly effective....

Obtaining a huge amount of water from this root, Kalahari, Botswana

Obtaining a huge amount of water from this root, Kalahari, Botswana

Bush people, Kalahari, Botswana

Bush people, Kalahari, Botswana

That night we camped at Maun which lies close to the Okavango Delta. Yipee!

So the next morning we headed into the Delta. This was rather a pleasant experience as you are sitting in a mokoro which is a canoe made from the sausage tree (photos of this wonderful tree to be posted later in the blog) and a nice man poles you through the delta for a lazy hour until you get to camp site. On the way there is a lot of grass and lillies to look at and a spot of sunbathing to be done so I very much enjoyed this!

Lillies at the Okavango Delta, Botswana

Lillies at the Okavango Delta, Botswana

We set up camp and went off to have a go at poling the mokoros ourselves which was not as easy as the professionals made it look. It was lots of fun and the end result is that we all had a swim in the delta for an hour. I don't like swimming at all and avoid where possible but strangely I did enjoy this particular swim. Perhaps because it was so pretty and peaceful there. Then we went for a stroll around and saw some giraffe and not a huge amount else and we arrived back at our camp as it was getting dark.

Mokoro poler in Okavango Delta, Bostwana

Mokoro poler in Okavango Delta, Bostwana

Sunset at the Okavango Delta, Botswana

Sunset at the Okavango Delta, Botswana

We went for another walk the next morning but again didn't see much in the way of animals but it really didn't matter because the delta is so pretty that you can enjoy the scenery very much instead. But I do think that our guides were pretty rubbish, they didn't give out a lot of information and were crashing around making a racket and brought us back to camp through the water so my new walking shoes were totally ruined although wading around was good fun. None the less, they were good at poling the boats and fun too so it was ok in the end. We then headed back out of the delta in the mokoros so another lazy hour.

We headed back to Maun and then on to the airport where we borded 2 small planes that would fly us over the delta at about 500 feet. It was wonderful to see the delta from the air, very trippy patterns and you could see the curvature of the earth from up there. I was really happy too because the rest of the guys let me sit up front next to the pilot so I enjoyed the flight hugely.

My seat for the flight over the Okavango Delta

My seat for the flight over the Okavango Delta

Okavango Delta, Botswana

Okavango Delta, Botswana

Okavango Delta, Botswana

Okavango Delta, Botswana

Okavango Delta, Botswana

Okavango Delta, Botswana

See the new island forming around the terminte nest. Okavango Delta, Botswana

See the new island forming around the terminte nest. Okavango Delta, Botswana

Eye, eye. Okavango Delta, Botswana

Eye, eye. Okavango Delta, Botswana

Spot the hippo. Okavango Delta, Botswana

Spot the hippo. Okavango Delta, Botswana

Okavango Delta, Botswana

Okavango Delta, Botswana

Me next to our plane that flew us over the Okavango Delta

Me next to our plane that flew us over the Okavango Delta

Phew, that's enough for today, housework is beckonning now - joy!

Will write more again soon.
Take care, Sarnia xxx

Posted by Sarnia 05:08 Archived in Namibia

Life in a truck

Cape Town to Nairobi.

sunny

Hello all, everyone well? Good, good, that's what I like to hear.

I have a fair bit to write as I obviously have not been very diligent about my updates. Sorry.

Well, in the end my plans changed as they always do and I skipped Kruger and the Baz Bus in favour of jumping on a truck and heading off through Namibia, Botwana and then on to Jo'berg. As you will have noticed from the title, even having booked my place and paid for it after a few weeks my plans changed yet again!

So a bit about the truck. It's not some dusty working vehicle but a truck designed to take passengers and very nice it was too. The truck is called Tana and is owned by Acacia and is driven by Patrick who is an absolute sweetheart. The guide on our trip was Marietje who is a walking encyclopedia and a lovely lady too as well as being an amazing cook. We also had 2 trainee guides with us, Yasmin and Jaco who are both enourmous fun as well as being very knowledgable and competant. So the stage is set, now for the activities.

Day one, I skipped the Township tour as I still feel uncomfortable about treating people like they are in a zoo, perhaps I was wrong to bypass it, perhaps not, I still can't decide.

Fare thee well Cape Town

Fare thee well Cape Town

Later we left Cape Town and drove North to a vinery where we did some wine tasting. They had the nicest cheese there and the Rose wines were gorgeous, wish I had bought a bottle or two. Can't remember the name of the place but it was run by a chap called Sparky. It chucked it down with rain and all our tents blew away so I was running around in the dark with Patrick trying to secure them. But we had a good nights sleep and all was well.

Next day we headed to the Orange River which borders Namibia. Had a little chill out there. Not too much else to report about this day. Here's a photo which will express the 1,000 word's I have failed to come up with.

Orange River - border between South Africa and Namibia

Orange River - border between South Africa and Namibia

Then we crossed into Namibia which was rather exciting. We headed to our campsite at Fish River Canyon and Heidi and I walked to the canyon which was 10 km walk and silly me, I didn't take any water with me. Tut, tut, learnt a lesson there!

Quiver tree

Quiver tree

Leathal Euphorbia

Leathal Euphorbia

I didn't expect this much colour in a desert.

I didn't expect this much colour in a desert.

The truck came by and picked us up as we were nearing the canyon and when we got there it was superb. It's the 2nd largest canyon in the world after the Grand Canyon.

Fish River Canyon

Fish River Canyon

We legged it off to the truck which was parked elsewhere by now to watch the sunset and a wonderful suprise of Champagne was waiting for us. Very nice. Later we continued with a few beers up in a tree at our campsite which was a first for me. Bugger trying to convince people to bring you up a beer though!

Peach flavour champers at the Canyon

Peach flavour champers at the Canyon

The next day we had a very early start as we headed to Dune 45 at Sossusvlei with the plan of climbing to the top (140 meters) to watch the sun come up over the dunes, which we did. We had been warned that the climb would take about 15 minutes but when we pulled up next to it I thought that the dune looked disappointingly small and couldn't understand why it should take so long. "How hard can it be"? I thought to myself. Now, I should know that whenever I think this, I am in for either pain or disaster or possibly both. God it was tiring scrambling up the never ending dune with your feet constantly wanting to slide back down. It just carried on and on and when you thought you was at the top there was another big bit to contend with. But we all made it and it was well worth it. I saw the red Namibian dunes that I have dreamed of for many years, the photos of them, like so many of my other pics, do not do the scene justice.

View from the top of Dune 45

View from the top of Dune 45

II View from the top of Dune 45

II View from the top of Dune 45

III View from the top of Dune 45

III View from the top of Dune 45

Ridge of Dune 45

Ridge of Dune 45

I Base of Dune 45

I Base of Dune 45

II Base of Dune 45

II Base of Dune 45

Once we had slithered back down the dune we were greated by a cooked breakfast of eggs and sausages which was fabulous after our exertions.

Look, tourists, show them your bums lads.

Look, tourists, show them your bums lads.

From there we headed off to meet Bushman at Sesriem which was just wonderful. Bushman was very knowledgeable and I loved learning from him. The was a dry lake bed that the others went to explore which really didn't look that big but perspective is all over the place in the desert and the lake was actually a couple of kms long.

Lake bed

Lake bed

I stayed to chat with Bushman and after that I just wanted to stay and learn from him. He showed us a trap door spider's nest which was great and found us footprints and lizards to inspect. What a great day!

Bushman in persuit of a tiny lizard

Bushman in persuit of a tiny lizard

Aforementioned tiny lizard

Aforementioned tiny lizard

After our walk we stopped at Solitaire for a break which was great because there are a load of old cars and bikes there which were on display outside, I loved that they could be seen by anyone.

Old cars at Solitaire I

Old cars at Solitaire I

II Old cars at Solitaire

II Old cars at Solitaire

Next we crossed the Tropic of Capricorn which was all rather exciting.

Self explanatory photo

Self explanatory photo

That night things just got better when we bush camped in the desert in a sort of cave made by some great big rocks. There was a gorgeous sunset to admire and I really think that this is the first time that I have seen the sunrise and the sunset on the same day, fab.

The rocks where we bush camped

The rocks where we bush camped

Sunset in the desert

Sunset in the desert

Luckily the snakes, scorpions and spiders left us to sleep alone. I woke up in the night for the loo and wandered off to look at the stars which were gorgeous without light pollution. I felt that I should do some musings and come up with something profound but in the end I went back to my sleeping bag with a calm mind instead.

The following day was a very long drive to Swakopmund. I chilled in the afternoon and booked some activities for the next day. That evening I had a mixed game grill which consisted of Eland, Kudu, Springbok and Zebra. It was edible but everything was drenched in a very strong sauce so it was nigh on impossible to differentiate between the different meants, only Zebra had a different texture. In the end I asked for a doggy bag and gave it to a guy begging on the street and he was really chuffed to have game. It's a shame that doggy bags are not in more use at home, it does make sense to avoid wasting food.

So, the next day I started with a couple of hours quad biking in the dunes which was wonderful as well as horrible. First I struggled to get used to not putting my foot down when stopped, turning the handlesbars and worse still in the direction that you want to go. Not having a twisty throtle, instead it was one of the dreadful ones controlled by your poor, flagging thumb. Also the gears were none down and 5 up, yuck! I do have to complement the greabox and clutch though. Anyway, we went miles and miles and it was really beautiful out there and oh so peaceful. The only thing is my right thumb kept sliding off the throttle and I was scared of going sideways across the dunes but none the less I must recomend the activity. Better than heaving yourself up sand dunes with a sandboard I suspect!

That afternoon I jumped in a plane and then jumped out of it at 10,000 feet. And my god, it was amazing! I did a skydive in Jersey last year and loved every nano second of it but incredibly this was even better. The guy I was strapped to put us into a loads of spins during free fall which was just so exciting and only opened the canopy at just under 3,800 feet so we had 38 seconds of free fall and went tearing past Nellie who had jumped before me. We reached a top speed of 244km an hour - 244 km - ooh I'm liking this speed business. Then when the canopy was open my new best friend set me up in the harness so that I was sitting very comfortably on it and said "Close your eyes" which I obediantly did. He then performed magic with the toggles on the canopy and it felt like we were in a gigantic swing going backwards and forwards - truely awesome. I opened my eyes and watched the earth shift beneath us and life was perfect. We had a very gentle landing and for hours afterwards I fluctuated between blissfull calm, extreme excitement and pure joy. This is definitely something that I want to do again and again and again.....

Right, I'm going to stop here and type some more later - don't want to spoil you with too much excitement. Oh, ok, I'm off to the pub!

Speak soon, love Sarnia xxx

Posted by Sarnia 06:03 Archived in Namibia Tagged backpacking

Hello from Cape Town

Photos included at last

sunny 25 °C

Hello my dears, hope you are all well.

I'm still in Cape Town and have had a good old nose around. Went to the Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens which are very beautiful and are surrounded by the mountains which they sort of blend into.

Botanical Gardens at Kirstenbosch

Botanical Gardens at Kirstenbosch

Mountains at Kirstenbosch

Mountains at Kirstenbosch


270_spain_s_africa_238.jpg

I then went to the World of Birds. I must admit I thought it was going to be a very tacky effort with a few scruffy chickens but it turned out to contain all sorts of weird, ugly, enormous and beautiful birds including my faves - owls, plus eagles, flamingos, ducks, cranes and all sorts of other peculiarities.

Parrots

Parrots

I know, it's cheap putting up a parrot picture but they are very photogenic. Here's a less fortunate individual having a bad hair day... (no, it's not me).

Porcupine

Porcupine


270_spain_s_africa_410.jpg

The other day I left Cape Town with two friends and headed off to Simon's Town to inspect the penguins which are just adorable and we spent the whole afternoon with them on the beach. Little darlings.

Had a job getting this one in my backpack

Had a job getting this one in my backpack


Penguins at Simons Town

Penguins at Simons Town


Penguin at Simons Town

Penguin at Simons Town

The next day we went to Cape Point and the Cape of Good Hope which is in a nature reserve and is extremely pretty. There we saw Baboons and Ostriches.

Baboons at the Cape of Good Hope

Baboons at the Cape of Good Hope


Ostrich at Cape of Good Hope

Ostrich at Cape of Good Hope

Ostrich 2 at Cape of Good Hope

Ostrich 2 at Cape of Good Hope

We later headed to Nordhoek and sat on the beach then to Haut's Bay to buy some fish.

On Monday I went up Table Mountain in the cable car and it is just gorgeous up there. Then I thought I'd climb down which took about three times as long as I expected and now I have sore legs but it was worth every step for the beautiful views and the peace and quiet.

013_Descen..le_Mountain.jpg

Today I am going to the travel agents to look into the possibility of flying to Kruger and spending a few days looking at animals before heading back South on the Baz Bus.

Jolly good, that's all for the time being.

Take care,
Sarnia xxx

Posted by Sarnia 02:59 Archived in South Africa Tagged backpacking

Guess where I am now

Yup, in an internet cafe.

semi-overcast 25 °C

Hello my dears, hope all is well.

Well, I finally made it to South Africa and jolly nice it is too. I spent the whole of last weekend getting here and so was pretty tired but after a dozen or so beers I was fine and dandy. But was pretty ropey come Monday and thought it would be judicious to stay in bed and get over it from there. Finally heaved myself out onto the street and had a nose around and stumbled across a rather nice park named "Company Gardens" where there are lots of interesting things like squirrels and funny looking birds and funny sounding birds and fountains and trees and stuff that you would expect to find in a park. But the best bit is the view of Table Mountain which is stunning! I actually halted mid step when I saw it, there were clouds pouring off of the top of it and it just looked so dramatic.

Table Mountain from the Company Gardens

Table Mountain from the Company Gardens

Yesterday I went back to the park and sunbathed and then my mate Ding Dong and I went to the beach and sunbathed and had a few too many beers and now I am once again a little tired.

Today I went for a stroll, had a fab chicken burger and will later head to a museum followed by a bbq at the hostel. Not sure what I will get up to over the next few days but hopefully the weather will be good and I can shin up Table Mountain for a squiz at the view which is supposed to be spectacular.

Once again, my apologies for the lack of photos, I remembered my SD card and reader but cannot use it in this cafe.

Any how, got to go and look for Ding Dong and get going.

You all take care,
Sarnia xxx

Posted by Sarnia 05:31 Archived in South Africa Tagged backpacking

I´ve just left school

18 °C

Dear All,

Hope everyone is well and had a good February.

All is well here and as per the title, I have just finished my Spanish lessons. I managed to blag my way through 5 weeks and thankfully there is no test at the end! The lessons have been great and as I said before, our teacher Auxi is just great. For my last day which was also my birthday she took us to a local cafe for hot chocolate and chirros which are some kind of deep fried pastry that you dip into hot chocolate that has the texture of Glastonbury mud and it is a winner in my book. For our second lesson we headed to the bar and put aside all of our reservations about drinking beer at 11 in the morning and the Spanish conversation flowed thereafter. I can hardly believe it but we were talking about poverty, the healthcare systems in our countries, quantum physics, religion and reincarnation, totally amazing what a cerveca does for your language skills!

Later I had a touch more beer than was strictly necessary and felt rather rough yesterday which was a shame because I had an early start going to Ronda which is a very nice place. Of course I have forgotten to bring my camera to the internet cafe so will have to post photos later.

Here are some photo's of bits of Spain as promised.

Alcazabar Malaga

Alcazabar Malaga

Alhambra Granada

Alhambra Granada

The Alhambra in Granada

The Alhambra in Granada

Alhambra fountain

Alhambra fountain

Tomorrow, Nerja if it´s not raining and after that I will start heading towards Murcia where Gideon may be arriving on Thursday.

Right, gotta go and finda map so take care everyone,
Love Sarnia x

Posted by Sarnia 05:43 Archived in Spain Tagged educational

Saturday evening in Malaga

sunny 27 °C

Bonjour all, hope all is in order with everyone.

Life here is still muy beuno and I am still having these wonderful moments when I suddenly realise that I am wonderfully happy. It has a lot to do with the students here. A quick summary: Jenny from Germany, smart, sensible, kind, organiser and very funny, will go far! Ko-uen from S Korea, extremely kind, wants to work for UNICEF, really cares about people a whole lot, good cook, lots of fun, already she is making the world a better place. Ye-ung from S Korea, has a great sense of humour, calm and easy to be around plus he is more than happy to do his share of the housework! Sara, S Korea too, very pretty, sweet and happy, always smiling, fab cook and rather handy with the Spanish, very likable. The rest are Christophe, Ali, Melis and a few others that I don't know too well.

Well, it's le weekend and I have had a lovely day, slept in this morning because a load of us were out clubbing last night and didn't get to bed till just before 6. But luckily no hangover, just a bit tired as we were out Friday night until gone two and then I woke up at stupid o'clock Friday morning and could not get back to sleep. So today I had a jolly nice day lolling around in the sun with a book, a few mates and a couple of glasses of white wine. My friend Jenny made us all a whopping great breakfast too which was really good of her. Sadly she has gone back to Frankfurt now and Ko-uen and I are missing her and I imagine that the others are too. It was a gorgeous day too, e had 25 c yesterday and today felt even warmer so unless all of the temperature displays in Malaga are wrong, we must of been in the high twenties today and plenty of sunshine to enjoy. I am actually getting quite brown now which pleases me and reduces the glare a bit. Tonight, Ye-ung, Chistopher and Ali are off trying to find us some dvd's to watch so I am taking advantage of the Wi-Fi right now.

Yesterday was luxury day, Jenny and I had a manicure (my first ever) and a pedicure and so for the first time in my life my hands and feet are tidy!

Tomorrow, I don't have any real plans apart from studying. The last two days at school were really hard so I need to revise the grammar a touch so I can have it straight in my head. It's so much easier to write Spanish because you have a lot more time to think. Ah, actually I a going to Ko-uen's house with Sara for some Korean food which is great because I've tried a lot of their food and it really is great and very healthy too. I was going to reciprocate by doing a roast dinner but then realised that we don't have an oven so not an option. Instead I'm going to make them some soups to try.

Right, I think that's about all for now.
Everyone take care xx

Posted by Sarnia 11:48 Archived in Spain Tagged educational

March 31st 2010

Back dated entry

sunny 21 °C

Sunday 31st January 2010

Hello everyone, how are you all diddling then?

Today some friends and I went for a walk to the centre of Malaga in the sunshine and very enjoyable it was too. We had 21 C but it felt cooler because there was a strong wind, but every now and then we'd find our way to a gust free patch and it was really lovely. I've been working on my tan and now have really brown arms, face and shoulders. That reminds me, I need to add another coat before I go to bed tonight.

Yesterday my mate Jenny and I went to the local palace and castle and was it ever great, I really loved it, especially the palace Al Alcazaba which is one of my favourite places that I have ever been to. It was in superb condition given that it is really old.(don't know when it was built but the information leaflet said something about it being renovated in 1040 or something like that). It is Arabic in design so I am now very excited about getting to Morocco to see if their buildings are as nice.

I'm still scoffing with wild abandon but bizarely I seem to have lost some weight, it must be the Medeteranian diet because everyone here seems to be slim. Also everyone seems to own a dog, there were tonnes of them trotting along the beach front today. I don't have a dog yet so guess I must stand out as a tourist.

The Spanish is going well, I can understand the grammer fine, just need to try to practise the simple past and future tense some more 'cos it comes out all higgledy piggledy when I try to speak!! Why do these languages need to have such unecessary verb conjugations and genders? English is so much easier, perhaps that's why it's such a global language. There are three Korean students here and a Japanese guy who left yesterday. I can only admire them for progressing so fast with a language that bears no resemblance to their own languages. At least for me quite a few words are similar to English or French so I have a head start.

So a bit more about where I am. Well my house is right next door to the school which is perfect given that we are expecting rain from the middle of next week. The school is fine, our teacher is really nice and makes the lessons fun as well as cramming a mass of information into us. And she even had us playing Spanish Scrabble on Friday.

The house is not the best, the rooms are freezing cold and we can't heat them because they are so big with very high ceilings so last week we were sat in the living room in jumpers and coats but it's ok now. The biggest problem is that the hot water only lasts for about three minutes and then you only have cold which is horrible. I can only bear to shave one leg each day which means I am constantly attending to one leg or the other, a bit like painting that bridge, the moment you finish, you have to start again! Also there doesn't seem to be any concern on the part of the school despite us complaining a couple of times and this is very annoying.

When I booked the course it was advertised as coming with a free activity every day but so far nothing has materialised so I will be writing an email to the company that I booked with. None the less, the accommodation is very cheap at £85 a week and we are all getting used to life without the basic necessities of warmth, a usable shower and security (no locks on the bedroom doors). However I was very pleased to find a washing line in the kitchen draw the other day and it even has pegs! We are enjoying the veritable luxury of a washing machine (which is very handy as I have only seen one laundrette and it's about five miles away!).

I feel very lucky because the people that live in the house are all really nice and everyone cleans up after themselves so we have not had any problems at all. We all just settle down in the lounge and chat or more often study. We spend a lot of time together and look out for each other and end up sharing food and drinks (Ye-ung and I are just finishing of a bottle of vino so apologies if my typing suffers!). I realise that we could have had some total git living here so I am really gratefull that everyone is so nice and friendly.

I am really thinking about staying on for a few extra weeks and continuing with the Spanish lessons, I'd really like to improve but I will see how I get on over the next two weeks, I might have learnt enough by then but I really love it here so will probably use the Spanish as an excuse to stay a bit longer! The whole atmosphere of the place is so very relaxed, no-one seems to be in a hurry and yet the bus is always on time, impressive!

Another good thing is how cheap everything is. Food is very buyable indeed as is wine and beer. Ooh, speaking of beers, I went out with Jenny and Ye-ung on Friday and we did some bar hopping. In future I won't bother to have dinner before I go out because you get fed for free! Bread, breadsticks, nuts, seeds and popcorn and as soon as your bowl is empty you are provided with a top up, even if you haven't ordered a new drink. Fab! Anyway, the really exciting bit is the Baileys. I need to buy a really big brandy glass when I come home because the way we were served it was brilliant. You get this huge glass half full of ice and then the waitress pours the Baileys in and you think "Ooh, that's a generous measure"", and she carries on pouring and doesn't stop until you have several measures in your clutches. And then this bar dwelling angel advises us that we can have more if we want! Just fabulous and all for the measly sum of six Euros. Now you understand why I am so enchanted with the place, yes?

Tonight I spent my evening trying to get this accursed computer to connect to the internet via wifi. I was going mad trying to get it to work. I don't know anything about Linux, Firefox or this Bon Echo business so I don't know what settings are required. I'm was working my way through changing them but there are so many permutations that I thought it was a fruitless as trying to get my legs shaved in comfort. But now I am online, yipeeeee!! Also, my ipod has been wiped of all (yes ALL) of it's music. This is a pain because I had a load of Spanish lessons stored on it too. But strangely, when I connect it to the netbook, the files are visible to the pc but remain unavailable on the ipod. Any ideas?

How do you know when wine has gone off? I'm sure it was nicer the other night and its only been open two days, even milk can cope with that... think it will be going down the sink rather than my neck.

Um, what else? Well I had a quick search for flights from London to Gaborone in Botswana today, the prices are very variable but can be had for less than £500 it would seem. I even found one for £319 the other week so will have to check and see if it is still available. Just need to wait for Gideon to get sorted and then we can book flights and I cant wait!!

I think that's about all for now so take care and have a happy February!!

Love Sarnia xxx

Posted by Sarnia 10:20 Archived in Spain Tagged educational

¡Hola! ¿Que tal?

Hello from Malaga :o)

rain 7 °C

Well, have finished my second day of Spanish lessons and going well so far. The first day was very hard as us new students had to do a test (she didn't even finish marking my mainly blank effort!) and then we joined a class which was already underway and busy conjugating some verbs that I´d never heard of so I was pretty scared! The conversation was better and I started to enjoy myself. Then we were set homework, wtf?????! Today´s lesson was much better so very happy. Had to do a fifteen minute presentation on Jersey for the class (we are only four) and it´s not as hard as it sounds because you can waste a lot of time saying um and drawing maps on the whiteboard!!

Malaga Plus

Malaga Plus

So, Malaga. It is lovely, really lovely. I feel quite at home here though there is no sensible reason for that, I've never even been to Spain before. None the less, I am enjoying myself a lot walking around the city centre which is nothing like any of the other cities that I have visited. The streets are really wide and there are not many people there and the whole place feels very chilled. I can only imagine how it must feel on a sunny day. The streets are clean and extremely tidy. Everything seems to be there by design and I like the organised sense of the place. But this is not a city full of obsessive compulsives, it is very relaxed with human statues and accordian players in the streets and today a chap was playing his clarinet. I haven´t seen anybody rushing around and there are a lot of folk sitting about in cafes in the afternoon.

And the food is great too. So far I have enjoyed a seafood paella which was quite nice given that I don´t like paella. Last night I had a lucky escape when a load of us from the school went out for sushi but the restaurant was closed (phew) so we had some fabulous tapas which I really love. Had some different tapas for lunch today, jolly nice. I am going to try to have a different tapas every day for the three weeks that I am here. Got to have a purpose eh? Tonight Jenny (fellow student) and I are going to make some kind of tapas-antipasti dinner. We went to the supermarket and my god, I cannot believe the prices. I should have bought more!!

The weather here has been variable so far, some sunshine and plenty of rain. I just looked at the ten day forcast and expect rain tomorrow and Thursday morning followed by sunshine and temperatures of about 17 to 18 until Thursday of next week so I am delighted.

Apart from that, had a stroll about, saw the beach which is only a couple of minutes from our flat. Visited a cathedral which was just as ugly as all the others that I've seen in the past and a waste of 4 euros. Signed up for a cooking lesson making more paella and have also put my name down for some salsa and flamenco dance lessons. Plan to head up into the mountains one afternoon and will perhaps go on an orientation tour.

So all in all I am very happy. It doesn't feel like traveling, more like a holiday so far but it´s early days yet. I don´t have any photos to post I´m afraid apart from pics of the cathedral that Ko-eun took but I won´t bother you with those. Will get my act together in the next week, promise.

Well, you all take care and have a good week.
Love Sarnia

Posted by Sarnia 11:05 Archived in Spain Tagged educational

Wohoo!

I'm off

sunny 9 °C

Well, everything at home is finally sorted and so I have just booked some flights and a three week language course in Malaga, very exciting! I leave Sunday so bye for now! Take care xx

Posted by Sarnia 17:02 Archived in Jersey Tagged preparation

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