A Travellerspoint blog

Botswana and a little bit of Zim

Somebody bring me some water

sunny 30 °C
View Round the world in 250 days on Nat and Ev's travel map.

Our non ac bus has large windows that have, thus far, offered a pleasant breeze in times of need. As we enter Botswanan and journey across the Kalahari Desert our transport has been transformed into a fan forced oven. It’s too hot to read and my Ipod is out of juice (mainly because I fell asleep with it on this morning - Doh). It is becoming more and more apparent that the greenhouse effect or some other force of nature is conspiring against us. Etosha was too wet, the Okavango was too dry, the Chobe and Zambezi rivers were unseasonably close to breaking their banks. Against all odds we have soldiered on in search of both beautiful fauna and beautiful landscapes.

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We started with your classic Mokoro trip on the Okavango. Travelling a few hours into the delta we found a suitable campsite and set up shop. By the time lunch rolled around it was hot. I‘m talking really really hot. Our travel doctor told us not to swim anywhere in Africa. Something about a parasite that burrows under the skin. We chose to take local wisdom into account and passed the heat of the day with intermittent dips in the delta. Don’t worry Mum’s, we checked for hippos and crocs first.

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Once the heat of the day had passed we donned our walkin shoes and headed to the local Hippo hole. Shortly into the walk we were stopped for the obligatory “in case of emergency” talk. Now I’m not one to doubt my own physical ability but I was hoping for more of a defence than run in a zig zag line. I was tempted to ask why we were choosing to ignore 100,000 or so years of man vs animal evolution but the prospect of a leopard dropping on me seemed remote at best so I decided to keep my thoughts to myself and take my chances. Besides I figured I only had to run faster than one person. Safe as houses. We saw some hippos but it was from a distance. I was hoping to get a bit closer.

The next morning we rose before the sun for a game walk around our campsite. It was worth getting up just for the sunrise. We saw plenty of cool stuff the highlight of which was a small family of big elephants that meandered to within about 50 meters of us. It’s was pretty impressive as was the sunset on our second night in the delta.

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As I mentioned last post we are on a pretty tight budget and we need to choose our additional activities carefully. We decided that an hour flight over the delta was worth $75 USD so we locked it in and took to the skies.

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After seeing the density of elephants in the Delta it wasn’t too much of a surprise when we came across this herd on the side of the highway.

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The game viewing highlight had to be the Chobe River. Any more animals and I would suspect they weren’t there of their own accord. Every 100m there was something different. Plenty of elephants, hippos, bok, bok and more bok, crocodiles and enough birds to drive Bob Way into a twitchers frenzy.

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These ones are for Bob. What are they?

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At the moment Vic Falls is at it’s highest levels since the 50’s. More than 9 million litres plummet over the falls every second! It would be easy to get distracted by the 1001 adventure activities you can do; bungy, zip lines, canyon swings, river boarding, etc. We were really keen to raft the Zambezi but with that much water pushing through the lower gorge it was well and truly out of the question. I guess it’s a good thing because it brings you back to the reason for being here. We got up early (sleeping in isn’t the same when you’ve been on an uncomfortable sleeping mat for two weeks) and got to the falls shortly after sunrise. You can see the mist and hear the thunder from all over the town but as you walk through the National Park the sound becomes ferocious and the ground begins to vibrate. As we walked along the opposite side of the gorge the wind changed and within seconds we were completely drenched. Even though the falls are only a few meters away at times it completely disappears behind the wall of spray. It well and truly deserves its status as a natural wonder of the world.

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The little dot in the photo below that looks like someone pointing at the mist is Nat.

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With rafting out of the equation we decided to view the falls from a different perspective. The question was Micro light, Ultra light or Helicopter? Ultra light was the winner. Needless to say the view from above was spectacular. To see the whole river plunging over from above was awe inspiring. The photos don’t do it justice.

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Botswana and Vic Falls were awesome. They’re friendly, have plenty of wildlife and many beautiful landscapes. It was hard to only use this many photos but, as always, if you like the photos you can check out our album at

http://www.travellerspoint.com/photos/gallery/users/Nat%20and%20Ev/

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Arriving in Vic Falls spelt the end of our overland tour. It was just the right length. Camping is fun, for a while. Now it’s time to experience the African public transport system… Next stop??? The Kingdom of Zamunda?

How's the serenity?

Lots o' love,
Ev and Nat

Posted by Nat and Ev 06:16 Archived in Botswana Comments (4)

Northern Namibia

In the jungle the quiet jungle..

sunny 32 °C
View Round the world in 250 days on Nat and Ev's travel map.

What makes a place the adventure capital of wherever? Swakopmund is the adventure capital of South Western Africa and as such our tour stopped there for two nights so we could get adventurous… Of coarse any overpriced activities booked with the right company earns our tour company a hefty commission and therefore we are encouraged to be as adventurous as our budgets would allow. Despite the strong desire to skydive from a two hour joy flight to a waiting quad bike ready to whisk us away to go sand boarding our budget only allowed for wandering around town, doing a load of washing and having a few quiet ones. We did do some shopping around and managed to find a two hour quad bike trip that we could squeeze into our budget. Nat was going for the 70’s crime fighting quad biker look and I had the 80’s look thrust upon me. We have vids of us catching some fully sick air but still can't seem to lead them... Might be able to post them soon.

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We didn’t really do too much research into the Africa beyond when the wet season is. We had plenty of other things to fit in that were a higher priority than the best game viewing times are in southern Africa. Had we done the research we would have discovered that in April (the very tail end of the northern Namibian wet season) Etosha’s legendary waterholes would become superfluous. The news was bad as we drove north from Swakopmund, it had rained heavily the previous night providing abundant water and lush vegetation for the notoriously shy Etoshonian animal population. We also got word that the group that had gone through a week before us had seen zebra. That’s it, just zebra. I mean zebra are pretty cool but for a park that is renowned for close encounters with Elephants and Lions and all the big exciting animals, to only see zebra would suck. We arrived, set up camp and headed out for what was looking like a vegetation viewing safari. After three days in Etosha I think it’s safe to say we got lucky.

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I was a little worried I would find game viewing tiresome at times but we were lucky enough to see something cool every half hour or so and it kept things rolling only nicely. There are still a few animals left on the must see list (esp. elephants) but with the Okavango and Chobe coming up next week we should have plenty of chances to spot the crafty animals that have eluded us that far.

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In the Late 70’s the Namibian National Parks Service though it would be a good idea to make a Noah’s ark style, come and see it all, game park. The chosen region, the Waterburg plateau, was our next stop. You would think that it would be best to start with an area already well stoked with African fauna but the powers that be opted for the much more scenic plateau. Of course less than decade later the park and all its game viewing facilities were pretty much useless (at least for their intended purpose) as all the animals decided they would prefer to live in their natural habitats. Who would have thought it! Fortunately the spectacular scenery remains and the facilities are great and Waterburg has some of the best hiking in Namibia. We only had the afternoon to cruise around but with our navigator / outdoors guru Rob always willing to push the boundaries of twilight we made substantial ground and got some great views from various points around the plateau.

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Namibia has been a blast. Everyone I’ve spoken to who has visited Namibia and those we have met travelling around have all been in awe of all of its varied landscapes. Someone told me the annual tourist earnings for the whole of Namibia is about $16 million. If people knew how cool Namibia is I’m sure that figure would be much much higher and judging by the tourism development I’m sure the word is already spreading. I’m glad we came in low season and I’m glad we came before tourism really takes off. After stopping briefly in Windhoek we set an easterly coarse, bound for Botswana….

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Dang! You got shocks, pegs... lucky!
You ever take it off any sweet jumps?
You got like three feet of air that time. …

Lots of love,
Ev and Nat

Posted by Nat and Ev 10:06 Archived in Namibia Comments (1)

Cape Town to Swakopmund

The road is long....

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View Round the world in 250 days on Nat and Ev's travel map.

Any fears I had about being the granddaddy of the tour were very quickly relieved as the 7 other travellers on our overland trip arrived at the departure briefing. Overlanders are synonymous with the 18 – 21 year-old drink, copulate and be merry set. Judging by the other overlanders we have seen on the road this mantra rings true but by some stroke of luck our truck is bucking the trend in a major way. For starters the truck is only half-full giving us the luxury to spread out but more importantly to change seats when the blistering sun turns your set into a painfully intense tanning salon. We have a great mix of interesting people on our trip, a older (very funny) German couple, an Australian family of three from rural WA, a 29 year old Londoner and a 33 year old Seattlite. Just the right mix of youth and experience. We get on very well with Leila and Rob, the two kids our age, and end doing a lot of stuff with them including staying up once everyone else has gone to be for some cards and vino in the cool of the evening.

The first few days of the journey was all about getting miles under the belt. Western South Africa and southern Namibia remind me a lot of the Red centre with vast open spaces and an endless blanket of low shrubs although the base colour here is more of a sandy beige than a red ochre and the endless plains are punctuated by massive mountain ranges rather than the relatively smaller ridges that divide the red centre. The similarities don't stop there, for anyone who has driven around the red centre you will no doubt remember the hours and hours of road in-between "attractions". Fortunately in recent years my tendency towards motion sickness has improved dramatically and the hours on the road are being passed effortlessly with a stack of good books. Plus if the books ever get tiresome you can engage in a few minutes of high speed game watching. Most of the time you can spot a bok or two, ostrich or even the rare mountain Zebra within a few minutes. Unfortunately the Namibian Brains trust thought it would be a good idea to build a tall fence along the side of the main highway (with is an unsealed dirt road) to protect cars from stray animals. Trouble is the animals seem to be on the road side of the fence more often than not and as the truck approaches they freak out dashing all over the place and at the last minute they make a dash for the open spaces beyond the fence only to run full speed into it to the horror of all on board especially the vegetarian member of our entourage….

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Heading north from cape town we stopped for our first night in Lamberts bay, a small fishing village with a big fishy smell. Fortunately the fish processing factory wasn't in full swing so the stench was barely detectable once unless you were right near the factory. It was a windy night and the temperature dropped well and truly below the expected Africa minimum. Come morning I was ruing the decision to send my sleeping bag home from Cape town.

The next two days were pretty much more of the same, a couple of hundred kms followed by an afternoon of exploration. Our second campsite was at a beautiful campsite on the banks of the Orange river.

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Day three was spent exploring Fish River Canyon, the second biggest Canyon in the world. I'm not sure who is in charge of the size based claims to fame but someone has a lot to answer for. Unless Kings Canyon (California) and Fish River Canyon are exactly the same size someone is telling fibs. Me thinks it's time to call in the good people from Guinness to sort this one out. We made camp and after a much needed swim at the camp ground we spent the afternoon walking around the Eastern rim of the canyon which became more and more pleasant as the cool of the afternoon settled in and with a wine in hand we watched another spectacular sunset.

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By day four the vegetation was very slowly starting to change. The mountains were getting a little bigger and more frequent and by the time we reached our destination we were in the heart of the Namib desert. With a few hours of sunlight left after the big drive we decided to stretch our legs and test our dune climbing abilities. While the good people of Guinness are down here measuring the canyon they should swing by the Namib desert as I'm sure the dunes here are strong contenders not only for the highest but also the hardest to climb, with one step forward, and then 90% of that step sliding back. With the sun setting at record speed, as it always does when you're racing to catch it, our stroll became a death march to the top to catch the last rays of the day. The thing about sand dunes is that they appear small from ground level, as you reach what you think is the summit you soon realise that they are much much bigger than they appear. After 4 or 5 false summits my legs and lungs were burning, my eyes were stinging with sweat and my boots felt twice as heavy as they should. I finally caught up to Rob who was sitting at the top, looking like he'd taken a leisurely stroll. Nat joined us a couple of minutes later and watched another brilliant sunset. I wonder if sunsets are always this good but we more often than not miss them because we're still staring at a computer or worse, watching tele…

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We started the next day the same way with a 5am sunrise from the top of Dune 45, another massive dune. After a hearty dessert breakfast we wandered the dessert for the morning ending up at Dead Vlei which is kind of like the Oils Blue Sky Mining cover surrounded by 300 meter dunes. Very surreal.

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We have been staying at some pretty swish campsites thus far. It's all very civilised with plush toilet blocks overlooking rivers and swimming pools surrounded by deck chairs. It's not the roughing it in Africa one might expect. The food has been good, we're making friends and loving Africa thus far. Nothing else to report other than I'm getting a wicked truckies arm and Nat is still trying to work out what a hundred men from mars (aka a million men or more) has got to do with Africa….

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It's supposed to be a challenge, it's a shortcut! If it were easy it would just be the way.

Lots o' love,
Ev and Nat

Posted by Nat and Ev 07:01 Archived in South Africa Comments (2)

Cape Town

Deep inside of a parallel universe

sunny 30 °C
View Round the world in 250 days on Nat and Ev's travel map.

Cape town is Sydney in a parallel universe, they speak English (very helpful if it's your only language), the wine is good, the climate is spectacular, toilet paper is soft and plentiful, they care about the world cup and their super 14 team sucks (but at least you get to watch the game!) One would think that being so similar to home would give us Sydneysiders a shot in the arm, a little piece of home before the long journey. To a certain extent it has done the trick but feeling so close to home yet not being home is probably the cruelest trick of all. Never the less we have thoroughly enjoyed recharging the batteries as well as checking out a few of Cape towns gems.

We had planned to start with the quintessential CT experience of climbing Table mountain. Sounds crazy after 30 odd hours on a plane although I have heard that exercise is the best way to counter jet lag. Unfortunately our plans changed when after 30 minutes by the carousel we discovered Nat's bag was still at Heathrow. Of coarse this is a dream come true for Nat. BA gave us 35 pounds to buy a new set of clothes but with nothing but the clothes on her back 35 pounds was never going to be enough. Fortunately our insurance also covers luggage delays and so rather than spending our first hours in Africa climbing a mountain we spent the morning searching for the perfect little top… I shouldn't jest. I'm a bit of a fan of shopping myself and with Nat in a state of euphoria we managed to stretch our budget to sneak a T-shirt in for me.

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We hadn't planned too much for our first few days so when we awoke to find the table cloth covering Table mountain on Thursday and Friday we took the chance to spend a few days getting our gear in order and exploring the city. Friday Arvo we decided to head over the back of table mountain to go for a swim and to watch the sunset over the very snooty Camps Bay. Camps was out of control with a massive cross shore gale blowing so we headed up the coast to Clifton for a dip. Nat was feeling under the weather so I had to brave it alone. Despite the unseasonably warm dry weather very few people were venturing into the water. I was worried it was a shark thing but as soon as the first wave washed around my ankles the reason became very apparent. Describing the water as cold, invigorating, freezing, bitterly cold or frigid wouldn't be doing it justice. I'm not sure what the temp was but the Atlantic seaboard cops the currents from Antarctica and on this particular day it wouldn't have surprised me if chunks of ice started washing up on the shore. The cold shower after I got out felt like it was burning my numb skin. I found out later that the other side is much warmer but it's also much sharkier. I think I'd rather take my chances with hypothermia rather than one of South Africa's leaping great Whites…

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Saturday morning was our last chance to climb Table mountain and with the top clear of clouds and all the shopping out of the way there was nothing holding us back. It's a gruelling hike, only a few kilometres but it's pretty much straight up so it's like climbing uneven stairs. Add to that the blazing midday sun, a temperature somewhere around 35, a lack of shade and a serious underestimation of how much water we needed and it made for a very tough climb. We had calculated that based on the number of people we had overtaken on the way up we were about the fourth slowest climbers. We comforted ourselves with the fact that if you take into account all the people who catch the Cable car we rocket up to the top 10%. I'm sure most of you follow the same hike duration philosophy as we do, that is – if the sign says 3 hours it should take less than two hours even if you dawdle a little. Everyone knows the duration signs need to cater for the lowest common denominator. I believe strongly in this philosophy and so with two kms of flat terrain to cover and only 30 minutes to cover it the last half an hour became a dash for dignity. I made it by 2 minutes, Nat scrapped in with about 3 second to spare by my watch. Still not ready for Kili but I think we're making inroads!

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I always enjoy going to see local sport especially when you get to go to an iconic venue. My passion is rugby grounds. I guess it's like visiting famous battle grounds you've seen on TV time and time again. At present the list is a little light on but it was with childish
excitement that we entered Newlands, with it's table mountain backdrop. As formentioned, Capetownians have the same sporting affliction as us Sydneysiders, a rugby team that promises much but generally delivers little. As someone who feels this pain more than most (being both a Sydneysider and a Capetownian) Scott Tubman was the perfect spectating companion. We wer'nt really expecting a big crowd or a good game but we got both with the Stormers upsetting the Lions in front of a long weekend crowd. On a side note, Biltong is good. We also had the chance to hang out with Hayley and Ben Tubman a little over the weekend which was fantastic. It's was really cool to see them although playing with Ben made us realise how much we 're missing Hughie. Easter Sunday was pretty chilled out. We headed back over to Scott and Hayley's for Church and dinner on Sunday night. It was awesome to worship with so many people after not having a formal church service for three months. Thanks for taking us in and showing us a good time.

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Monday Morning we took in the second quintessential Capetown gem. We went to Robben Island which is where Nelson was held for 18 of his 30 odd years of his incarceration. It's a barren harsh place and hearing of hardships political activists faced under apartheid from a former political prisoner certainly makes you wonder how such a policy was tolerated until so recently. Inevitably these kind of thoughts quickly brig you to the problems that plague the world today and it's hard to see how things are ever going to improve. I guess it's one step at a time and for South Africa the first few steps have been taken. Let's pray they keep walking in the right direction.

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We rented a car and headed south along the beautiful Atlantic cost the views are absolutely magnificent (apparently). Once again visibility was to rob us of visual splendour. Fortunately the Pacific coast was cloud free and so we decided to check out the local African Penguin colony. Despite the fact that African penguins have had a rough trot over the past decade there are still plenty of the little guys and as a result there is only loose protection. We arrived in the late arvo just as the penguins were returning home with bellys full of partially digested fishies for the wife and kids, hmmm smells yummy. We watched from a distance for a while but curiosity got the better of us and we decided to see if we could get a little closer. it got to the point where I was seriously tempted to pick one up but fear of vicious penguin mauling kept my hands at bay.

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The next morning we got up early and drove the last 30 kms or so to the tip of Africa. I was prepared for disappointment. I'm always a little sceptical about attractions of geographical significance (despite my love of geography) The most budget of these attractions would undoubtedly be the tropic of Capricorn. Very disappointing. Fortunately the Cape has much more to offer than a geographical claim to fame. We also walked around to the Cape of Good hope. There was something stirring about standing on the headland and envisioning Cook and then the First Fleet rounding the bend and heading for Australia. It must have been tempting for them to stay in Cape Town enjoying the good life rather than venturing out into the unknown.

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After a leisurely drive around false bay we headed inland to the Cape winelands for a few days of fine wines and hearty meals to make the most of the wine before we venture out into the land of poor viticulture. I have always been a big fan of town planning and the guy behind Stellenbosch (Mr Stel) did a might fine job of crating the perfect little wine town. We only had time for one Vineyard in the afternoon but with 12 different wines to taste and a generous guide I don't think I could have made it through the second vineyard. After a brief arvo sleep we headed out to a restaurant that specialises in local dishes. Safe to say anywhere that takes such pride in it's wines is bound to take a similar amount of pride in there food. And of coarse every good meal needs a healthy glass o vino to bring the flavours out. we left feeling very contented and ready for some serious snooze time.

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I have some other, more confronting, thoughts about Africa that I'm going to post on my old blog site http://evsnow.blogspot.com/

Tonight we meet our travel companions for the next three weeks.
Fingers crossed...

Cute and cuddly boys, cute and cuddly...

Lots of love,
Ev and Nat

P.S. Only had to drop my pants three times in Cape Town.

Posted by Nat and Ev 12:18 Archived in South Africa Comments (1)

Kazakhstan round up

Near, far, wherever you are…

sunny 9 °C
View Round the world in 250 days on Nat and Ev's travel map.

The last two months have been an awesome experience. I think if I came to Kazakhstan for a week or two I wouldn’t really get it. It’s got a few cool things to see and the Soviet / Asian combo is very strange especially if you haven’t been to Northern Asia or Eastern Europe before but from a tourists perspective it’s not a must see. Staying in the one place for two months has given us a chance to get to know Shymkent but much more importantly to get to know some really cool people. Sure we have seen some cool things and done some cool stuff but at the end of the day 99% of why Kaz has been so great is the people.

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I spent most of my time with Vitalik and Arman neither of whom speak much English (although I suspect Vitalik knows much more than he lets on) so most of the time we communicated in charades and very slow broken English and broken Russian. Russian isn’t considered a beautiful language but Vitalik speaks it with such joy and passion that at times I could have sworn he was speaking Italian. I heard these three expressions on a regular basis.
- Evan you are very good man
- Evan you are reality man (by which he meant I was a real man)
- I think it’s ok, I think it’s fine (used as a word of comfort when I had botched something up)

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The other highlight was spending time with Andy and Sarah. For starters they watch West Wing, play Settlers of Catan and 500 and Sarah is an awesome cook, a skill witch become so much more valuable when every restaurant in town servers the same dishes, Plov and Shashlik. It was also awesome to witness at close range the work they are doing here and the profound follow on affects it is having in a struggling part of the world.

Our unofficial assimilation officer was Alice, who took it upon herself to make sure we felt at home as soon as we touched down. Alice has a British / Belgian thing going on so she sounds British and on the surface seems British but has a cool continental undercurrent. It’s kind of hard to explain but what I’m trying to say is we really like her.

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It was hard to leave, especially in such a rushed fashion but I’m sure I will see some, if not all of them again. In fact on our farewell card we received strict orders from the most dainty of the CR team Masha who informed us “you must come back to stay with us for 5 years and then you can go home!”

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On the Kg front Kaz wasn’t too helpful. Despite all the manual labour the plentiful, cheep, heavy meals kept me at a stable low 90’s. Still got some work to do but I’m sure Africa will get me well and truly into the 80’s.

Nat is still collecting her thought re Kazakhstan so keep an eye out for a "Kaz according to Nat" update.

As promised here is my new trackie.

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For now it’s time to push on with the sounds of TOTO on loop in my head….

Here’s looking at you kid

Ev and Nat

Posted by Nat and Ev 02:44 Archived in Kazakhstan Comments (1)

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