Where do babies come from?

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Whenever Waldu and his family went on road trips and passed baboons, his parents would say “look Waldu, there is your family.” 

 Children were told that when parents wanted a child they simply went out looking for a baby baboon, bought him home, shaved his hair off and raised him. 

We have seen more than enough baboons on our trip so far (with a lot more to come), and every time we see them we cannot help but laugh and say “hey, there’s where I come from.”

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Peril on the high seas

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We took (another) holiday from our holiday and headed to Zanzibar, leaving The Beast behind at our beachside campsite for a few days.  We didn’t take the traditional route, opting to head over to Zanzibar Island from the north coast (instead of Dar es Salaam) on a dhow boat.  The 4 hour trip was all smooth sailing, but the return trip was a lot less painless.

 

A bigger, better dhow than the one we sailed in

 

Ok, so we aren’t sailors like Nikki & Andrew, but the little knowledge we have (bolstered by 7 days sailing in the Whitsundays) told us that attempting to head across the Indian Ocean with a high swell, 18 knot winds and with a wooden dhow boat driven only by a single 15 horse power motor, was probably not smart. 

1km out from the beach and our fears sunk in.  Nic went pale white with a look of terror in her eyes, as the boat rose us against the waves and crashed down again.  The spray of the waves turned into showers of water, coming in from all sides.  We grabbed for life jackets and hung on.  Waldu’s thigh was bruising under the force of Nic’s fingers clinging to him and with the thought of enduring hours of the horrid waves for 30 miles back to the mainland, or being put in a much worse position, he told the young skipper to return to shore and we held on tight for a rough ride in.  The next day we opted for a short plane trip back to the mainland. 

Crystal clear waters of Zanzibar

Wild elephant or wild child?

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Confronted with a stamping, trumpet noises, ear waving, tail waving elephant (all bad signs) or a small child with a snotty nose, what would you choose to face off against?  It was a hard choice for Waldu.

 You see, our last days in Tanzania took us to Ruaha National Park, where amongst other animals we saw herds of elephants.  On a late afternoon game drive we spotted three separate groups of elephants, close to the road and one group crossing the road.  We waited patiently for the herd to cross and proceeded forward, as you do in these situations in Africa (so glad we read that pamphlet about these situations when in South Africa).  

 With Waldu at the helm, it was up to Nic to take photos, which was fine until a very large male elephant turned and began flapping his ears and tail, then the trumpeting noise and stomping his foot.  Within a second the whole group next to him turned and did the same.  “Drive Waldu drive,” said Nic, pleased that the elephants were to the rear of the car.  “Do you have a good picture,” said Waldu, with his foot firmly on the break.  “Drive, f@*!’ing drive!” screamed Nic as the elephant started to move towards the car.

 

Now some may say that Nic is a scaredy cat, especially when she didn’t sleep all night because of the sound of roaring lions (a sound Waldu thinks is peaceful), barking hippos and the threat of baboons in the morning sun.  But let’s just turn the tables…a couple of days later, while walking in a village in Malawi, a small child ran towards us on a narrow dirt road, snot and mucus streaming from its nose with his hands facing up to Waldu wanting to be picked up or to shake hands.  Waldu dropped Nic’s hand, made a detour and moved faster than he did when confronted with a herd of angry elephants.  So who is the scaredy cat? 

Even the smallest bokkie has less fear than Nic!

PS. Still no lions to be seen

Waldu the lion tracker

 

On safari in Tanzania

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There are several wildlife reserves in Tanzania, but none more famous than Ngorongoro (Crater) and The Serengeti.  After a quick stop over at Mount Kilimanjaro for pics (seriously, we are no where fit enough to climb it) we headed further west towards the expansive wildlife plains, and the tourist prices. 

With a US$140 price tag for the two of us and The Beast just to enter Ngorongoro Reserve, and faced with a further US$140 for Serengeti, and US$60 for camping AND a return fee of a further US$140 to drive back out of Ngorongoro  we decided to scale back.  With some advice from the friendly gatekeeper  we opted out of the US$200 fee + guide fees to drive into the crater itself, and decided to take the 20km drive through the Serengeti to the main gate and then come back from there.  

“Do you think they will see us behind this rock?”

 

We saw part of the great migration of Wildebeest (north bound) across the magnificent open savannahs of the Serengeti.  Plus there were zebras, gazelles, giraffes, elephants, and of course, heaps of Masai Warriors ready to pose for tourist photos (no doubt for a small fee).  Not to mention a friendly group of hyenas basking in the sun.  Waldu tried to get Nic to step out and take a pic with them – not a chance. 

PS. Still no lions to be seen

Beach to bush

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We didn’t actually camp on our first night back in The Beast, or the second or third.  Night 1 took us to the quaint, peaceful bird and wildlife conservation park at Watuma Beach where we met seasoned Kenyan travellers who recommended we head to Lions Bluff for some wildlife spotting.

Our GPS gave us a time at destination of 3pm.  This was our first real understanding of the difference between GPS time and Africa real time.  Africa roads are in unbelievably poor condition so what we thought would be a dusty, bumpy ride ended up being a very slow (34km per hour average) rally drive around potholes if we were lucky enough to have asphalt, or scarcely grated tracks.

Our 7pm arrival at the main gate of the Nature Conservation park, was met with a friendly security man who, despite the Australian number plates on the car, believed that we were Kenyan residents so should pay the greatly reduced local entry fee.  

As we drove towards Lions Bluff lodge a hyena and her 3 young cubs crossed our path, and lifted our spirits after such a long day driving.  This was short lived when we saw the camp site.  “Nah, nah” said Nic at the site of the barren campsite with prison like abolitions, with a price tag of US$30 each per night!  “The showers are designed to keep the monkeys and baboons out,” explained Waldu in a failed attempt to win Nic over. 

We returned to Lions Bluff to treat ourselves to two nights in luxury tented lodge accommodation.  This is a spectacular spot with great views over the wildlife plains below, and they run at a lower price than the expensive lodges in the nearby more popular reserves.  The lodge is run by the local community, but at western standards, so all money invested goes back to the locals and we couldn’t be more happy then to support them and their efforts for nature conservation.

 

Our two night stay at Lions Bluff was made even more memorable on our early morning game drive.  Whilst we didn’t see Lions, we did spot the elusive Leopard, a chance and rare encounter.  Waldu has never seen this beautiful creature, which now means he can tick off seeing all of the Big 5.  Elephants roamed freely, eland and buffalo posed for countless photos.  And the birds were plentiful (Mad dog Morgan you would love this!).   Sadly no lions to be seen, only heard.

Sadly we had to keep moving, back to the road and our first border crossing.  Unexpectedly everything went very smoothly and we crossed both borders with no fuss and in minimal time.  Ah, sometimes Africa is on your side.

News in Mombasa

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A few days into the new year (sorry posting this late as internet connection is scarce) and the big smiles of our recent engagement had been wiped from our faces as news of our car and its saga-like trip from Italy came in. Or rather, news of our car didn’t come in thick and fast and prompted us to become detectives in a race to locate our car and the truth.  Yes Rod, this is a long story…

We can best describe our search in news stories because you would have thought that we were in some sort of news breaking illegal dealing:

3 January: “Fraud shocks Aussie traveller”

Searching for their car, two Aussie travellers unveiled a case of fraud in Mombasa that left them wondering if in fact their precious cargo had been stolen. In the search for answers, and not getting any reply (as promised) from Kenya clearing & shipping agents, Joe’s Freighters, Nic & Waldu enlisted the help of a local expert, Fred – friend, driver, experienced car importer.

On a chase for the facts, the two ‘detectives’ discovered that their contact and Joe’s offices were not even based in Mombasa, but miles away in Nairobi. They traced the shipment, through another company running under Joe’s banner (Technofreight), back to the shipping line, a reputable company, where it was soon revealed that paperwork had been signed fraudulently to release the vehicle. Incidentally, later, Fox International (yet another company running under Joe’s banner), declared “we did it for you, so you could get your car sooner.” Threats of investigation by the shipping company promoted action from the hard nose senior contact from Joe’s, and saw the day end with promises of a 12noon collection the next day.

4 January: “Ransom demanded”

To release your car we need $US1300 in cash stated the ‘ransom email’ that read at 3.50pm, many hours after the set collection time. Early in the day, Nic & Waldu arrived as summonsed, ‘promptly at 12noon’, to another address for the elusive Joe’s Freighters, only to find what could only be described as a make shift office. An old computer sat in one office, while two aging school desks presented the ‘reception area’ next to an idle photocopier. “Reality sunk in then,” said Nic, “this was surely a scam – a fake office, many companies masking each other, forged signature, and a contact ‘Santos’ who had disappeared from contact.” “No, not ready, maybe at 4.30pm” was the reluctant greeting from a Fox International ‘official’ when Nic & Waldu prompted a response from the ignorant staff. Hurling abuse, screaming and making accusations of misconduct had absolutely no impact on the lazy local staff. Retreating to the hotel felt like a dog walking away from a fight with its tail between its legs.

After many more phone calls to dead numbers, finally Santos (thought of as a fictional character by that time), made contact and promised updated calls at 2.30pm, 3.30pm… Time came and went and then the request for ‘ransom’ in ‘cash terms’ was received along with a “detailed invoice”, which was the first time any clearing costs were even mentioned. Putting aside the fact the amount was excessive (above the cost to clear into the UK) and the details looked suspicious, there was no way to physically withdraw that sum of money 10 minutes before banks closed, and no want to adhere to their ‘cash terms’, so the travellers sat it out for yet another night.

5 January: “Highway robbery in Kenya” On the advice of locals, Nic & Waldu gave in and opted to pay the amount demanded, fearing any argument would impose further delays. Withdrawing 20,000 Kenya Shillings at a time (the ATM limit), Waldu filled his wallet with cash ready to hand it over when ‘The Beast’ was in sight. After a quick stop off to collect a bank cheque, as some sort of security, it was back to the same bogus looking office for yet another attempt to collect the car. In looking through the ‘official detailed supporting invoices’ (of course it is common practice to make up invoices in Africa), an amount of US$195 jumped off the page. “Late documentation” fees. Despite it being fruitless as the money had already been handed over, Nic still attempted to argue a refund of this amount given all documents were lodged ahead of time. “That amount is because our staff stood in line, but the line was long and then the office was closed so he had to come back after the holidays, and then it was all too late so you were charged a fee from the CFS.” This seems the normal and acceptable logic here, so it is pointless to argue.

So a 16 day shipment turned into almost two months, but finally by lunchtime, ‘The Beast’ was reunited with the travellers and it was back on the road again. After farewelling our new friend Fred, and the staff of Bahari Beach Resort (who gave us the best impression of how friendly Kenyans can be) we headed north.

Ok, so we didn’t actually make the news in Mombasa, but if we were in Australia we thought we would surely get coverage of our saga. By the way, one of the top stories on 4 January in Mombasa was about how police discovered the remains of 12 donkeys and warned locals to be vigilant with their meat purchases and in restaurants as they feared the donkeys had made it to many a dinner table over the new year period!

Ons is verloof

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1st of January 2012: a memorable sunset, a bottle of champagne, a once in a lifetime question.  Ons is verloof – we are engaged. 

 

 

The day started like any normal new years day (a consequence of Nic mixing drinks), then saw us touch down in Kilimanjaro before a turbulent flight to Mombasa that left the lady in front of us gagging into a sick bag.  To say Waldu was a little stressed by the circumstances would be an understatement. 

But the day ended perfectly and Waldu’s plan was set into motion.  Sunset drinks overlooking the Indian Ocean, a surprise bottle of champagne, and a marriage proposal (and the answer ‘yes’ of course).  What a way to start the new year and to start our Africa road trip.

And the ring?  

It is back in South Africa, but there is a substitute, it’s called ‘champagne and shells’ and it is has been hand crafted by Waldu himself.  Made from local Mombasa materials – a shell from the beach and the wire from the top of our champagne bottle! 

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