Island Life

29 06 2009

I finished work early on friday and myself and H got on the Ferry on a blisteringly hot day to go to the Isle of Wight. After meeting her mum and brother we headed to the local for a few jars, which turned into a few more after closing time.

Waking up on Saturday slightly worse for wear, we headed out to west Wight and Alum Bay, a place famous for its 21 different colours of sand. The cost of this place is extortionate, with parking being £4 and the little cable car that takes you up and down the cliff being £3 per person each way. We decided to take the free option and walk down the 188 steps. This is worth the exercise, because you get better views of the Needles lighthouse from here.

We spent a couple of hours on the beach before leaving to get some lunch and a pint at the Wight Mouse Inn. I had a nice ale called Lemony Cricket which had a nice refreshing citrusy taste.

After lunch we headed to Carisbrooke castle in Newport to have a look around at some historicalness. The castle had once been prison to Charles 1st (who tried to escape twice, but got stuck in the window frame on one occasion) and whose daughter died there after catching a chill from playing bowls in a spring shower.

In the evening we headed for a Tapas meal before having a relatively early night. The next day we headed for a walk along the coast from Shanklin to Sandown and back again, before having lunch with H’s Nan.

The weather was beautiful all weekend and I had a great time, and I look forward to coming back again.  Shame its back to work again today.



26 06 2009

Talented people. Annoying aren’t they. With their talent and adulation. On that note I went to see Aqualung with H, The Boy Lord and Indiegirl last night. It was a sit down gig at the Wedgewood rooms and the atmosphere was nice and relaxed with candles on the tables.

The first performer was a folky young lady under the name of Foreign Slippers. The Swedish lady could sing beautifully and it was a powerful vocal performance, and I loved it. She also had a hat made of twigs that made her look like an Ent.

Second up were Kaisercartel, a two piece from Brooklyn NY who were part country part folk, all excellent. They finished their set by playing while walking around the audience, and I got a lovely smile from the lead singer as she was leaving the place.

Then comes that incredibly talented chap Matt Haines. His band Aqualung has been around for a few years and has been on my radar on and off for a while. I recently got a copy of 2007’s Memory Man, and it was a revelation to me, it is fantastic and I recommend that you have a listen to some of the tracks on it, Pressure Suit and Something to Believe in spring to mind.

So I was looking forward to this gig, I think I may have been the only one out of the 4 of us that were. I really wasn’t disappointed at all, and neither were anybody else. The incredibly talented guy had the audience enthralled and was a tremendously nice chap, chatting to the audience and mucking about with his brother Ben who plays the guitar for him. They played for an hour and a half and clearly enjoyed the intimate atmosphere. The audience clearly enjoyed it too and the applause went on for a while, as did the gig, 80 minutes of brilliance.

OK, maybe they aren’t annoying, its more realistic that I am jealous.


23 06 2009

I found a rather excellent widget to add to this site, it now shows my Flickr photos on the right side of the screen.  Admittedly, it is only the last 3 photos, so I am going to have to take more now.

Go on click it you know you want too.


22 06 2009

Now to the last leg of the journey, and heading to Zanzibar, the Indian Ocean Island, home of Spices and the birth place of Freddie Mercury. 

Docking at Stone TownAn early dash to the ferry had us awake at 5, and the 25 mile crossing was a lot calmer than I thought it would be.  This was going to be the relaxing part of the trip and also the part where I would say goodbye to everybody.  We landed in sunny Stone town and had our passports stamped, before getting into 3 cramped mini-busses to take us to the Coco De Mer hotel. 

Once settled in our room we had a spice tour booked which started in the old Portugese fort which gave Stone Town its name, as it was the first Stone Stone Town FortBuilding.  It was also a key part in one of the worst parts of African History, as it was a prison for Slaves.  They were shipped here before being taken to a slave market in the town.  This was our next stop, and was not an overly pleasant one, looking at the cramped conditions they were held in.

After this we headed to the Sultan of Omans former palace, and lunch before going to the Spice Plantation.  Here we got the chance to try all of the spices that Zanzibar is famous for, followed by coconut from the tree and an amazing fruit salad of freshly picked Pineapple, Passion Fruit and Mango among others.

In the evening we headed to the bar of the Africa house hotel.  On the 3rd floor this has amazing views over the ocean, and we were hoping for a decent sunset, but this didn’t happen.  After a few cocktails we headed to the night food market, which has to be experienced. The choice of food on offer was spectacular, the sea food was superb.  You picked what you wanted and had it cooked for you there.  I ate shark, calamari, lobster and drank garapa (sugar cane juice) before finishing it off with a chocolate pancake.

SunsetThe next day was the first of our 2 beach days and we headed north to  Kendwa and one of the whitest, cleanest, emptiest beaches I have seen.  The water was blue and warm and ideal for swimming.  With one of the most incredible sunsets that I have ever seen. 

In the evening there was a big party in the bar. 

Our 2nd day at the beach was a dissapointment, there was a proper monsoon style downpour, meaning that we couldn’t really get outside, but in the afternoon, the sun came out and a group of us headed up the beach in search of Ice cream.

The next day we headed back into Stone town.  Once there, sadly, the  tour left, and after a lot of swapping of email addresses they were gone.  I had another day to kill, so I spent some time wandering the shops, trying not to spend anymore on trinkets.  This didn’t work.  In the evening I went back to the food market, before hitting the sack.  The next morning I spent a long time sitting with a glass of Mango juice reading a book and watching about 100 traders carrying sacks off a boat that had landed on the beach.

Later I had to get the ferry back.  I wasn’t too worried as the journey over was nice and flat.  How wrong could I possibly be.  I was fairly ill.  After I got to Dar I got a taxi to my hotel and promptly fell asleep.  I was woken up by a wedding party outside of my room playing drums quite fantastically, and a fitting way to end my journey as I was leaving at 5am the next day.

Brief Interlude

22 06 2009

Sorry to disrupt the Safari blogging, but one of the reasons it has been taking so long is that I have been watching the ICC Twenty-20 World Cup.  This has been taking place in England, and despite another poor showing fromm the England Mens team, this has been a fantastic tournament.

There have been simultaneous tournaments for men and women, and Englands Womenas team have won their second tournament this year, after the 50 Over world Cup, so incredibly well done to them.  They have played brilliantly well all tournament and are deserved winners on home soil.

The Mens Tournament was won by Pakistan, a country where cricket is almost a religion, and a country that has been starved of success and international cricket due to terrorism.  When it first started, T-20 was seen to favour the batsmen, with long slogs over the boundry being the key to success.  This final showed how untru this is, the 2 best bowling teams were in the final, with Sri Lanka’s line up of Mulithiran, Mallinga and Mendis enough to scare any batsman in the world.  Equally though Pakistans, especially Umer Gul, Abdul Razzaq and the 17 year old Aamir.  The final was a great affair, with Pakistan running out deserved winners.

Now to get cricket back into their country.

To Dar

19 06 2009

We paid our bar bills at the campsite, had breakfast and then set out on our 2 day drive to the beach at Dar Es Salaam.  The first days driving was fairly uneventful and we made it to our camp at Tembo.  After we set up the tents, myself and Hazel went for a walk with a guide, who took us up far higher and Tembofurther than we thought we would.  Walking through the Villages we were greeteb by kids shouting ‘Jambo’ (hello) and and a few of the braver ones shouting ‘Mizungu’ (White man).  We climbed to a logging camp run by a dutch company, that have helped the area no end.  They have provided jobs in the logging camp and factory, a medical centre and houses for the local people and a school for the kids.  Now our guide was at university, studying tourism and Geography, whith my background we got on well.  In the camp they have a cable car for transporting the cut timberLogging Cable Car and workers, the disparity between the european money and the african shanty towns is there to be seen. 

Back at the camp dinner had been cooked and was a fantastic curry made by Dave and a few others.  Dave, conveniently is a chef at 15, one of Jamie Olivers restaurants, and it was good.  We also had chocolate cake and custard for desert.

The next day was the same again, breakfast followed by a long drive to Dar Es Salaam.  Stopping for lunch, we headed into Dar in the afternoon.  This  is the busiest city that we would go to and definately not one that I would like to drive a truck around.  Rich did blindingly well getting the beast around the tight streets, only once having a problem witha turn, almost hitting an car, and once going down a one way street the wrong way, but we got there, and while Marijke was getting our ferry tickets for the next day we hit the slowest internet cafe in the world.

Getting to the Dar beach was a lot easier, we just drove onto a ferry across the water, the sand was amazing and the water warm.  We walked down the beach and then spoke to some Swiss guys who have become my heroes.  They had bought a van in Switzerland and had driven it through Europe, parts of the middle east and down Eastern Africa.  Apart from a breakdown in Ethiopia and one in Nairobi, it had been plain sailing all the way for them.  They were heading towards Botswana and then to South Africa where they are selling their van.  Maybe someday I will do that sort of thing, but I doubt it.

Anyway, next up passports and yellow fever vaccination certificates at the raedy, were off to Zanzibar.

Ngorongoro Crater

18 06 2009

The night on the rim of the Ngorongoro Crater was cold, colder than we had been for the last week anyway, we were warmed by the campfire and the bloody great elephant that was in the campsite.  I mean about 5m from the fire.  Pete had earlier almost walked into the thing in the dark.  It just plodded on though.  Myself and Steve were trying to find out if the elephant had a name from a security guard.  On hearing that it didn’t we christened him Bernard.  Bernard the Elephant now lives in the Ngorongoro crater.

We had a good dinner and some Ugali which is a cornmeal based dough that is rolled into a ball in your hands, then make a dent with your thumb and fill it with the vegetables and meat mixture.  It tasted great.

CraterWe woke up early to prepare for the trip into the crater, and leaving before dawn we were hoping to make the most of the early day and see lots of animals.  Driving around the rim we got a spectacular sunrise before descending into the crater itself.  The road down is narrow and steep but has some of the most incredible views. 

Halfway down we started seeing animals, tiny dots on the valley floor.  FlamingoHundreds of tiny dots.  Hundreds of dots that slowly grew into Wildebeest, Elephants, Zebra, Buffalo, Rhino, Ostrich, Hippo, as well as thousands of Pink Flamingo’s in the salt lake.

The crater has the highest concentration of Lions in the world, with 2 prides within the crater rim, we saw both of these, the first with 2 cubs and the leader of the pride sat on a river bank, and the second a few hours after they Lion Cubhad made a kill and were all lethargic and feeding on a Wildebeest.

We took a drive down to a lake where we could stretch our legs and I sat photographing some tawny eagles skimming the lake and harassing people for food.

After the pit-sop we left the crater seeing more rhino and hippo and headed back to Arusha for another night in the snake park.  Once we got there however our first stop was a trip to the Maasai cultural centre which gave us an insight into the nomadic ways of the people, and then we went on a walk to the local village, where we were mobbed by kids who wanted us to play with them (cue plenty of swinging them around) and were treated to Kidsome Maasai singing and dancing.

Heading back via the local hospital to see some snake bite victims, we hit the bar for the evening and went for a midnight walk around the snake park, which was a spooky experience.


16 06 2009

We took down our tents with hefty hangovers and large bar bills from the night before and packed them onto the new Safari Ferrari’s to go to the Serengeti National park for a couple of nights.  The roads were the best that we had seen for a few days and for some reason our drivers would only do 50kph, which was proving incredibly frustrating, especially as the weather wasn’t too great to start off with, and the fact that we kept having to stop for various different things, charcoal and the bank being one of them.

We then had to stop at the gate of the Ngorongoro reserve to pick up passes for there, and by the time we got to the gate of the Serengeti, driving across Agamma Lizardthe flattest most empty landscape I have ever seen the mood inside the Safari Ferrari was incredibly dark.  Our spirits lifted when we were allowed to walk to the viewing platform to have a look at the Seregeti stretching before us, and even more when we saw the brightly coloured Agamma Lizards basking on the rocks. 

Soon though we were back on the road, and the wildlife was fairly limited, we found one lion laying on a rock and a baboon about 300m away.  At least now we the mood had lightened, and soon we were seeing more animals, small clumps of Wildebeest a few Zebra here and there and the odd Ostrich.

Suddenly cresting a small hill we were struck with one of the most incredible sights I have ever seen, the Wildebeest migration.  The Plains were dotted as Wildebeest migrationfar as the eye can see with hundreds of thousands of Wildebeest all heading in the same direction, following the rain to their next feeding spot.  This sight was worth the cost of the trip alone, it was a totally spectacular sight and I apologise, but the photos in no way do it justice, you will have to take my word for it.   After that everything else seemed a bit tame for the afternoon, but we did get a better look at a Leopard and some Lions in trees, Lion in a Treeand some pretty spectacular sunset shots before hitting our bush camp for the evening.  Here we set up our tents and were told to look out for lions if we went to the toilet in the middle of the night.  After a smoky campfire we hit the tents and waited for daybreak.

The next day we had breakfast and then hit the trails again, where we saw Hippo’s, Hyenas, Lions starting the morning hunt, monkeys and the Wildebeest migration again.  This time though there were about 20 000 Zebras there too.  We also went to the visitor centre and saw a lot of Rock Hyrax’s, which are apparently a close relative of the elephant, although they look like a large mouse. 

Serengeti sunsetShortly after this we left the Serengeti and headed towards Olduvai Gorge, which is commonly known at the cradle of mankind, and is one of the most important archeological sites in the world.  It was here in this small part of the Rift Valley that the oldest fossil tools were found along with Homo habilis fossils and in nearby Laetoli that the oldest known human form footprints were found, those of Australopithecus afarensis (Fact!).  These are the first to have the big toe in line for walking rather than holding onto branches.  After a quick look around the museum we started to head towards our camp for the night on the rim of the Ngorongoro crater. 

Ngorongoro CraterThe scenery leading up to this was stunning, but turning the corner to see the crater for the first time really has the wow factor.  The crater is the worlds largest, non-flooded, caldera (collapsed volcano to you and me) and is truly, truly spectacular.  The crater is over 600m deep and covers an area of 200 square km (Fact!).

The sun shining off the lake and the cloud coming over the rim made the view remarkable (do you get the feeling that I liked this), and that was without even going down into the crater itself to see the wildlife.

After taking photos. we headed for an eventful night on the crater rim…

The Road to Arusha

11 06 2009

After a night in Nairobi and the first night in the Acacia tents we set off on the long (7 hour) and extremely bumpy road to Arusha in Tanzania, whose clock tower represents, the mid-way point between Cairo and Capetown (Fact!).

We set out on the Zambezi for the first time, with Rich the guide/driver being an expert in African driving (hitting speed bumps at full pelt, avoiding cars while doing 100KPH) launching us down the highway towards the Tanzanian border.  I was sat backwards on the table seats facing Steve.  The nausea was worth it (from the bumps, not Steve’s face) seeing the look on Steve’s face whenever we went over big bumps and we all left our seats.

We hit the border after a couple of hours and had our passports checked and stamped, and changed our left over Kenyan Shillings for Tanzanian ones, and were then officially into the second part of our tour. 

We drove on for about 3 hours before we stopped at Arusha, where we were mobbed.  I was asked by the same guy if I wanted to buy the same out of date newspaper about 6 times.  We spent about an hour here being hasseled with the girls especially hating it, before we went to the Arusha Cultural centre to look at some artwork and to see some Tanzanite, one of the rarest and most valuable gemstones on Earth.  The reason for its high value is firstly the incredible blue colour, and secondly, becaue it is only found in one place in the world, the Merelani hills of Tanzania.  There is an estimated 10 years supply left, and consequently the price is high.  I had thought about buying some, like some of the others did, but then again I didn’t have $300 for a small gem.

After this detour we hit the road to our camp for the night the Meralani Snake Park and campsite.  There is a very informative collection of snakes that they collect anti-venom from.  The park was set up for this reason and treats people from all over Africa.

There is also a really good bar with a crocodile skin on the ceiling.  Cue a long night drinking.


10 06 2009

All of my holiday photos are up on Flickr now. Click here.