Sunday, 14 June 2015

Mozambique and Egypt

After a few warnings about corrupt border officials and refusal of entry into the country, we boarded a bus from Johannesburg to Maputo. We had a surprisingly smooth crossing through the hectic border controls and rode through onto Mozambique soil. After some interesting driving, avoiding potholes by sharing lanes with oncoming traffic, we made it to the capital and settled down for the night. 

The next day was spent walking round the coastal city for a good few hours. Again warnings of corruption and danger in Maputo appeared unfounded, as we wondered around the laid back and friendly city. I could tell Sammie had spent a fair while in Africa as she said how chilled and pretty the city was as she stepped over a pile of rubbish floating in stagnant water. 

The next stop was Tofo, 10 hours north on the east coast, with a packed bus playing the ever popular game of stopping every 50 metres to let somebody on or off. Upon arrival we found a hostel on a beautiful beach stretching on for miles. The first night we thought we had come to a bit of a dull place, we were the liveliest at the bar and we playing scrabble in silence. Fortunately there was a few arrivals the next day. 

Realising that leaving this place would mean 2 full days on a bus, we decided to settle in and spend the next 10 days relaxing here. We soon established a daily routine, nipping to the market in the morning to get our fresh bread, tropical fruit and vegetables. We then spent the days at the beach, with surfing and volleyball breaking up some long stretches of sunbathing. In the evenings we cooked our meals in the communal kitchen, often eating some of the catches the boats bought in that morning. One night a big group of us chipped in to buy lobsters in bulk, with my 4 costing me £3.54. It was delicious. 

Leaving Tofo we headed on a bus back to Maputo, then a second bus back to Johannesburg. Here our hostel had double booked a couple we were travelling and the owners proceeded to call me a little boy who knows nothing and told our entire group that we were the wrong crowd and they didn't want us staying there. They then kicked us out and left us in the centre of Johannesburg with no transport, phone or accommodation. Sammie was the angriest I've ever seen her, she slightly raised her voice and said 'I think you're very rude'. She was furious. 

After finding expensive new accommodation we settled here for a day to relax after the bus journeys. We then took a long flight to Abu Dhabi before our connection to Cairo. Here we stayed in Islamic Cairo, where dirty, winding, cramped little streets were lined by stray dogs, street stalls and beautiful architecture. The area was bustling with life and you could quite happily lose an hour or two walking round and watching the life around you.

A busy first full day here was spent visiting the famous Giza pyramids and the Sphinx, riding round on camels and bribing police so we could climb the first few steps of the pyramid. We then visited a couple more pyramids across the other side of the city. In one of these we climbed the 1600 steps down into the tombs at the centre of the pyramid, before a power cut caused a complete blackout. It was like a scene from The Mummy. 

In the evening we went on a pretentious sunset cruise down the Nile which we thought would be a chilled event but everyone else turned up in suits paying £7 for a beer. Fortunately a belly dancer turned an awful night into one of the best of the trip. For me anyway. 

We explored the rest of the city, visiting the citadel, mosques, churches and synagogues. Here guards asked to take pictures with us, but wouldn't let me hold their guns, which was pretty unreasonable. The Egyptian museum showed us some amazing treasures retrieved from the tombs of the pyramids and the local bazaars made us happy as the sellers called us Rambo and Shakira. 

After 3 great days in Cairo we took the 40 minute flight to Sharm el Sheikh and spent the next week doing nothing in an all inclusive hotel. Sammie was happy as she got to spend all day roasting in the 45 degree Egyptian sun. The only entertainment here was a few games of volleyball and watching the friendly Russians compete to see who could get the most horrendously burnt. 

This signalled the end of the trip and after a flight home and a night slept on the floor of Birmingham airport we went home to surprise some tearful family members. 

After 10 months of amazing experiences and learning about a completely misunderstood continent, we both feel lucky to have had the chance to see so many beautiful and diverse places. The people we've met have virtually without exception been friendly and welcoming, with none of the danger so many warned us about before coming. The whole thing has been amazing. 

Saturday, 16 May 2015

South Africa

Once out of Lesotho we headed on a long drive to South Africa's capital. With just a street name to go by and no map or gps, finding our hostel in a city with a population of 2 million took a good few hours. We spent the next day chilling and doing the monthly wash of rancid towels and clothes.

The next morning we were up at 5am excited despite the early start, long drive and expensive airport parking fees, as we were going to pick up the well organised, efficient and trustworthy David Reid from the airport. After a few hours in the arrivals lounge at the airport we started to worry, only to find out that young David had told us the wrong date, he was still in Hong Kong and would be arriving the next day. We left the airport and were stopped by the police who tried to charge us for not completely stopping at a stop sign. We talked our way out of it. We then made the unplanned trip to Soweto, a township rich with apartheid history, museums and former houses of Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu. We couldn't see any of these as there was a huge storm all day. The entire day was ruined by Dave. 

The next morning we were up at 5am with a strange feeling of déjà vu. Luckily Dave arrived this time and we headed on a long trip to Durban, celebrating the belated arrival with a curry night. The next day was spent on an overcast beach in the city, with Sammie trying to sunbath whilst me and Dave kicked a ball around. 

Another long drive later and we were in Coffee bay, where a day on the beach taught us all how hard surfing is. This was followed by an eventful night, where a few too many drinks caused us to leave the car keys on a table. These were subsequently taken and bags removed from the car, fortunately the thieves must have panicked as the bags were left in the car park with no valuables missing. The next day was spent in a police station, where we were told that we didn't have a case and if anything, we had committed the crime of negligence and were liable. It wasn't a fun day. 

A new car was eventually towed out to us, as the people who took the keys weren't kind enough to return them. After this we finally exited Coffee bay in our new vehicle and headed to the surf capital of Jeffrey's bay. Excited for the Mayweather Pacquiao fight, we started playing beer pong in the hostel with Sammie and Dave teaming up against me and a French guy. After a few early wins for my team, my partner appeared to consume copious amounts of drugs, leading to a dramatic loss of form and handing victory to an undeserving Sammie and Dave. The night got a bit out of hand and saw us fall asleep about an hour before the fight started. 

As a hangover cure we jumped off the 216m high bridge bungee, a ridiculously fun few seconds. We then drove to Mossel Bay and settled in for a relaxed evening before cage diving with great white sharks. This was one of the highlights of the trip, with the Sharks swimming so close that they knocked into the cage and occasionally gnawed on the metal to feel what it was. A pretty scary feeling when your inches away looking down its throat.

We topped off the few days of adventure with a tandem skydive. A 30 minute plane journey, sat next to where the plane door should have been, unsettled the nerves slightly. Our professionals then flung us out of the plane for a 30 second free fall before a 5 minute parachute ride back down to the floor, definitely one of the best feelings we've experienced. Unfortunately the weather turned before Dave's plane could take off and he was unable to do the skydive. We felt sorry for him before remembering that we arranged his 2 week holiday for him and he couldn't even give us his correct arrival date. 

Cape Town was the next destination, with the first couple of days here spent seeing jackass penguins, walking around the harbour and getting the ferry to Robben Island to see Mandela's old cell. We then hiked the infamous table mountain to see the beautiful views of Cape Town and the city's coast line. A final meal and farewell for Dave was supposed to signal a night out in the city, but we showed our age by staying in and watching The Office in the dorm.

After a well organised airport drop off, it was back to just the two of us. We headed through the Cape's famous wine lands on route 62, staying in a riverside camp in Robertson. A day was spent here sampling various wine tastings, explaining that we were searching for the perfect wedding wine, when in reality we were seeing if we could get drunk for free. A brandy tour and tasting session made us realise that even expensive brandy brewed for 25 years tastes like urine. 

Our final activity in South Africa was seeing the caves at Oudtshoorn, where a two hour tour took us through some beautiful open caverns and through some tight tunnels where we had to slither on our stomachs. We slept in an exciting dorm, where we walked in on one girl naked and her friend woke us up in the night with a piercing scream whilst sleepwalking.

We then headed back to Johannesburg and dropped the car off before getting on a bus to the Mozambique border, ending an eventful stay in a beautiful and diverse country.

Thursday, 23 April 2015

Swaziland and Lesotho

Flying was the cheapest way to get out of Namibia, so we boarded for the hour flight to Johannesburg. After a night here we attempted a trip to the centre of the city to find a minibus to the apartheid museum. The centre is insane. We walked round for hours without any luck, but fortunately got to see all the life and sites of the city. We then finally got a ride home from a minibus in one of the multi-storey car parks full of minibuses.

After that failure we decided to walk direct from the centre to the museum, which we thought was about 5km. After 2 hours walking down the side of a motorway with no path we admitted we were lost and a lovely bloke we spoke to in a garage drove us the rest of the way. The museum was worth it with a walk through South Africa's shameful past.

After this we picked up our new beastly automobile. The Chevrolet Spark Lite was the cheapest option, possibly because of its likeness to a children's toy. We skimped out on a gps to save money, making every journey an adventure involving at least a couple of wrong turns. A manic trip out of Johannesburg took us into the countryside, then over the border and into Swaziland.

After a drive through the rolling hills we made it to Ezluwini valley, where we pitched up and had the first nights sleep in our new tent. We took a walk to the craft markets and the super friendly ladies made us buy stuff we didn't need, then hugged us. We spent the rest of the day chilling in the valley and playing some badminton, Sammie got the hint I was bored after kicking a football at her several times.

We then ventured to Maguga dam, where we pitched up on the shores of the crystal clear lake. We were ready for a swim before we saw he warning signs for crocodiles and hippos. The place was completely deserted, so after a short walk around the lake we settled down and cooked a braai for dinner.

Next on the list was Hlane Royal national park, where two days self drive safari and camping overnight cost £15 between us. It was worth the money as soon as we arrived, with a dozen rhinos ridiculously close to us at the waterhole next to the campsite. They spent most of their time rolling around, coating themselves in mud to keep cool. 

On a drive we came around a blind bend and realised we were only a couple of metres away from an elephant. He became very aggressive, blowing his trunk and starting to charge at the car. I absolutely pooped my pants, flooring the car away from him. We then drove round a loop only to find the same elephant, locally known (by us) as psycho Bill, waiting at the end of the road. He started coming towards us forcing me to reverse pretty fast down the narrow, bumpy mud track. It was genuinely scary. 

After watching sunset and sunrise over the waterhole, we went for a quick drive around the park then headed out. On the way back to the border the police caught me doing 71kmph in a 60kmph zone and fined me £3.40. After his warning we slowly headed out of the country. 

The plan was to make it to Lesotho in a day, but after 7 hours of driving it was getting dark. So we camped in a town called Newcastle, not before our first McDonald's of the trip. After 8 hours driving the following day we finally made it to the Lesotho border. The trip was reminiscent of home, with fog slowing us to snails pace and the biggest hailstone storm I've ever seen. In the capital Maseru, we slowly made our way through a city void of street signs to our hostel and treated ourselves to a bed away from the cold and rain.

We headed south down the country, stoping in Quthing to see some dinosaur footprints preserved from 200 million years ago. Our guide told us they were from the Lesothosaurus, but I'm not sure if he was having us on. Our campsite that night was in Moroosi mountain, where an abandoned lodge left a sign with a number to ring if any customers turned up. With no phone we pitched up in the empty place. 

A clear sky and no moon showed us an impressive sheet of stars, we had a braai under them and went to bed. Our sleeping bags are designed for temperatures as low as 9 degrees, when we woke my tshirt which I left out side was lined with icicles, and our Savanna bottles were completely frozen. It wasn't the best nights sleep. 

A short distance turned out to take 6 hours on a horrendous road, but it was worth it to find a beautiful lodge in the hills. Here we were better prepared for the cold night, wearing 3 pairs of socks, 2 jumpers and Sammie's tights under my trousers, it was still cold but not as bad. 

The next morning we went horse riding, heading up and down steep valleys, next to cliff edges and through streams. A small hike in the middle took us to a waterfall hidden in the hills. The horses then took us back, with my stubborn one refusing to let Sammie's go in front, with both of them misbehaving and trying to run past each other. 

The rest of the day was spent killing Sammie at table tennis, pool and table football, before being legitimately beaten at pool by a 7 year old girl. We even got treated to chocolate cake and custard from the lovely owners. The next morning we were up and out of Lesotho, finishing our short but sweet stay in the two tiny countries.

Saturday, 11 April 2015


Immediately as we entered Namibia we realised it was pay day. We sat at a petrol station trying to sort out transport, watching every driver step out of his car unable to walk or speak. A later taxi driver told us the government was trying to introduce a point system on driving licenses for drink drivers, but it wasn't too popular with the public.

Whilst waiting at the station a friendly drunk man invited us for a free breakfast at his dad's restaurant, made us cheese and ham toasties for the journey and offered us a free nights accommodation. He soon revealed his motive for the kindness, admitting he was only doing it because we were white and he wasn't too fond of black people, to put it mildly. We were glad to get away from him as he turned increasingly offensive. Lovely toasties though. 

A 1200km minibus journey took us from the border to the capital; Windhoek. We arrived after midnight and our driver told us the taxis were all waiting to take us into the bush and rob us. He proceeded to take us to our hostel and tried to rip us off massively. We just wanted to go to bed.

Besides the dodgy start we soon discovered Windhoek to be a very easy and attractive city, it was small, pedestrianised and surrounded by mountains. Much more comfortable than a lot of the capitals we had visited. A couple of days chilling and organising later we picked up our new car, a stunning Kia Rio, the Lamborghini of Namibia. 

Once in the car we took a 7 hour journey south to Fish River Canyon, where we spent our first of  10 nights sleeping in the car (we couldn't afford accommodation or a tent). In the morning Sammie turned round from watching the sun rise over a deserted stretch of the canyon to find me down on one knee, with a glorious and very expensive engagement ring in hand. It must have been a magical experience for her.

After a few tears and breakfast we explored the rest of the canyon, with some stunning views. The rest of the day was spent celebrating with a few drinks at the Ai Ais hot springs, where natural water is pumped into indoor and outdoor pools. The outdoor pool was open 24 hours, so we swam in it under the stars and got pretty drunk.

We made an overnight stop in Luderwitz on our way back north, mainly for a night in a bed and some fish and chips. Our next stop was a big drive to Sesriem, where our journey was halted a couple of times with our car getting stuck in the desert sand. Using lunchboxes to dig we soon made our way out. 

By sunrise the next day we had already climbed to the top of a sand dune, watching the sun climb over the red sand. We then had a hike up one of the bigger dunes, where a decision to hike away from everyone else meant that instead of stepping on trodden, condensed sand we were ankle deep every step. It took us 3 hours to get to the summit, with us having to stop for a break every few steps on the steep bits. This was all worth it when we saw the amazing landscape and got to run down the steep side of the dune, which was possibly the most fun I've had this trip.

Another long journey in the car took us to spitzkoppe, one of the biggest mountains in Namibia. Along the way I shouted and slammed the breaks on, scaring Sammie quite a bit. I'd spotted 2 leopards walking along the side of the road, a rare find on a safari let alone when just driving. When we were unpacking the boot at Spitzkoppe Sammie was scared again, letting out a scream when she realised a meerkat was licking her foot.

The campsite was right at the base of the mountain, so we were parked in privacy between a few large boulders. After exploring the rock arch and natural pool we hired a guide to show us the rock art around the site. This dated back between 2000-4000 years, depicting people and wildlife and painted on with blood, rock and ostrich egg.

A night in swakopmund gave us another chance to sleep in a bed and eat real food. After this rest we explored a seal colony along the coast, where over 100,000 seals live. The crazy goat like sounds were topped by the smell of thousands of piles of seal poo. We spent a good hour here watching the seals mess about. When trying to leave we realised one had somehow got into the fenced off walkway and when we tried to leave he tried to bite us. We had to jump over the fence and run away.

We drove through the skeleton coast national park, looking at the shipwrecks, abandoned oil rigs and diamond mines along the way. After this we headed inland to Etosha, Namibia's best known safari park where we decided to spend a day as it only cost £5 each. On the way we stopped at a farm to see cheaters, leopards and hyenas getting fed which we didn't enjoy as we didn't realise the animals would be in enclosures. The only exciting thing here was getting followed by an oryx who ended up head butting me. 

Once in Etosha we immediately spotted a pride of 9 lions walking alongside the road and then resting under a nearby tree. The rest of the day was spent watching the usual suspects, and then seeing a rhino in the distance at the end of the day. 

On the way to the next destination we stopped to visit a Himba village, where a traditional Himba tribe lived. We were pleasantly surprised by this as our guide simply told us about their way of life and the tour didn't feel too intrusive or degrading to the people. After this we visited the petrified forest, where huge trees had travelled down from central Africa 260 million years ago in an ice age flood. The trees had then been buried without oxygen or carbon dioxide and had since been 'petrified' or turned into rock.

After all this travelling we decided to have a few days rest in Uis, where we laid by the pool in the day and cooked on the braai at night. It was perfect. We somehow adopted a dog for the few days, who Sammie decided to name 'Wiggle Waggle Munchkin'. I'm ashamed to say the name caught on.

On the trip back to Windhoek we travelled on the worst road we'd seen in Namibia, causing damage to the suspension and wheel alignment, making the car drive like a kangaroo with uneven legs. After 15 days in the car we'd travelled over 4500km and seen quite possibly the most beautiful and diverse country either of us have ever seen.

Tuesday, 24 March 2015


A hassle free border crossing into Botswana introduced us to our new home for the next three days; our Toyota Hilux. The huge 4x4 came as a shock to us, as we didn't know about the stove, fridge, table and chairs in the boot or the two fold out tents on the roof of the car. It was an absolute beast.

We drove to Nata and soon got used to Botswana's simple road system, with our gps telling us to turn left in 307km. The drive down took us through some lovely scenery, although the journey was prolonged by the frequent stops to let elephants cross the road. 

Once in Nata we set up in an empty camp (folded the tents down from the roof) and had a chilled night cooking on an open fire and playing cards. Sammie was startled during the night when she went to the toilet block to find an owl whizzing around inside. The next morning was spent on the fringes of the biggest salt pan in the world, checking out the birds, foxes and wildebeest in one of the lakes on the pan. 

This was followed by another long drive down a single road to Nxai Pan national park, where a couple of hours drifting through the sand tracks took us past some impressive baobabs and into a new empty campsite. The rest of he day was spent around the lone surviving waterhole in the park, where elephants, giraffes, zebras and lots of other animals came to drink. A young ostrich got overexcited and got stuck in the middle of the hole, only to be rescued by the park staff. Cheetahs in the distance were stalking springbok, but never made a move before our nighttime curfew. The night in the unfenced campsite was made a little less comfortable when we saw a male lion lurking in the trees about 1km away from where we were. We didn't stay up late.

A morning game drive was followed by another long distance journey to Maun. Here we had to depart with our beloved Toyota before settling into a new hostel, with a crocodile on the edge of the overlooked waterfront. An early night was followed by an early morning, where we were picked up and driven to the Okavango Delta ready for our mokoro (local canoe) upstream. A 3 hour paddle in the midday heat took us through the winding Boro river, a stunning location. We then set up camp alongside the river and got used to our new bush toilets, which was a seat in the open above a hole and our bush shower, which was a bucket hung off a tree, also in the open. An evening walk taught us about the local uses of the plant life in the delta and a beautiful sunset finished off the day.

We were up and out our tents before sunrise so we could complete our 4 hour walking safari before it got too hot. Here we saw some zebras, giraffes, wildebeest, ostrich and warthog from pretty close range, a totally different experience from being safely hidden in a truck. The afternoon was spent with me and dad learning how to pole the mokoros, both desperately hoping the other would fall in. After this we travelled back downstream for a couple of hours before being driven back to the hostel.

Moremi game reserve was next on the list, with our open sided land cruiser taking us the couple of hours to the park entrance before an all day game drive. We stood and watched some hippos whilst escaping from the deep sand the 4x4 had got stuck in, before driving round the park seeing a lot of wildlife in the 37 degree heat Another unfenced camp with bush facilities was the scene for an amazing night, listening to the ridiculously loud and close sounds of hippos mating and leopards attacking baboons. Our guide warned us as we were getting into bed not to leave our shoes outside, as the hyenas would eat them.

Our alarm clock was the roaring of a lion, who had been close by all night which led our guide to take us out early to find him. We didn't have to go far, with the lion walking a few hundred metres away from camp. We briefly followed him under the moonlight before rediscovering him a couple of hours later in the light. After taking some long distance pictures he got up, walked towards us and literally brushed past the truck. It was incredible.

The rest of the day was spent driving around the park, watching more of the animals and once again getting stuck in the sand. After a drive back to Maun we relaxed in the hostel and dad got shit on by a bat. A 4.45am alarm saw us on he long journey back to the Zambia border, where a ferry across the Zambezi took us out of Botswana.  

A couple of chilling days in Livingstone were followed by the departure of mum and dad, who seemed to have enjoyed the whole experience. After that we were alone again and back to the reality of having no money, sleeping in dorms with no running water and eating a diet of crisps and bread.

Zambia and Zimbabwe

Leaving Uganda we took a flight to Malawi and spent a lovely week or so back at Butterfly space where we volunteered a few months ago. This was followed by long bus journeys to Lilongwe and then through the Zambian border and onto the capital; Lusaka. During the bus to Lusaka we were kept entertained by a man having a 9 hour conversation with himself. The humour stopped when the conductor had to take away the huge knife from the empty seat next to the man.

A few days spent in the British and Botswana embassies in Lusaka led us to the decision that I would have to fly home to change my passport. With all the pages full of stamps I wouldn't be able to sort it fast enough overseas to continue our travel plans. The three flights back to London were smooth and luckily my parents sorted most of the passport papers for me so that the next day I had a new passport. I stayed in London with a friend of Sammie's who was thoughtful enough to let me stay, but not so thoughtful when she locked me in the house to go to work. Instead of missing my flight I smashed the window above her front door and broke out of the house. All in all the new passport cost around £1500.

Once back in Zambia I reunited with a distraught and lonely Sammie and we headed straight onto a 7 hour bus for a relaxing couple of days in Livingstone. We then travelled through to Zimbabwe to start a couple of weeks travelling through the country.

We started this journey with a long bus trip to Bulawayo, where any plans to do anything were halted by a pretty intense stomach bug. So our time in the city was spent either watching football with a lovely old bloke who worked in our guesthouse, or sat on the toilet. Once recovered we travelled via Masvingo to Great Zimbabwe, the ruins of an 11th century city. It was a beautiful site with some impressive high walled structures. The final site was upon a hilltop overlooking the rest of the ruins, showing the scale of the settlement. 

A long trip to the far east of Zimbabwe was another classic African journey. The shared taxi we used for the last 100km saw 8 people squeeze into a 5 seater, 5 in the back and 3 in the front. This meant Sammie had one leg in the passengers footwell and one leg in the drivers footwell, meaning every time the driver changed gear he had to reach between her legs. Luckily it was an automatic.

The traumatic journey was completely worthwhile once we settled into a new hostel with the Chimanimani mountains set as a stunning backdrop. The next day we ventured on our first unguided hike of the trip, up the mountains. We were lost within 10 minutes and the ridiculous 'path' we ended up taking meant we never actually made it to the base of the mountain we were supposed to climb, but we had fun anyway. The next day we were back in the mountains but for a much more relaxed day chilling by the pools and waterfalls. $1 meals in the local village helped to make Chimanimani one of the best places we've been to.

The next stop was Harare, where we discovered Sammie had annoyed a blister beetle in the mountains and had some grotesque blisters down her arm. The doctor charged us $88 for the 30 seconds it took to tell us this information. This was about the only noteworthy thing that we did in Zimbabwe's capital city, although they did have a Nando's. From here we took the train back up to the Zambian border, where our mahogany vip sleeper cabin housed us through Zimbabwean countryside and past the elephants on the track. 

Back in Livingstone we had the much anticipated arrival of Mr and Mrs O'Connor, who had come out to visit their favourite child for a couple of weeks. Their first night was spent recovering from the 25 hour series of flights and getting a glimpse of Victoria falls via moonlight and rainbow at the Lunar moon opening.

The next day was quite possibly my favourite of the trip so far. We took a boat across the Zambezi to Livingstone island, then walked up to the slippery edge of the falls to overlook the 110m drop. We then swam across some surprisingly strong rapids to sit in Angels pool a few feet from the edge, an amazing experience. The stunning natural beauty of the falls and the overwhelming force of the water was only enhanced by the Brazilian model next to us wearing the skimpiest bikini I've ever seen. 

The rest of the day was spent walking around the falls, sliding across the bridge between the gorge and getting absolutely drenched by the spray of the water. The next day we explored the craft markets before playing football against some youngsters at a local orphanage. This was topped off at a local restaurant where a starter of caterpillar was followed by some amazing crocodile ribs.

The four of us then made our way across the Zimbabwe border alongside the baboons and warthogs who also seemed to be crossing. Here we spent another day walking around the opposite side of the falls which was equally impressive and had some wildlife to spot as we walked around. 

The next day saw us enter into the Zambezi river on a raft, going down the grade 5 Rapids within crocodile infested waters. The currents were strong enough to throw people out of the raft on 3 occasions and completely flip the boat on another. Despite his son nearly drowning at one point, my dad claimed this to be the best thing he's ever done.

This was the end of our time in Zambia and Zimbabwe, so we left Victoria Falls in a taxi to the Botswana border. 

Wednesday, 4 March 2015


After a night in Rwanda we made a short journey to the Ugandan border, then nearby to Kisoro in the southwest of the country. After waiting 45 minutes after the bus stopped for the driver to open the luggage compartment, we got our bags and headed to our new home by Chahafi lake.  A further 45 minutes of crawling down a horrendous road and we entered into rural, secluded Chahafi.

We were volunteering in this new place in exchange for food and accommodation, so spent the first day doing a swamp walk and canoe trip with the owner, photographing the area for him to use for advertising. Around the picturesque lake we saw a birth ceremony taking place, where the new mum parades her child alongside the rest of the women in the village, playing instruments, singing and clapping. During our time we were also invited to a wedding, where English and Ugandan traditions were mixed into a colourful occasion.

The village life was really a big reason why we came to Africa, before Uganda on the trip we had managed to see only fringes of tourist areas and city life, but Chahafi was totally different. Every time we left our accommodation we had kids either running to touch us or running off crying. Adults and toddlers alike would wave as we passed, with everyone shouting 'Mzungu how are you?' Mzungu meaning white person in every country we've visited so far. A really surreal experience to be noticed by everyone.

We started volunteering in Sunrise Primary school the week we arrived and continued to do so for the next four weeks. The staff and students were enjoying their Christmas holidays, but the headmaster happily reopened the school for two classes during their time off and 50 or so kids turned up voluntarily every day. Being the holidays there was no curriculum to upkeep so we were given the freedom to plan and deliver our own classes. Sammie took up English reading and writing, whilst I had a go at maths and English speaking as the kids weren't too confident in talking aloud.

The next 4 weeks were spent having an amazing time with the kids, at the start they were too scared to talk to us but by the end we were having daily debates and genuinely loving getting up every morning to go to 'work'. Sammie did a lesson about New Years resolutions, resulting in more than one of the girls in her class writing their ambition for 2015 as being 'to get fat like Sammie.' This was combined with Sammie having to run out of a class laughing because a kid farted.

The last day at the school was an emotional goodbye, with the kids and staff performing traditional songs and dances for us and giving us goodbye presents. We then spent the afternoon talking with the teachers about homosexuality (illegal in Uganda), cross dressing and gender operations, an interesting finish. The school was the best thing we've done on the trip so far, we were the first people to volunteer there so it gave us a real feel for what life is actually like in a rural village. We're hoping to continue supporting the school and advertising and organising volunteers to go out there in the future.

For the four weeks in Chahafi out of school hours we kept ourselves busy. Christmas was spent giving speeches in church to hundreds of locals which was a lot more enjoyable than New Years Eve being kept up until 7am listening to DJ Gash. We hiked a nearby volcano which took us on a 10 hour journey through swamps and up 3 peaks, until a 3669m peak which acts as a triple border between Uganda, Rwanda and DRC. The locals played football every night which I tended to join in with and we were lucky enough to be invited into 4 homes for meals with teacher's or student's families.

The final moments in Chahafi summed up our whole experience. Our motorbike taxi got a puncture on the way out just as church was finishing. 10 minutes later by the time it was fixed we were surrounded by nearly 200 kids who waved us off. We've never felt as safe or welcomed as we did in that little village.

Once we had left Chahafi it was back to travelling and we got on an overnight bus to Kampala followed by a morning minibus to Entebbe. We spent the next week or so with a friend we originally met in Malawi. During that time we visited Sipi falls, a series of 3 waterfalls which we were escorted around by our guide who was still attending secondary school. Sammie's birthday was spent laying down 5000USh chips on the blackjack table (4368USh=£1) and a romantic sunset cruise down the Nile went severely downhill once me and Sammie found out there was a free bar.

The final stop for our 2 months in Uganda was Kampala, where we spent most of our days sunbathing next to a pool. Besides that we looked around the hectic centre's museums, mosques and palaces, including Idi Amin's torture chambers where his enemies were killed by the thousands. The equator line was also nearby, so we spent a day taking pictures under the equator sign (we've since found out the actual equator line is about 30m away from the sign).

We left the country in fitting fashion, getting a motorbike taxi to the airport with the driver, me, Sammie, 2 big backpacks and 2 small backpacks all crammed onto one motorbike. We had a great time.