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.