A Travellerspoint blog

Livingstone, Zambia

An adrenalin filled Christmas

all seasons in one day 89 °F

Livingstone is like Disneyland for adrenalin junkies, and we tried to pack in as many activities as possible within our four day visit. We had such a packed schedule it was hard to remember that it was Christmas, however a kind visit to our hostel from a kid’s choir and a lunch feast at a nearby orphanage reminded us to be thankful for what we have.

On our full day of class five rafting, the fun started straight away in the first rapid when ‘someone’ forgot the ‘hold on’ part of the guide’s command and a huge wave sent him like a linebacker straight into Kevin.

Who knew that you could grab a lion’s tail while he was walking without him even noticing! We spent a morning with Simba (white lion) and Nala (brown lioness) and our favorite cheetah in the whole world, Pablo. Although the lion is one of the most feared predators of the Africa, it turns out that they are quite lazy creatures. In fact, getting them to walk at all was quite a feat!

Pedro was like an over-sized house cat with an extremely loud purr and a tongue that couldn’t get enough of licking our arms.

We celebrated Christmas Eve with a sunset cruise on the Zambezi River upstream of the falls with some great views of hippos, crocs and the sunset. Then we went to Victoria Falls with some of our new friends. We signed up for the walking trip to Devil’s Pool where we were told we could swim in a pool right on the edge of the falls. What we weren’t told was that we would wade through a knee deep rushing river for 1 ½ hours to get there. The journey was long and strenuous but well worth it!

Posted by Robin-and-Kevin 10:48 Archived in Zambia Comments (0)

Lusaka, Zambia

The new and the old Africa

Lusaka is the capital of Zambia, and thus it has several tall buildings and some developed areas. There are parts of the city where we felt as though we were back home, like when we were watching the Hobbit in the new 3D cinema at the Levy shopping mall where there is a hot light for fresh donuts… and then there were other parts of the city where we jumped puddles on dirt roads through crazy markets and came face to face with enormous amounts of poverty. It was here where we saw people sifting through piles and piles of used T-shirts from abroad. . . we probably even saw your old middle school basketball championship shirt!

We were so happy to meet up with our good friend Hossein (aka Vermz) in Lusaka after his daunting 37 hour journey to come visit us. He came fully prepared for our upcoming safari with a 64 ounce camouflaged liquor flask with matching hats and Christmas cookies from Kevin’s mom. We headed straight for some fish, nshima (similar to masa or tamale) and Mosi, the local ale.

Northmead is an area packed with clubs and street vendors selling cartons of what they call ‘Shake Shake’ which is a thick mixture of fermenting maize that according to the label is +/- 10% ABV. Every morning we’d see piles and piles of empty Shake Shake cartons, so one night we had to give it a try before going in... btw, the clubs here have mirrors all along the dance floor so that you can dance with yourself!

After years of cutting his own hair, Kevin thought he knew everything there was to know about buzz cuts. Au contrair mon frère... notice how the barber in the video is going with the grain of Kevin's hair! Apparently he hasn’t had much experience with Mazunga (white folks) hair and made for an interesting final cut.

Posted by Robin-and-Kevin 07:03 Archived in Zambia Comments (0)

Lower Zambezi River, Zambia

Hippos in the heat

sunny 90 °F

Africa wilderness trips are not a great place for backpackers on a budget because safaris and staying out in the jungle are typically paired with luxury accommodation. Luckily, we found a resort on the Lower Zambezi River that offered both 5 star accommodation and 0 star camping! In order to reach the camp, we took a mini bus from Lusaka to the Zimbabwe border and then jumped on a speed boat.

The ride to the resort was basically a river safari since we stopped to view hippos, birds, dugout canoes and a big elephant! We reserved a basic camping tent for the week but because there weren’t many people at the resort we were upgraded to a luxury tented cabin.

The river was filled with wildlife; we had monkeys, ginnea faul and big 5 foot ‘lizards’ strolling around camp. It was the beginning of rainy season but it didn’t affect us much other than making for some amazing skylines and sunsets. There were lots of available activities including canoe, boat safaris and sunset cruises. We managed to see more hippos than we could count, tons of elephants, a few crocodiles and lots of birds!

We spent most of our time hanging out by the pool, catching up on our blog, reading, and playing scrabble. We also went for walks to nearby villages and were greeted by lots of young children who were eager to say hello to us. Besides the fact that we couldn’t actually go into the water because of the tiger fish and crocs, it was fun have our meals overlooking the wildlife do its thing. The most hilarious thing we saw was a hippo walking along the river side and then plop/slide down a 10foot drop to the water!

Posted by Robin-and-Kevin 04:33 Archived in Zambia Comments (0)

Jinja, Uganda

The Source of the Nile

sunny 85 °F

We went to Jinja for our last few days in Uganda to raft the Nile and to relax with our new friends that we met volunteering. We rafted a total of 8 big rapids, and managed to stay in the boat for just 3 of them.

There were only 4 of us paddlers in the raft plus our onboard guide, followed by a crew of 3 kayakers, a photographer, and a full sized safety raft. We thought this was a little overkill, but we soon realized that class 5 rafting in Africa is a little bit different. The first thing we did was go over a few safety precautions to the eerie bubbling of a puncture in the raft just below Kevin’s feet. Then, instead of paddling through the rapids we were told to “get down and hold on.” On the second rapid, we both hesitated a little when the get down command was called, and we instantly fell out of the boat.

As we walked through the busy market looking for the bus stand, it was really strange to hear the locals blasting old school Xmas carols in the dusty dirty African roads. We moved from town to spend a few nights along the water at Nile River Camp where we learned how to play the harmonica, make leg dreads and drink sambuca from an old raft paddle.

On the radio we listened to talk shows speak of western aid. The DJs were telling people to quit expecting western aid money and instead get up and work harder. They were amazed with how the US and European countries continue to donate their hard earned wages to countries like Zambia where over and over the corruption in the government wastes it away on huge birthday parties and other personal items.

We couldn’t have asked for a better trip through Uganda and savored our last dip into the Nile via rope swing.

Posted by Robin-and-Kevin 05:39 Archived in Uganda Comments (0)

Ruhanga, Uganda

Countryside community development

sunny 25 °F

We volunteered for a week in a small community program started and run by one of the local village members. In six years with the help of other volunteers, Denis has built a community school, a fresh water source and a bunch of other goodies including gardens, a women’s craft group and a computer club. The school is the main attraction and is located in the beautiful Kigezi Highlands west of Mbarara in a place called Ruhanga. It was quite the trip to get out there from Kampala and on our way there our bus was continually boarded by men selling big sticks of what looked like plastic meat, but smelled amazing. A few times these venders didn’t get off the bus in time and were stuck on board for kilometers at a time.

Since we were at the school during their holiday break, there were not many students around, but there were still chores to do. In the mornings we would milk the cows with Frank and then clean and paint the school rooms.

In the afternoons we’d grade the land and save the orange trees! An orange grove was recently started and the trees were young and overgrown with weeds… but even Ugandan weeds weren’t tough enough to survive the Kevin and Robin gardening combo.

We worked with a really fun group of people from the UK who really made the evenings fun. There was something special about playing camp fire games and drinking liquor from plastic bags!

Posted by Robin-and-Kevin 10:14 Archived in Uganda Comments (0)

Kampala, Uganda

Welcome to the jungle

We spent a few days around Kampala acclimatizing to Uganda. It was complete mayhem downtown with every street packed with vendors and people going every which way. It only took a few minutes to realize that the people in Uganda are extremely friendly. This totally made our day, contrasting to the unrest we felt in Egypt, we were now able to talk freely and openly to the locals. The city of Kampala itself was an adventure to walk around, kind of like a big game of Frogger. We quickly learned that the matatus (mini buses) claimed right of way without slowing for pedestrians. As you can see, the main matatu stand had plenty of options for adventure...

Just out of downtown we stayed near Soya Stage on Konge Rd where the neighborhood was full of bars all playing a mashup of African and pop music. The fish and posho (corn flour mixed and cooked into what looks like mashed potatoes) was amazing and so was our first sampling of Uganda’s beer (which was a real treat since we had just spent 25 days in Muslim countries). It’s a fun place to visit, but just don’t go there expecting to have any meaningful conversation since the neighboring bars crank up the volume in competition.

One day we headed out to KK Beach, which turned out to not have a beach at all! Instead there was a tiny little village with ‘cute’ places to eat fish on the banks of Lake Victoria. There was a cement boat landing for fishermen to sell their catch, but sadly the water was a scary green color that made swimming not an option. We jumped on board a boat full of locals and headed out across the lake. We didn’t have a clue where we were going and there was quite a scene when we arrived at a shoreline they called the ‘Miami of Uganda.’

Downtown Kampala is basically one big market with everything being sold on the streets and in small labyrinths of venders. On the flip side there is an area of big glamorous hotels and shopping centers. It is here where you will find mazungas (white folks) pushing shopping carts around large shopping isles. Some might have been preparing for their trip into the jungle to see the world’s only dwindling population of mountain gorillas, or maybe heading out to Jane Goodall’s island chimp foundation, but we were preparing to head into a different kind of jungle, a small village with a school full of little kids!

Posted by Robin-and-Kevin 10:04 Archived in Uganda Comments (2)

Hey Tourist!!!

Being a tourist in Egypt

It is sad that the largest industry in Egypt is tourism, yet, to be a tourist in Egypt is one of the most frustrating experiences. In all of our travels Egypt wins the prize for “The Worst Place to Visit.” Egypt is so backwards from our understanding of tourism that for example you don’t hail a taxi when you want one… every taxi that passes by will hail you! “Salem” is a form of saying hello in Egypt, the literal translation is peace. Sadly, this is the last thing that you will find in Egypt.

Here is a list of a couple of things that might make you chuckle, but when they occur more than 10 times per day, well, let’s just say they have a huge potential to bring out the worst in even the nicest of people.

1. “My friend, take my fast boat, you know the price? – Just 5 pounds.”
TRANSLATION: The ferry is safe, reliable and only 1 pound per person. You should instead pay me 5 times as much to take my poorly maintained boat to one of my island shops on the way.

2. “Looking is free, no hassle!”
TRANSLATION: Come into my shop so I can point out every item in the shop to you and make you feel really uncomfortable when leaving without paying anything.

3. “Hello my friend, where are you from?!”
TRANSLATION: For the next 5 minutes I will walk next to you in an attempt to sell you something that you probably aren’t interested in.

4. “Hey, Cassanova, two wives!!”
TRANSLATION: A man is walking next to two females, thus he must have two wives because it is unheard of to have any other kind of relations with a female.

5. “Hello, Money?!”
TRANSLATION: This is a young child who only knows two words, and practices them on every tourist.

6. “What are you looking for?”
TRANSLATION: I can help direct you away from your point of interest and into my shop for a small fee.

Traveling in Egypt on our own definitely put our patience to the biggest test yet and was quite exhausting. We would imagine that being on an organized tour would be a much different experience than exploring the streets alone, but then you’d miss out on all the free heckling!!

Posted by Robin-and-Kevin 00:06 Archived in Egypt Comments (0)

Luxor, Egypt

Exploring in Egypt

sunny 85 °F

When visiting the ancient tombs on the West Bank of the Nile, we first to Hatshepsut's Temple and then hiked over the Theban hills into the Valley of the Kings. The hike was probably the best part of the whole day as from the top you could see on one side the Nile and its green fertile bank receding into stark yellow dessert, and on the other side a full few looking down into the Valley of the Kings.

All of the tombs we visited were very impressive. It is amazing the effort that the ancient Egyptians went to conceal their deceased and bury them with all their riches. One of the visitor’s centers had a great 3D perspective model of the hills and how the enclosed tombs snaked around. Most impressive was watching the sun set against the huge pavilion walls at Medinet Habu. The architecture of these massive walls encircled with huge columns were built to last multiple lifetimes.

We sampled some of the local delicacies including stuffed pigeon, but were more impressed with how green the fava bean falafels were!

Luxor has a fun network of mini bus routes that go all around the city. We hoped on the blue route out to Karnak Temple where there were so many different things to do and see including the tallest surviving ancient obelisk on Earth and three amazingly life like statues!

We also spent a day outside of the tourist sites riding bikes through the countryside where most children would run behind us with huge smiles. The highlight was having what seemed like an entire school of 30-40 kids swarming us from all sides. The low point was getting harassed by some older kids for backsheesh and having rocks thrown at us when we refused. For anyone who thinks they have it bad with traffic, take a look at this video of us crossing an intersection for a different perspective:

Posted by Robin-and-Kevin 00:05 Archived in Egypt Comments (1)

Aswan and Abu Simbel, Egypt

Ancient Nubian Temples

sunny 85 °F

In Aswan, the Nubian museum was worth a visit to see in detail how large of an effort was undertaken by UNESCO to preserve around 28 historical sites along the Nile River, that would have been flooded with the building of the High Dam. The amount of effort that went into moving these temples was almost as spectacular as the temples themselves! The town is small and easily walkable and while exploring it seemed like the town found us. Small children came out of the woodwork to follow us around, and construction workers invited us up to the rafters to bang in some nails.

After we learned how much effort was put into saving these temples, we truly appreciated visiting the Temple of Isis. We had to hire a small boat to get to the small island and it was like being whisked back into time.

While in Aswan we celebrated our second Thanksgiving away from home. In a valiant attempt to find a rotisserie chicken for the feast, Kevin pulled out his best Pictionary skills.

We have been following the Muslim religion in both Morocco and Egypt by not consuming alcohol, but for Thanksgiving we decided to splurge and have a few local brews from the secret beer store. The views from our rooftop in Aswan were stunning and the Nile looked beautiful.

To get to Abu Simbel, we joined the tourist police convoy that left at 4am in the morning! It was well worth the trip to see in person how large the statues of Ramses II are. There were so many ancient scripts and wall drawings that we 100% recommend a book like the New Millennium Collection because it has really good illustrations and maps to guide you through your trip: http://books.google.com/books?id=JbkM_q-bpV4C

Posted by Robin-and-Kevin 11:19 Archived in Egypt Comments (0)

Cairo, Egypt

What happened to Egypt?

sunny 85 °F

Being in Cairo is a little like being dropped in the middle of Time Square, only with the removal of all sidewalks and pedestrian rights laws, with the addition of everyone staring and shouting random phrases at you. It was a challenge to discern anyone honest from the touts, even the so called ‘tourist police’ were questionable. We are amazed with what the Egyptians have accomplished over the many centuries of civilizations here, we were sad to see how they now heavily rely on tourism without a clue how to treat tourists or any basic knowledge of hospitality and customer service.

Our friend Bernadette met us here to travel through Egypt and it’s a good thing since we might have lost our minds otherwise! Robin was also happy to have her to ride with in the “ladies only” metro cars since the first attempt riding in the ‘free for all’ train car didn’t go so well.

From our ‘penthouse’ balcony we had views of the Egyptian Museum, the charred firebombed remains of government offices for former president Marbarat, and protesters marching through the streets on the way to Tahir Square. The tension from the recent revolution was still in the air and growing bigger every day. Luckily, the protests we saw did not seem to affect us except to be a little daunting when we realized were sitting in a café watching the news of a fire at Tahir that was just a block away. The Egyptian museum was like visiting a museum of what museums were like 100 years ago :) it was dusty, cluttered, and the items that were actually notated were marked with faded post-it notes! There were no protective barriers to prevent people from touching, sitting, standing, or climbing on the ancient artifacts, and they make you cloak check your camera to a random guy outside with a folding picnic table. We brought Bern’s travel guide book and were glad to have a self guided tour with us but we would now recommend books.google.com because they have some amazing selections of portable pdf books you can carry on your phone.

We took a full day to tour around the Great Pyramids of Giza, the Step Pyramid at Saqqara, and the Bent and Red Pyramids of Darshur. We also stopped in the ancient capital of Egypt (Memphis) to say hello to a very large statue of Ramses II in a museum that housed more stalls selling tourist souvenirs then it housed ancient artifacts. For any perspective travelers, we would recommend against Memphis and stay longer at the great pyramids! (one note: you can go inside the Red Pyramid for free and it’s a way better experience than going into the overpriced, empty great pyramid)

Although all the other museums we looked for were closed down, we found a small safe haven from the heat and noise of the Cairo streets. It’s a cultural center called El Sawy Culturewheel that is on Zamalek island just under the 15th of May bridge. Even if you don’t make it for a show, there is artwork you can enjoy in air-conditioning and information on progressive campaigns like saving the Nile, harassment and noise pollution.

Posted by Robin-and-Kevin 11:18 Archived in Egypt Comments (0)

(Entries 51 - 60 of 282) Previous « Page 1 2 3 4 5 [6] 7 8 9 10 .. » Next