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August 2001 Daily Diary

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(Namibia, Botswana, Namibia, South Africa, Lesotho, Kenya, India)

01.08.2001

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We got up early top try and catch a lift to the Botswana border.  It was only 30 km away and went through the Mahango Game Reserve.  The first car that went by we got a lift for 20 N$ after Maren bargained him down from 30 N$.  She is getting really good with that.  In the park we were able to see a few antelopes and similar animals.   The border security  guards on the Botswana side made us open our bags and he went through them.  They checked the bags so half hardily, that you come to the conclusion that they are just trying to test your nerves.  We then started walking down the road to Shakawe where we wanted to catch a bus to Sepupa.  We were lucky that we  got a ride really quickly and that the bus there was just about to leave.  An hour later we were in Sepupa.  There the ferry leaves once a day to Seronga.  So we had to wait around a couple of hours before the Mokoro left.  It drove through the weaving swamps where we saw hippos,  a crocodile, and a lot of different types of birds.  The landscape in the Okavango Delta was great.  Something different than what we have seen so far in Africa.   In Seronga we went to the Poler's Trust.  They organize canoe trips through the delta.  One thing that annoyed us there was that the workers there could not give us good information on what was available.  Also the place gave a terrible exchange rate for dollars.  They were getting 20 % on the dollar compared to what one got at the bank.  They knew they were the only possibility to exchange money. We were though able to exchange money with a New Zealand girl traveling with her mother and a real nice family from Austria.  We decided on doing only a day canoe trip.  The campsite was directly on the delta.  In the evening local women performed "traditional" dances around the fire place.  It was quite different than one is used to.  

02.08.2001

The canoe trip started at 8:30 am.  It took us through the swamp for 2 hours.  The canoe was steered and pushed by Less who had a pole and pushed the canoe through the swamp.  The landscape was beautiful and we had it for the most part for ourselves.  We saw a lot of birds.  One bird would dive straight down into the water and pick up a fish if it got lucky.  We also did a long walk on a dry section where we saw antelopes and zebras. We could get really closetothe zebras, they did not run away. After lunch we headed back to the camp.  Later on we walked to town to pick up some bread.  After dinner we went straight to bed. We were almost the only ones at the campsite, that was a weird feeling. But security guards were around all night.

03.08.2001

We woke up real early to make sure we were able to get to the boat at 7:00 am back to Sepupa.  Well we should have realized that it would not leave on time.  It left at 8:00 am.  The ferry ride took around 1.5 hours. Along the way we saw two crocodiles.  There we hoped to catch a bus to Maun.  Well, the bus never came, not until 4:45 pm.  So we waited around trying to hitch a ride for 7 hours.  Sort of frustrating.  It is really weird, when hitching here,  whites seem to pick up only whites and blacks only stop for other blacks hitching.  It is sad that the race card is still so in place.  Also whites will most of the time not ask for money, while the blacks will most of the time ask for money for the lift.  After all we arrived in Maun at 9:30 pm. We quickly got a taxi to our campsite,  took a much needed shower and went to bed.

04.08.2001

Some days nothing works.  We had hoped to catch a bus to Ghanzi in the morning.  After waiting around till about 12:00 pm and the bus not showing up and not able to hitch a ride,  we went food shopping and then back to the campsite. During the time we were hitching and waiting for a bus a donkey must have been hit by a car.  It laid there for hours in pain, bleeding all over the place before anyone seemed to care or even half way noticed.  Someone then must have shot him.  They just do not treat animals well in third world countries.  It is totally sad to see how the animals are handled.  We will try tomorrow to catch a bus to Ghanzi from where we will be able to get to the Namibian border and then to Windhoek.  Back at the campsite we sat at the hotel bar, worked on our website and did some much needed updates.  At the bar the waitresses were excited at the computer and especially when Kirk started taking pictures of them and showing them on the computer.  They got the most laughs from the small MPEG he made of them.  They were really nice.  Maren made a great bean and noodles dinner.  We seem to eat a lot of beans lately (cheap and easy to cook).  

05.08.2001

Well this time the bus came on time and left on time.  It was a nice change.  We arrived in Ghanzi 5 hours later. The next bus left at 4:30 pm to Mamuna the border town with Namibia.   So the wait around time was a nice 3.5 hours.  Something we are getting used to.  We arrived after dark at the border.  We had our first border crossing at night in Africa.  One has to walk through 500 meters no mans land.  Actually it is not that bad.  Just a weird feeling to be the only ones walking over the border at that time.  Luckily a campsite was only 200 meters up the road.  So we bought a soda, made dinner, and went to bed at 11:00 pm.  

06.08.2001

We got up early hoping to hitch a ride to Windhoek.  Well we waited 3 hours till a truck driver felt sorry for us when the gas station attendant told him we were waiting around since early morning for a ride.  The truck driver was a South African who drove to Namibia 3 times a week from South Africa.  He said he normally did not pick up passengers,  but he felt bad for us sitting there with no ride. There are no buses running from the border to Windhoek, so hitching was the only way.  He drove 110 km/h the whole way so we were in Windhoek by 12:00 pm.  It also did not cost anything.  So we were of course really happy.  In Windhoek we found our campsite and then walked around and got information on car rental and trips to Etosha.  We are not sure if we are going rent a car or go on a tour. The rest of the afternoon we spend working on our website. 

07.08.2001

The night before we asked about rent a cars and tours to Etosha.  We decided it would be best for us to rent a car and visit Etosha and Sossusvlei.  It would save around 150 US$ compare to the tours offered.  Just that Kirk has to learn to drive on the left side of the road.  He has trouble crossing the streets already.  We also looked for an Internet Cafe' so we could update our website and emails,  but we could not find anywhere that would let us or where it would work.  So the next update will probably be made from Cape Town, South Africa.  Otherwise we booked a campsite in Etosha National Park with the Wildlife Organization for the 9th of August.   In the afternoon we drank a beer, ate some chips, had spaghetti out of a can and went to bed.  Oh yeah, Kirk read a 5 month old Newsweek.  So today was just a do not too much day on our calendar.

08.08.2001

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In the morning Shoprite was on the agenda. Food was needed for our trip to Etosha National Park and Sossusvlei .  At 10:00 am the Rent a Car Company picked us up to take us to theire office where they had our car waiting.  When we first saw the car we were a bit disappointed.  We had rented the "backpacker special",  which meant that the car would be a little bit older than a normal rent a car,  but this golf looked ancient.  It was supposed to be a 1996 Golf,  which in Europe is at least a new type,  not the old Rabbit.  At first we did not say anything, until we sat in the car and heard the motor.  It was loud and it sounded really unhealthy.  Kirk wanted to give up on the car completely and look for something else,  however Maren convinced him that we should probably take the car.  Kirk though wanted a reduction in the price.  After talking to the lady for a while we were able to reduce the price of the vehicle around 4 dollars a day. Kirk was still not really happy with the deal, but decided that we had to get to Etosha by tomorrow.  The lady offered to drive the car up the steep driveway for us. Then something great happened.  The car stalled and she could not get it to start again.  Exactly what we were afraid of.  We then said no to the car.  She then said that the only car she had was class B Model car,  which is much more expensive per day.  She said she could give it to us for a discount,  but Kirk insisted that she give us the car for the same price as the original rent a car.  After speaking with her manager she agreed. Only one problem is that we had to wait around 2 hours before the car was ready.  She made us some coffee and we were able to watch some CNN.  Kirk at first was really nervous,  driving on the left hand side of the road. Maren had to stay wide awake to make sure everything went smoothly.  It took 5.5 hours to get to Tsumeb (Town outside Etosha National Park) where we wanted to spend the night.  The ride was easy and eventually Kirk got the hang of driving on the other side of the road.  We arrived at the campsite after dark.  There we pitched our tent,  ate some sandwiches and went to bed.

09.08.2001

At 5:30 am we woke up and quickly packed so we could be at the Etosha National Park entrance gate when it opened.  We were the second vehicle there.   The first major sighting was a herd of Giraffes.   They were really close to our car.  It was nice being able to drive ourselves through the park.  We were both glad we had rented a car.  We saw lots of different types of animals which included elephants, giraffes, zebras, ostriches, lions from a distance, wallabies, impalas, hyena, rhino, wild dog, and many other types of animals.  It was only too bad that we did not see any lions up close,  and that we did not see any cheetahs or leopards.  We drove over 300 km inside the park.  We drove from the East Coast to the West Coast where we had booked our campsite.  At the the campsite we registered at the office,  where we were pleasantly surprised that we were only charged 70 N$ for the park entrance fee for 2 days.   The campsite was ok.  There was a waterhole where lots of animals came to visit.  It was weird because it was a little bit of a zoo atmosphere, with people sitting around a guard fence watching the waterhole.  It was still quite amazing watching elephants bath themselves.  In the evening also rhinos came to the waterhole.

10.08.2001

In the morning we decided to drive west of our camp, to see if we would have any luck finding some lions.  Well there was no luck to be found.  To bad.  We drove around 150 km looking at the animals again.  We then decided we should get underway in the direction of Swakopsmund.  We barely made it to the next town.  We were very low on fuel.  Six hours later we were in Swakopsmund.  A very German town,  where lots of people were speaking accent free German.   Maren wanted to eat fresh "Broetchens", so we stopped at a bakery where they of course spoke German. We went to the waterfront and had fresh, healthy rolls for lunch. In the afternoon we drove further on to Walvis Bay where we stayed the night. The campsite was quite empty because it is wintertime in Namibia and very cold, no camping season.  Kirk also started getting sick again,  he had the chills and a bad cold. 

11.08.2001

We got up very early in the morning and left the campsite by 6:30 am, just after sunrise. We had a long way to drive to Sossusvlei, the sand dunes in the Namib Desert.  It was very hard for Kirk to drive because the road was not paved the whole way. He said, it is like driving on snow. Around noon we arrived in Sesriem where we paid the park entrance fee for the Namib Naukluft Park and drove towards the dunes. On the way, to your left and right one sees right away the red sand dunes. After 60 km in the park we had to park the car to go the last 5 km by foot. You are only allowed to drive the last kilometers in a four wheel drive. At the 4 Kilometer point we finally got a ride from a really nice Africans.   The driver was concerned we did not have enough to drink. Before we left the car he gave us a big can of Coke. The sand dunes were just amazing, like you see them in advertisements. They are huge about 300 m high. Unfortunately we did not have too much time, that is why we just climbed one dune, the most known own which is the Sossusvlei sand dune. You can walk there for hours, from one dune to another. It is amazing how different sight Namibia has. This country has so much to offer. In the afternoon we started looking for a campsite to stay the night.  The first one recommended to us by a couple who drove us the down from the dunes was just too expensive, so we decided to drive further. It is always the same, when you look for something in particular,  you cannot find it, otherwise there is plenty of it. We drove two hours looking for a campsite in the dark before before we found a guest farm where we could pitch our tent. Kirk did not feel good again,  so we basically went straight to sleep.  Every night it seems we sleep for a couple of hours, wake up and then can not really sleep for the rest of the night.  We also dream every time we fall asleep.  The dreams are a lot of the times really weird and go through our whole life.  We think it might have to do with the Lariam Malaria pills we are taking.  We think we are going to switch to others when we go to India.  

12.08.2001

We left the guest farm early in the morning because we had to be in Windhoek around noon to give up the car. We drove over 370 km and reached Windhoek around 10:00 am. First we had to go to the Intercape Mainlander bus office to pick up our pre booked bus ticket to Cape Town which was leaving at 5:00pm today. That turned out to be a little problem because only one seat was booked and the bus was full. Maren called the company a day earlier from Sossusvlei to make a reservation for two people but the lady on the phone must of not got it straight.  At first the ladies at the counter told us it would be impossible to get an extra seat.  However we did not give up.  We insisted that they find a solution to the problem because we definitely could not stay a night longer in Windhoek.  After calling around and speaking to the company's manager they said it would be possible, and that we would only have to call later to get the reservation number.  So we paid for the tickets and  returned the car. Monika from the car rental gave us a lift to town where we waited over 5 hours in the public park until 05:00 pm, when our luxury bus left to Cape Town. It was a 20 hour bus ride and we got to see real funny movie.  They also served free tea and coffee.  Kirk was also able to sleep a little, which was good. The bus was like being on a airplane.  We also surprisingly met the Australian ladies we had traveled with on the 30 of July from Zambia via Botswana, to the Caprivi Strip in Namibia.  It was nice to see them again.  They were taking the same bus as we were to Cape Town South Africa.  

13.08.2001

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The weather was very cloudy in Cape Town South Africa. We could not see the Table Mountain. We went with a guy to a  backpacker hostel near town where we could camp. It was central located and cheap but the people in here seemed a little strange. Seemed that some were heavily on drugs.   However the staff was really nice and helpful and the place was ok.  Not made out for camping,  but we could still pitch our tent.  Later we went into town to get information about flights to India at the end of the month. STA Travel had a very good student rate for us, so we made a reservation and probably confirm it tomorrow. It costs only 309 US$ per person for a one way ticket.  We thought we would probably have to pay at least double that amount,  probably more.  Afterwards we went to the V&A Waterfront Shopping Mall where we found an internet cafe to upload our website which we have not done for ages. We also looked for a camping store to get a new ceramic input for our water filter. Hopefully they can order one within the next days. We also checked out the bookstore for travel guides for India, China, South East Asia, and Nepal.  The travel bookstore was good,  but they did not have the latest versions of the books we wanted.  So we have to look a little more. When we got back to our hostel we worked the rest of the evening on the laptop.  Maren was able to call her mom, and Kirk his.  It was good talking to them.  Have not really talked to them for more than a minute or two since we have left.

14.08.2001

Kirk slept much better last night,  and got up early to take a much needed shower.  It has been a while.  During the day we walked around Cape Town and looked at new cameras.  We are thinking of buying a new 35 mm camera. The newer ones are just much lighter.  We are not sure if we are going to get one, because they do cost a lot of money.  We also confirmed our flight to India. So we are leaving South Africa on the 28th of August from Johannesburg.   In the afternoon we worked on our  website and just hung around a little. Kirk is still not feeling good.  Later on we checked cameras in the internet to get a idea what the prices were for certain  models and which models were good. 

15.08.2001

We slept longer than usual this morning, which was probably good.  Maren family had send Kirk's glasses and another battery for the laptop to the German Consulate here in Cape Town.  We hoped to catch a bus there, but we just missed the bus.  Instead we decided pick up the stuff on the 17th when we have the rent a car.  The decision on whether to buy the camera was a tough one, but we finally decided on buying one.  We were able to bargain the price down again a little at another shop.  The new camera is just so much lighter than the old one and the zoom is much more powerful.  Hopefully it was the right decision.  The camera is the Cannon EOS 300 or the Rebel 2000 in the US.  It comes with a 28mm to 90 mm standard lens and we bought the 70mm to 300mm lens.  Later on we hoped to catch the 2:00 boat to Robin Island,  but when we asked to get tickets. They said the boat had left already.  Maren said that was impossible, it was before 2:00pm.  They said no it was 2:45 pm.  Maren hat never set her watch to South African time.  So that was a major blunder.  Also the cheap boat tickets we all sold out to the island for the next day.  If we can we will probably still go if we get tickets after we hike Table Mountain tomorrow.   We picked up the out flight tickets at 5:00 pm and then walked along the water from a while.  We want to get up early to hike up table Mountain. 

16.08.2001

We had hoped to climb Table Mountain in the morning.  We walked up to cable car station that was closed.  It was cold and very windy there.  We went further up,  but at halfway we met some other hikers from Cape Town,  who recommended to us that we should not climb up further.  It was just too dangerous and windy. Kirk wanted to go further, but Maren convinced him it would be better to go down.  Later on Maren took the bus to the street where she thought the German Consulate was.  Well she was wrong.  After looking for a while she found out that the consulate was back on the side of town where we were staying.    She had actually almost walked buy it on the way to the bus station.  She was lucky that she could pick up some stuff sent from her family there, since they were just about closing. She also tried to find out what the best way is to get our Indian Visas.  It is turning out to be a difficult process.  Kirk in the mean time went down to the Water Front and bought tickets to Robben Island tomorrow.  Maren came back from everything soaking wet.  It had really started to rain hard.  After a hot late lunch,  Kirk decided to do some Internet Work. 

17.08.2001

We had planned to go to Robben Island today.  After waiting around the docks for a while, we found out the boat had been canceled due to bad weather.   They said it would probably be canceled tomorrow, so we are not going to be able to see the Island.  Then next time.  Later on we went food shopping and then back to the hostel to work on our website.  The weather is really bad at the moment.  It is cold, wet, windy and basically just miserable.  However we are still doing well and enjoying our trip.  Yes we are still getting along (most of the time).  In the afternoon we went to the Water Front again to mail our passports to the Indian embassy in Johannesburg.  As Maren did this Kirk played in the internet.  Afterwards we treated ourselves to a movie, 13 Days. It was about the Cuban Missile Crises.  It was ok, but they should of not cast Kevin Costner in another JFK film.  Afterwards the two of us had dinner and went to bed.  

18.08.2001

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The car rental agent brought by the car at 9:00 am.  The guy started explaining the car rental to Kirk,  when Kirk realized that there was suddenly hidden costs or costs that were not mentioned to us before.  First they wanted drop off costs which we specifically asked for.  The answer was no.  There was also a small contract fee from around 2 dollars.  Kirk immediately stopped everything.  He told the agent he was not informed of these costs and that we were not going to pay them.  The agent said that these were the costs associated with the car.  Kirk then told him he could take the car back.  We did not want it.  Well he then called his manager who told him that they would waive the drop off costs, but not the contract costs.  After this was explained to Kirk,  Kirk told him we did not want the car.  It was only 2 dollars,  but Kirk wanted to make his point. After calling his manager again,  they reluctantly dropped the extra costs.  We were lucky,  would have had to stay in Cape Town a couple more days before we got another inexpensive car.   The car was also a VW polo, a better one than we had ordered.  The poker game worked though. We then went looking for an Outdoor store to find a small backpack.  After finding a shop we found a backpack we thought would be suitable for the next leg of our trip.  They were 38 liter bags and not too expensive.  We also bought a water bag.  We are going to send our big bags home.  We can not wait not having to carry the big bags around.  We then drove up to the Cape of Good Hope National Park.  When getting out of our car,  a baboon started stealing food right out of Maren's hand.  They were aggressive. We quickly got back into our car and ate lunch there.  The Cape was absolutely beautiful.  We also saw Right Whales below the cliffs.  It was great.  The Cape was also nice because one could hike around on different paths.   Along with the baboons there were also ostriches  hanging around.  After hiking around, we drove down the coast to Hermanus.  The drive is really nice with great views overlooking the ocean.  One contrast one does notice are the Townships and wooden shack settlements along the road.  One comes from rich Cape Town,  where one forgets the poverty for a while,  then drives by and it comes back to life.  When looking for the hostel in Hermanus, we accidentally drove into a Township area.  Not the smartest thing to do as tourists.  But nothing happened.  According to brochures and travel books it is strongly recommend that one does not drive in these areas.  We stayed in a dorm room that was given to us for the price of camping.   

19.08.2001

After taking the best shower we have both had since starting our trip, we went to town to look for whales along the coast.  Well we saw some parading through the bay.  It was really cool,  though we did not see them up close.  They move so gracefully through the water.  Afterwards we took off to Cape Agulhas,  the southern most point of Africa.  It was about an hour away.  The point is nice, but nothing spectacular.  There is a shipwreck to see not far away.  We are really enjoying our new camera, which Maren just took a picture of me when I am writing my diary,  and confusing my already confused writing.  After Cape Agulhas we drove to Mossel Bay, the starting point of the famous Garden Route.  After finding a backpackers to camp at, we took a hike up along the coast.  It was a really nice path overlooking the cliffs into the ocean.   For dinner,  Maren made the usual beans and rice again.  

20.08.2001

We slept ok, got kind of cold again at night.  In the morning we packed and left to visit a few towns along the coast.  The first town we visited was Knysna.  At Plettenberg Bay we walked on the beach and rocks for a while.  After that we went to Jefferys Bay where we had lunch, left over beans and rice and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.  From there we decided to drive to Cintsa, a small town outside East London.  The hostel was located overlooking the bay.  After pitching our tent we took a walk down to the beach.  For dinner we had pineapple with rice. The pineapple was bought along the street, 5 Rand for two.   The day was long because we had driven so much.  

21.08.2001

After eating pineapples for breakfast, we took a stroll along the beach before we headed of for the Drankensberg Mountains.  We wanted to do some hiking up and around Lesotho.  It is supposed to really beautiful.  The day consisted of basically driving through the country side.  There is an extreme difference between the coast and inland towns.  The inland towns are the poor areas, much different than Cape Town or the coastal villages.  One does see the Townships outside the resort villages, but not on the scale one sees inland.  There are hundreds of small houses lined up next to each other on rows, looking exactly the same.  It is sometimes really sad to see.  We are the lucky ones that just have to drive through.  Makes you wonder a little.  In the late afternoon we arrived at the Sani Pass where found a Backpackers to stay, the Sani Lodge.  It was really windy and we had to tie down our tent so it would not blow away.  

22.08.2001

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During the night the wind was really strong,  felt as if our tent would blow away.  After having breakfast we started our two day hike. The trail we took was called Polela Trail.  The first part we got a little lost,  but were able to find our way back to the trail.  The first part of the trail followed a small river up a mountain.  It was beautiful, with small waterfalls and pools along the way.  Animals were also present along the way such as baboons, deer, and an animal similar to an antelope.  After following the river for a few kilometers we took a steep turn up the mountain to a cave.  The path followed up and around the cave to another path which we had to take. However we did not see the path.  We thought we were wrong and decided to back track down to the river again to try and figure out where we went wrong.  After following the river further up,  we realized that we were again going in the wrong direction.   The path we were taking was not a path after all.  The map we had was a little confusing and the trails were hardly marked.  We finally figured out that we had to climb up the way we had tried the first time, and that the other trail must be up there somewhere.  Well it was, but hardly visible in the high grass.  The next part of the hike was a steep climb for a couple of hours. It then flattened out at around 2500 meters.  The first day we hiked around 20 km.  It was much harder than we had thought it would be. We had to camp on the mountain before the peak. The ground was not level and was bumpy so the tent was not very well situated.  Another problem is that it got really windy at night.  Maren made a bean dinner,  which we threw down as fast as possible.  It was getting cold and all we could think of was getting into the sleeping bags.  Since we had a right and left sleeping bag,  Maren zipped them together to make one big bag. It really helped keep us warm at night.  During the night the wind was blowing hard and it felt as if the both of us would be blown off the mountain.  Lucky that did not happen.

23.08.2001

The first view out of our tent was amazing. It overlooked the valley below.  There was a sheet of clouds hovering over the peaks.  It was great.  Kirk did not want to get up so early.  It was still cold outside.   For breakfast we had peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to give us energy for the next part of the climb.  The climb to the summit was a steep hard climb for 2 hours, 2.5 for us since we took the wrong path again.   This climb we felt was just as hard or harder than Mt. Kenya.  It was just straight up the hill.  On the way up we saw the first people we have seen on the mountain.  They were not tourists, and Kirk thought they were smugglers of some sort.  As we found out later, they were people from Lesotho  who were smuggling marijuana to South Africa.   When one gets almost to the summit,  one enters Lesotho.  The way to the summit was again not marked, so we ended up taking a little detour before reaching the top. The views were fantastic overlooking South Africa and Lesotho.   At that point we were thinking it was well worth the pain on the way up.  We were so glad we did the climb.  We enjoyed it more than Mt. Kenya because we had to do it on our own, basically with only a map on really unmarked trails.   One other thing Kirk saw another animal up top,  a bunny rabbit.  We have no idea how he got up there, or of course why it was even up there that high.  On the way down the smugglers waved to us happily.  We had hoped that they did not take our bags we had hidden where we had camped the night before.  The smugglers seemed amused to see us on the mountain.  The first part of the way down was steep and very painful on the joints.  From the point from where we had camped,  the hike was mostly just a constant downhill hike.  Of course we took the wrong way a couple of times.  Once in a while having to go down really steep areas to get back on the path, or through riverbeds.  However, at least once it was worth taking a little detour because we got some breath taking views.  We think we hiked around 20 km to a campsite, which was around 2 hours away from our car.  There we found the reception, but it was closed.  We wanted to pay for the camping,  but know one was around.  So we just pitched our tent on the campsite.  We were the only ones there.  We made a fire and dinner and then went early to bed.  The hike was one of our highlights of our trip. It was just really cool to be almost the only ones on the mountain, and not seeing any one except for the one convoy of smugglers.  The hike was also really hard which gave us the satisfaction of having accomplished something.

24.08.2001

At 6:00 am we packed out tent, and started hiking back to the Sani Lodge, where we had left our car.  Again we took a wrong turn, which however allowed us to get some great views of some lakes and to see a large baboon group play on the cliffs.  The hike should have taken 2 hours, but it took us 3 hours because we had trouble reading the map again.  Also it actually rained for a while, which was seemly unusual during the dry season.  Also on the way back,  it smelled of smoke from fires on the mountain and in the valley.  It seems like they burn the old long grass everywhere.  On the first night we had seen a lot of fires on the mountain and in the valleys.  It really stunk and the ashes we had to walk through made us really dirty.  When we reached the lodge we treated ourselves to some homemade chocolate cake.  We did not stay long while we wanted to get to Kruger National Park today. We quickly stopped in town so we could buy some groceries and call the Indian embassy to find out if our Passports arrived. To our disappointment and worry they had not yet arrived.  According to the post office,  our mail was not lost and should be arriving the next day.  We hope,  since we want to fly out on the 28th.  We hope the Indian embassy makes an exception and gives us the Indian Visas on Monday. Normally it takes 4 working days to get the Visas.  Afterwards we drove all day to Nelspruit where we camped for the night. 

25.08.2001

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We got up early in the morning only to find that the backpackers had locked us out.  We still had our food inside.  We had to wake up some of the staff to open the door.  Before we left for Kruger we had to get some money from an ATM machine.  What turned out to be harder than we thought.  It was early in the morning, but light outside.  When Kirk went to the ATM machine suddenly there were a couple of guys just wanting to help.  They were trying to confuse him, telling him things like you should use that machine, that machine does not work and that they were working here for his protection.  Well Kirk got  nervous and got quickly back in the car.  It was getting obvious that they wanted Kirk to withdraw money and somehow get their hands on it.  Well we went then to another ATM machine, where it happened again.  We decided to go to another town and try.  We were by that time a little scared out of our shoes.  Well in the next town Kirk pulled over to an ATM at a gas station and went to the ATM machine.  Before he knew it another guy was right behind him, telling him how the machine works and suddenly pressing in the amount he should withdraw. Luckily the machine did not accept Kirk's ATM card or was technically out of order.  Kirk had to almost push the guy out of the way to get back to the car.  So we decided to try another ATM machine. Well guess what happened again.  Two guys came from no where, offering their assistance.  They again said they worked there.  Again they wanted to press the buttons and rattle Kirk.  But this time Kirk just took his card and yelled a few obscenities at they guys and quickly got in the car and took off.   We decided to drive again to the next town.  There we finally found an ATM machine at a shopping mall with an armed security guard with a Uzi guarding the ATM Machine.  As Kirk went to the machine he quickly came around and watched the area.  Some guys who were watching Kirk quickly turned around and looked elsewhere.  It was a weird feeling being there.  However we were able to get our money.   We then drove to Kruger National Park.  We were still a little rattled and pissed off on what had happened in the early morning. It was the first time in Africa we were really scared and felt heavily threatened.  The guys were just waiting for victims.   Well enough of that.  Lets get to our visit to Kruger National Park.  Well it was great. Probably since we saw the Big 5 (Lion, Buffalo, Rhino, Leopard and Elephant).  We first saw a few Rhinos and small herd of buffalos.  When we went for a toilette break, some nice guy told us where to see some lions.  We quickly took off hoping still to see them.  Well we were not disappointed.  Seven lions were laying around their kill,  a giraffe that they had killed on one of the park roads. The lions must have just eaten and the giraffes corpse was just half eaten laying there.  It was fantastic, but it got better. We were able to park our car within a few meters of the giraffe and the lions.  One lion came over and started eating away at the corpse.  With our new camera we think we got some great shots.  It was great.  We were really happy,  we had finally seen our lions.  After watching the lions for an half an hour we decided to look for more animals.  Later on we also saw some elephants eating along the road.  Other animals were impalas, kudus, birds, hippos, giraffes, and other animals.  The park was not full with animals like Etosha, but we were really satisfied that we had seen lions and especially the one feeding on the giraffe from up close.  After lunch we drove in the park for a while, not seeing too many animals, but beautiful scenery.  We were content on leaving the park that night, when another car stopped us and told us where a leopard was laying up in a tree.  Of course we drove right away to the spot where the leopard was sleeping up on a branch in a tree.  It was at a distance, but you could still see him very well.  Wow we have seen the Big Five on one day in one park.  Well it got better, on the way out we got treated to several lions again.  Now we had scene a lot of lions and were really happy.  We left the park right before dark and found a lodge to camp at around 30 m away.  It was nice we did not have to pitch our tent,  since they said we could just use one of their permanent tents which were not being used at the time.  Maren made a great noodle and bean dinner and we went to bed.

26.08.2001

We got up at 6:00 am to get an early start to Johannesburg.  We arrived in the early afternoon and decided to stay at a backpackers near the airport.  We then went food shopping and then to a mall after lunch to look for some travel books.  The mall was a security area where mostly whites were hanging out.  This society is still really separated.  There is as if two worlds are here.  Later on we got to see the introduction of South Africa Big Brother. It was the first time it was shown on TV here.   It was just like in Germany.   Otherwise nothing much happened here.  Tomorrow we hope that we will get the Indian Visas or we will have to delay our flight for a few days.  Maren was really nice and cleaned our stuff to send home.  We will send our big packs home as well as our camping equipment.  We will not need it for India, Nepal, and the rest of Asia.  We just want to carry a small pack for a while.  The 38 liter bags we bought are big enough to hold everything we have and more. It will be a nice change.   

27.08.2001

Today we were praying when we woke up that we would be able to find out where our passports were and get the Indian Visa in one day.  Driving through Johannesburg was an interesting drive.  It was a little scary after hearing and reading about how dangerous it was supposed to be. Well nothing happened bad.  The city is much different than Cape Town.  At the Indian embassy we found out that they do not pick up their mail very often at the post office.  Our passports were still at the post office,  where we had to pick them up ourselves.  After picking the passports up, we had to go back to the embassy and beg them to give us the Visas today.  After talking to the manager, we finally got the answer we were looking for.  Though he went over Kirk's signature and wanted to see our student id's  They told us to pick up the passports in the afternoon.   So we decided to go to a shopping mall to see if we could find a Lonely Planet India book and get something to eat.  Well we went to McDonalds because they had cheap hamburgers and chicken burgers.  Kirk was starving and ate three plus an ice cream.  We found the book, not the one we really wanted.  There is supposed to be a new edition this month, but they only had the 1999 edition.  Other things we bought were batteries and some lip cream. At 2:30 pm to our surprise the passports were ready.  The Visas were really expensive, especially for Kirk, around 75 US$.  However both of us were really happy to get them, so we can fly out tomorrow. Later on we went to Shoprite, where we got a box to send our big bags home.  Later on we sorted out our stuff and packed our bags.  It was nice to see that our new bags were much lighter.  We decided to stay in the dorm tonight, since we wanted to pack our stuff tonight.  We are also sending around 20 rolls of film home.  Hopefully they get there.  

28.08.2001

We got up early to get to the airport. We had to drop off the car, and also sent the packages.  It only cost us 50 US$ to send everything,  which was ok.  It will just take 3 months for the big stuff to get there.  When one gets the TAX refund, they get you with ridicules commissions and fees.  So one does not get all your taxes back actually.  They take 1.5% from the purchase price,  which comes to over 10% the Tax refund. It is a rip off.  Also one gets a check,  where there is only one place to cash it, again they nail you with commissions and fees.  It does not make one a happy camper.  So you probably loose over 15% your tax refund.  As a tourist they get you where they can.  We waited around the airport for a while, Kirk wrote some emails but could not send them because there are no Internet connection possibilities in the airport.  We were also glad that we could take our new backpacks as a carry on.  It will make our life easier.  The flight was ok. The Nairobi Airport was as crazy as ever.  Good that we did not have to stay very long there.  The movie on the flight was Crocodile Dundee in Los Angeles or something like that.  The next flight to Bombay, was also ok.  The food was actually really good, but the movie was Spy Kids,  which was just horrible and not watch able.  Too bad.  Thought we would be able to see a couple of movies.

29.08.2001

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The arrival time was around 2:15 am in the morning Indian time.  We waited around two hours until we found someone to share a taxi with.  We did not want to get into the city too early and have to pay for a night.  The couple was from Denmark which have just arrived from an Aeroflot flight from Moscow.  It was good to be able to split the taxi fare.  At the airport we also exchanged our leftover South African Rand,  but at a terrible exchange rate. However we were glad to get rid of them. The ride to the hotel was a wake up call.  There were hundreds of people sleeping on the street.  Everything looked so poor.  After searching for a hotel, we finally settled on the Indian Guest House.  A tout had followed us here hoping to get a commission,  but we had already called the place from the airport, asking if they had any rooms available.  So the tout was upset he was not going to get any money.  The Danish couple also stayed at the same hotel. We were able to bargain that we would not have to pay for that night, since it was already after 5 am in the morning.  We slept until around 10:30 am and then decided to take a walk in the city. We first went to the Prince of Whales Museum,  where they have great student discounts.   We also bought two books,  a John Grisham novel and a Harry Potter book.  We then went to an internet cafe to upload some stuff for a couple of hours. By that time we were very hungry and went to a restaurant where we had Chicken Bryani and tea.  It was delicious, and cost less than a 1 US$ for the both of us.  Later on we booked our train tickets to Goa, south of here.  The train system is a little confusing here, but the train help desk will eventually explain the way.  Afterwards we took a rest back at the hotel.  In the evening we took a walk in town and had dinner. The meal was called Thali special.  It was chapati that one dipped into different spices.  It was great, we have to watch out we do not eat too much here.  It just cost over one US$.  For desert we had some bananas.  

30.08.2001

 

This morning we slept again a little longer than usual, until 9:00 am.  We decided not to go to Elephanta Island. The only attraction there cost 10 US$ to get in and that was a little too much for us. The attraction is a cave,  from what we have heard it is questionable if it is worth the price.  The both of us decided to go to the market and check out the scene there.  It was not what we are used to.  First of all they sell everything and second it is absolutely filthy and smelly.  However it was an interesting experience.  They hassle you, however it is different than in Africa.  It is hard to explain, just believe us it is different.  Afterwards we just walked around for a while. Bought a used Lonely Planet Nepal book for 4 dollars.  When we were walking we bumped into the two Danish people we had share the taxi with.  We had tea and decided to have dinner together in the evening. Then we walked around for a while and bought some bananas for the train ride in the morning. We also tried betal.  It is the leave and nuts of the betal tree that are wrapped together and are then chewed and digested.  It is also a little bit of a stimulant.  Later on we walked again down to the Gateway of India and then checked out Mumbai's most expensive hotel, the Taj Mahal. The staircase is really nice.  One thing with the children beggars here is that they always touch you. One understands their situation, but one gets really annoyed with the kids always grabbing onto you. There are just so many poor people here, it is hard to imagine before you get to see it yourself.  Man we are just lucky to be born where we were.  For dinner we went out to a restaurant with the two (Peter + Anja).  The dinner was really good.  Kirk had chicken with rice and Maren had vegetables with rice.  With tea it costs just a 2 dollar for a great meal.  It was a really nice dinner with the two of them.  They had interesting stories on why they are doing this trip and what they want to get out of it.  They are really nice and we enjoyed ourselves.  Our assertion that they are a couple was wrong.  They met on the internet looking for someone to travel with.  That is kind of cool and risky.  However when you speak with them,  one thinks they have known each other for a long time.  We have to get to bed early tonight because we are getting up at 5:40 am to get the morning train to Goa.  The two are also going on the same train as we are.
31.08.2001

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Peter (Danish Guy) woke us up at 4:40 am.  The train was to leave 7:05.  The walk to the train station took us a half an hour.  A stray dog followed us all the way to the platform.  There are so many walking in the streets of Mumbai.  At the train station the rats were running through the tracks.  It is really dirty here.  The train left on time which was a nice change for us.  It was a little shocking for us when the train went through the real slum areas of Mumbai.  People were lined up relieving themselves (number 2),  right in front of the passing trains, men and women.  They were also living under some horrible conditions.  It was a really said sight to see.  To our surprise the train was not crowded.  That was really nice,  we could stretch out on the seats,  sleep or read a book.  The food was also not too bad which they served.   Maren and I split a Veg Curry with rice.  They were constantly serving snacks, coffee, and tea.  It was also not really expensive.  The train ride took around 12 hours to reach Old Goa..  There we were able to figure out that there was actually a bus to Panaji,  contrary to what  every taxi driver told us outside the station.  Where ever you go they are almost always trying to scam you.  Well the bus rid only cost 10 Rs for the both of us.  Peter and Anja (Danish People) also came with us to the hotel, where we rented a 5 bed room.  We only needed 4 beds, but that is the only room they had available. It was still cheap.  The bathrooms were squats and really dirty.  They also had no real showers.  Lizards and cockroaches were also in the room. Maren and Kirk did not think it was too bad,  but the Danish girl was a little turned off.  The two are really nice,  much different from us,  but nice to have along.  It is always nice to be able to travel with others once in a while.  We went out to dinner again together.  Anja treated, which made us a little embarrassed.  It was really nice though. We all had a Thali meal.  It was delicious.  Later in the evening we hung out back in the room, where Kirk and Maren read there books, and Peter and Anja played the guitar.  He was not bad. 

 

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