Back  Home  June 2001 August 2001 Maren & Kirk

July 2001 Daily Diary

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(Uganda, Rwanda, Tanzania (Zanzibar), Malawi, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Namibia)



Getting up early is becoming a habit. We woke up to the hens screaming outside our tent.  We wanted to got anyway early to go to Jinja to the Bujagali Falls.   The bus dropped us outside town at the circle.  From there we walked 8 km to the falls.  The falls were much different than the Blue Nile Falls.  They were not high,  but were really nice.  There is white water rafting on the Nile, which looked like a lot of fun. But We have decided already to go gorilla trekking .  We then hitched a ride halfway back and then walked the rest of the way to Jinja town.  After walking in the wrong direction for a long time,  we finally found the source of the Nile.  This is were Victoria Lake flows in the Nile.  We then took a minibus back to Kampala where we then walked another 3 or 4 km to the Backpackers Hostel.   At the campsite Maren cooked a great pineapple, tomato, onion, avocado, and rice meal.  We are very tired,  we probably walked over 30 km the whole day.  


After eating scrambled eggs for breakfast we went to the Tanzanian Consulate to get a Visa.  Kirk had to pay more than double than Maren did.   We asked them if it was possible to get the visas on the same day,  while normally it takes the usual 24 hours. They were pretty friendly and said we could pick them up in the afternoon.  We then went food shopping at Shoprite, a newly opened supermarket here.  They had a huge selection,  at least compared to what we are used to in the last few months.  We then decided to be on the safe side and withdraw 500 dollars on Kirk's Visa Card at Barclay's Bank. They kill you on exchange rates in the first place,  but since they are the only bank in Uganda that will give you a cash advance on your credit card,  they let you know they have a monopoly here.  It cost us over 30 US$ just to get 500 US$.  But it is probably better we have a little cash on us.  Afterwards we loaded up some web pages.  We then picked up our Visas and walked back to the hostel.  It is nice that we are walking a lot again.  We then ate beans with rice,  avocado, tomatoes, and onions.  It was delicious.  Cooking is so much better than eating out all the time.  We are going towards south west Uganda early tomorrow morning.


We woke up at 5:00 am to get the bus to Butogota.  We were at the Kampala Bus Station at 6:00 am.  The only problem is that the bus did not leave until 9:00 am when it was finally full.  After 10 hours sitting in the bus we arrived in Butogota.  On the bus were a couple of other tourists who were also going to Bwindi National Park so we were able to share a ride up there in a pickup truck.   It was good because we could split the costs.  We had actually planned to stay in Butogota that night and hike up to Bwindi NP the next morning.  At the Bwindi National Park Gate we had a choice of two campsites.  One wanted 5000 USh per person and the other 4000 USh.  The later we were able to bargain down to 3000 USh per person which was the price mentioned to us in Kampala.  Maren cooked a great meal again and afterwards we went to bed.   We were very happy we were able to camp again.   We are happy we carried the thing the whole way down.  It is so much nicer than always staying in hotel rooms.


Today we just relaxed and did not do much. We walked a little around the gate and went food shopping at little shops along the street.  We were able to buy some avocados,  bananas, and tomatoes. for a late lunch.  We did not go hiking in the park because we did not want to pay the park entrance fee twice.   Otherwise we just read our books and were lazy.  In the evening there was a show put on by locals at the other campsite which we watched for a while.  We went early to bed eager for Gorilla trekking the next day.



We woke up early to make sure we did not miss the gorilla trekking at 8:30 am.  If you do not show upon time,  you loose your 250 US$ permit.  We met the other tourists at the Park Headquarter.  The groups are made up of 6 visitors,  a guide, and numerous other park rangers and soldiers.  Some with machine guns, while others just had machetes.  We were going to visit the H-Group which is supposedly the harder of the hikes to find.  They suspected that we would have to walk three hours at least before we would find the gorillas, since that was the distance they were the day before.  After walking along a good path in the forest for about an hour,  we cut up left into the forest on a not too often traveled pass.  They had to use the machetes to make a way for us through.  We all had prepared ourselves for a 3 hour tuff walk,  but suddenly after an hour our guide stopped.  He smelled something.  The gorillas had traveled 3 miles since the last day and were much closer than they had thought.  We were happy to find the gorillas, but a little disappointed that we were not going to hike a little more through the rainforest. The forest was beautiful and totally green.   In the gorilla group there were two silverbacks,  but they kept a good distance from us, so we were not able to get a great view of them. There are a total of 30 gorillas in the family.  We were able to get within 5 meters of them,  but we always had to stay in our group.  The gorillas were not disturbed from us at all.  They went along with their business, ignoring us most of the time.  They must be used to humans coming to visit.  They had just finished breakfast so they were just hanging around doing nothing, except for a young gorilla in a tree that was swinging around  a lot.  It was very difficult to take pictures since in was very dark under the canopy of the forest.  We were able to stay with the gorillas for an hour.  Afterwards we headed back towards the National Park Gate.  Was it worth 250 US$ each.   It is hard to say.  It is quite expensive for just a couple of hours in the park.  We really enjoyed it and were happy that we had seen them, but were both questioning ourselves if we would do it again,  knowing now what we have done.  If your budget allows it,  then it is probably worth it.  If it is tight,  you might just want to visit the chimpanzees in Kibale National Forest in Uganda.  We were back sooner than we had planned.  So we decided that we would hike out 17 km on that day,  not wanting to pay an expensive taxi back to Butogota.  We packed our tent and started hiking to Butogota.  At around the halfway point a pickup truck picked us up for 1000 USh each.  It turned out that the driver was also going to Kabale (our next destination) the next morning.  After bargaining the price down from 20.000 USh each to 5000 USh each we agreed to be picked up at 4:30 am the next day.  We then went around the business of getting a hotel room for the night.  Again we were at the bargaining table.  The normal listed price for the Travelers Inn Motel in 30.000 USh per room. We said to him that he had a really nice place, but it was completely out of our budget.  He went a little lower,  but we then told him that we could afford a maximum of 10.000 USh.  He refused,  so we said thank you and started walking out.  He then said ok on the 10.000 USh, but making it clear he was not happy.  We were able to take a cold shower there which was nice after a few days not being able to take one.  In the evening we cooked a meal outside our hotel door,  which also did not make the manager happy, since he wanted us to eat at his restaurant.  Later on we had a beer with a few other people we had met up at the Bwindi National Park.  They gave out Canadian Flag pins to local kids in town.  Soon they were always asking for pins as we were drinking our beer.  More and more,  we are both starting to believe,  that giving things to these local kids ,just encourages them to learn how to beg every time a westerner walks by.  It maybe gives them a short term moment of happiness,  but they then expect that every westerner that walks by will give them something.  When we were walking from Bwindi National Park to Bugota we were constantly asked and yelled at for pens and money.  The only English words these kids know are "how are you" followed by  "give me pen" or "give me money".   



We woke up at 4:00 am to make sure we got our ride to Kabale. He picked us up at 4:45 am, his pickup was already loaded with people. We right away thought, this was going to be a hard ride again. During the trip he managed to pack 22 people in the back of the pickup + a baby, with people up front.  Absolutely crazy. We were packed in like sardines.  The ride took five hours on mostly unpaved hilly roads.  The scenery was spectacular, but the ride really was painful.  Kirk, because he was up high on the pickup was completely covered with dust and dirt.  In Kabale we first went shopping and got some information on when buses or transportation was leaving to Rwanda.  We also exchanged some money at the supermarket.  They had the best exchange rate in town, though it still was really bad.  They have something with small dollar bills in Uganda.  Bills 20 and below get a much worse exchange rate than those higher. Also in Kabale the exchange rates were much worse than in Kampala.  Afterwards we had to jump onto another pickup truck to get to Lake Bunyoni, where we wanted to camp.  There we three or four camp sites on the lake, but only the Overland Camp had any visitors.  It was more expensive, but it seemed like everyone went only there.  According to the manager,  they had more security.  After pitching our tent we cooked and read a little. 


The camp was really nice, so we decided to stay another day.  We rented a dugout canoe to go to an island.  We had a lot of difficulty in the beginning trying to keep the thing going straight. We always went in circles.  Kirk kept on yelling at Maren,  blaming her.   It was out of frustration that we were not getting anywhere  and were looking like idiots on the lake.  Eventually we figured out how to steer the canoe.   It was nice,  but a little boring,  since the only thing one had to do was to paddle.  The lake was beautiful and we were really glad we had come.  In the afternoon we watched a little CNN and some Wimbledon Tennis.  We had some mashed potatoes, with onions, avocados, and tomatoes for dinner.  In the evening we spoke to an English couple we had met in Bwindi National Park when we were Gorilla trekking.



We decided to get up early and walk the 10 km to the bus station in Kabale.  On Sundays no pickup trucks were carrying passengers to and from Lake Bunyoni.  It took us two hours to get there.  We had to take a shared taxi to the border town of Katuna.  From there we walked over the border,  received our free visas to Rwanda and took another minibus to Kigali. We did not stay in Kigali long.  We walked around town and exchanged some money with some guys.  You had to bargain for this too. We then decided to take a 3 hour bus to Gisenye, a town up north on Lake Kivu.  There we got a dorm bed in a Mission.   Women and men had separate rooms.  Kirk shared his room with 5 Rwandans and Maren had a room to herself.   We walked down to the lake and wanted to make our dinner there,  but we were right away bugged by some local kids.  So we decided to walk around and have our dinner at the mission. 


Kirk woke up at 3:00 am in the morning when one of the other guys sharing the room turned on the radio.   At 7:30 am we caught a mini bus to Kibuye.  It was a hard ride in an over packed minibus on an unpaved winding road.  We were glad when it was over.  Right in town they have a prison for people you committed crimes in the Genocide here.  They all wear pink uniforms and are housed in a fenced in area.  The area does not seem very secure.  According to what we have heard is that the prisoners will not run away.  They would be lynched by the public when they would try.  So  the security is not very tight.  You could actually just climb right over the fence.  We first hiked 2 kilometers to Lake Kivu to the Guesthouse there.  We read that you could camp there for free.  Well that must have been in the past.  It now costs around 7 US$.  It is however a really nice relaxing place on the lake.  After pitching our tent,  we walked up to one of the oldest European Churches in Rwanda.  This is a church where during the Genocide here 11.400 people were killed. They had a memorial outside.  Later on we had a beer and sat overlooking the lake, catching up on our website. 


We woke up at 5:30 am and walked 2 km to the mini bus station.  We were the first ones and got the front seats.  That was great,  because it is much more comfortable up front.  We drove around town a little looking for more passengers.  There we saw the genocide prisoners up close as they walked to the work duties.  It was really strange having them that close,  since they had allegedly committed terrible crimes.  One did not feel scared even though they were hardly guarded.  They just walked in  a line past us.  It seemed there was a command structure that had some prisoners looking after the others. They had sticks in their hands.  We tried to take some pictures secretly,  but it was hard.  They are supposedly not allowed.  We took the mini bus to Kigali, where we changed mini buses and took another one to Rusumo (border with Tanzania).  There we exchanged our last Rwandan Francs into Tanzanian Shillings and a few dollars.  Maren got a little stinky with the Rwandan Border Guard because he made us unpack our backpacks.  We then took a shared taxi to Ngara where we are spending the night.  There is not much here to do or see.  For lunch and dinner we had avocado sandwiches.  The avocados are just fantastic here and they are really cheap.  



Just to tell everyone again, we got up early at 5:30 am to catch the bus to Mwanza.  It was a packed bus ride.  We had our packs on our lap the whole time.  Nothing much happened along the way.  In Mwanza we booked a bus seat for the next day to Dar es Salaam and went to the market to buy some fruits and vegetables for dinner. We wanted to go camping,  but the only campsite in town wanted an outrages price,  so we decided to get a hotel room instead for half the price.  Maren then cooked us a pineapple and rice dinner.  It tasted great. 


Yes we got up early.  We caught our bus to Dar es Salaam at 7:00 am.  Of course they packed the people in.  We were happy we reserved seats the day before,  or we would be standing.  The bus ride to Singida was a hard and long.  The roads were terrible and not paved.  We were seating near the back so were flying half the time.  We arrived 12 hours later in Singidi.  There we were told we could sleep in the bus or get a hotel room.  To save some money we decided to sleep in the bus.  The bus was leaving anyway at 4:00 am.  We ate some dinner,  rice with cow meat.  After looking around we tried to get some sleep. It was difficult, for one there seemed to be always someone yelling on the bus, and second it just was not comfortable.  We are always amazed along the way. Every town is sort of the same.  It seems that the whole town wants to either sell you cakes,  samosas, coke, corn, or bananas.  We wonder if this is the only existence for them.  Every time the bus pulls up they start chasing to,  trying to beat the others to the bus windows.


The bus finally left at 4:45 am.  We did not sleep much.  We brushed our teeth in the bus and rinsed or mouth out out of the window. We we were not looking forward to the ride.  The roads only became paved after the Capital Dodoma.  There we had lunch,  Chapatis,  Samosas and Chai.   I was able to finish the book I was reading,  "The Laws of our Fathers".  Actually it was quite good.  We arrived in Dar es Salaam at around 6:00 pm. There we took a Matatu to the ticket offices for Zanzibar.  They seemed all closed.  One guy let us in and told us there were no more ferries leaving today.  We were not sure if that was true,  but we were exhausted and decided it might be better to wait till tomorrow to look around some more.  He also warned us not to buy tickets on the streets.  The guys will just ripe you off.  He suggested a hotel in town. So we decided to look there first.  The price was ok,  at least compare to what the travel books had written.  After we got the room,  we had Chips and Egg on a street corner near by.  It actually tasted really good.  They cook the chips (French Fries) and eggs on a barbecue grill right on the street.  Tonight we are looking forward to taking a shower and going to bed.  We are not planning to get up real early tomorrow. There seem to be boats to Zanzibar all day. We also want to finish uploading our website. Last time we only got half uploaded,  before the place closed.  There seem to be a lot of Internet Cafe's in town.



After eating toast and jelly for breakfast,  we went searching for an Internet Café to upload our website.   We must have went to 10 or more cafe's before we found one to use.  They either did not allow us to hook up to their system or the systems did not allow pop mail or ftp.  The ones that did not allow us to hook up to there systems,  seemed to have no knowledge of computers.  One sometimes wonder if they do not want to make any money.  After uploading,  Kirk picked up our backpacks at the hotel and Maren went and bought tickets for the ferry to Zanzibar.  Before we left we bought some samosas and oranges for the 3 hour journey.  The journey was a little rocky.  Maren had to through up. She was not sure if it was sea sickness or the samosas.  After arriving in Zanzibar,  the touts quickly hovered all over us.  They would not leave us alone.  We even went into an internet café for an hour to try and blow them off.  They waited outside.  Maren got really mad with the touts,  but that did not help either. After Maren told one guy to get lost,  he just about spit at her.  The guy seemed to be crazy anyway.  They are a real pain in the rear here.  The worst we have had so far on our trip. We eventually got a room at the Bottoms Up Guesthouse, 10 US$ per person per night.  It is really expensive here compare to the places we are used to.  Later on we went down to Jamituri  Gardens,  which is right along the water front. There they have stall after stall that are grilling fish,  lobster, crab, squid, different kinds of meat,  along with salad and chips.  It is quite a cool atmosphere.  First we had sort of a fried pizza, and than later Maren had Kingfish and chips and Kirk had beef, chicken and chips. For dessert we had sugarcane pieces.  We just hope we do not get diarrhea tomorrow.   We then walked a little around the city and went back to the hotel.  



The hotel served a really basic breakfast.  A dry omelet with bread and watered down tea and coffee.  We decided we would first look for a different hotel.  One that was a little cheaper.  It took us a while to find other hotels. Our map was not too good.  We finally chose the Flamingo Guest House.  He went down in price from 10 US$ a person to 7 US$.  That was the best deal we could find. Afterwards we picked up our stuff,  given the Bottoms Up manager one more chance to lower his price. He wouldn't,  so we checked out.  We felt much more comfortable in the new hotel anyway.  Probably since we are paying 6 US$ less a night,  and we have our own bathroom. We then decided to check out different tour operators on what was available on Spice Tours.  We learned that they seem to all alike.  Who knows.  We also found out that there are Dolphin Tours,  where you are supposedly able to swim with them.  So after bargaining really hard and going back to the tour operator a few times, we signed up for a Dolphin Tour.  We will probably do a Spice Tour the day after.  They also said they would give mini bus ride to the East Coast for half price.   During the rest of the day we went to the market, where we had a delicious fresh coconut.  Maren also bought a long skirt to wear.  She looks really good.  Before dinner we went to the Africa House for a beer to watch the sunset.  Afterwards we had dinner down at the waterfront again where talked to some people we had met on the ferry the day before. 


We were all excited to go on the Dolphin Tour.  But we should have known better. The day did not start out too good.  First we locked our keys into our bag, so we would have to break the locks when we returned.   On the way south to where the dolphins should be it started raining,  but it did clear up a bit by the time we arrived,  1 hour later.   Since we heard the night before that the Dolphin Tour was not supposed to be that good,  we were a little skeptical.  The snorkeling equipment was not that good too.  The boat was an old one that leaked water below.  One is supposed to be able to jump in and swim with the dolphins.  But soon we realized that that was not going to happen.  We saw a few dolphins popping their head up a couple of times.  One time a few people got off the boat and tried to swim after them.   But they did not see much.  Maren also got extremely sea sick,  and decided to feed her delicious breakfast to the fish.  Kirk was able to do some snorkeling off the boat,  which was ok,  but not spectacular.  Later on they served us lunch and fresh fruits.  Afterwards the bus stopped off at Jozani Forest to see the red colobus monkeys.  One had to pay an extra 8 US$ park entrance fee, so we decided that we would skip the tour and wait outside for the others.  We did not think it would be worth the cost.  Afterwards we were both exhausted,  Kirk got a little burnt on his back (DUMB!) while he was snorkeling and felt really tired.  We later exchanged/bought a book in a swap bookshop.  Kirk needed something new to read.  We went to Jamituri Gardens for dinner again.  It is a really nice place,  and the cheapest in town,  but the food is getting a little repetitive.  We talked to a few people who had just went on a Spice Tour, they really enjoyed it, so we are looking forward to that tomorrow.  We had a scare when we got back to the hotel room.  Maren got our laundry,  but noticed that her good hiking pants were missing.  The staff did not know where they were and the laundry guy was not around at the moment.  They promised to look for them.  Hopefully they will find them. They were quite expensive, but we do not think so.  So probably we will have some problems when we checkout.  


Well the pants turned up the next morning,  so the day started out right. We went to the office at 9:15 am to start the Spice Tour.  In a dalla dalla we drove to a government owned plantation, where we learned about the different spices and fruits on the island of Zanzibar.  One gets the chance to taste a lot of the fruits and we got a cup of Zanzibar coffee and donuts before we left the plantation.  One also visits the Kidichi Persian Baths and the Coral Cave (known as the slave cave even though there is no prove slaves were hidden here) in Mungapwani.  Afterwards we rested and went for a swim. For lunch they served rice mixed in with local spices,  like curry, cinnamon,  cloves, and cardamom. It tasted really good.  They served a lemon grass tea afterwards which was delicious.   The Spice Tour was a really good value.  We got it for 14.000 TZS (8 US$).  Most people pay around 10 US$, which still makes it a good deal. One is gone around 7 hours.  We really enjoyed ourselves.  Tonight we will hopefully update our site.  We think we found an internet café that will allow it. 

Below is what we learned today!

Spices Comment Fruits Comment
Cloves Helps against Diarrhea Guave Sweet and Sour Taste
Cardamom King of Spices, used for everything inc. tea, rice, cake... Cassava Used for Ugali, they make potato chips out of it
Indian Odin Medicine blood Stopper Red Java Apple Tastes like an apple with big seed inside
Cinnamon Used in  porridge, rice, cake Star Fruit Not often used in Zanzibar, but they make juice or jam from it.
Pepper Plant one plant but 5 different kinds of peppers depending on preparation.  White Pepper most expensive while makes longest to prepare. Bread Fruit To boil roast or dry
Lemon Grass Make lemon grass tea, oil and soap.  lemon grass oil  combined with coconut oil keeps mosquitoes away Dorian Smells Terrible but tasty
Ilang Ilang Perfume, also used as sign by a wife welcoming her husband to the bedroom. Tangerines  
Curcuma / Tumaric Makes curry Chocolate Made out of the seeds, From the rest they make cacao butter.
Coffee Zanzibar Coffee,  tastes like espresso Pampelmuse Like a big Grape Fruit
Nutmeg Red inside Jack Fruit Banana Pineapple Taste. Very Sticky,  Can be removed with coconut oil.
Henna They make the Henna Paintings out of the dried leaves.  (Red Color)    


We rented a small motorbike in the morning so we could explore the island a little. Kirk never really drove a motorbike before.  But he only needed his international drivers license to rent it.  He first got instructions from one guy, who took him to a soccer field to practice. Afterwards he was ready to go.  They actually drove us outside the city,  and  let us drive from there on.  We made it to the East Coast without to many problems.  Though Kirk was nervous a bit.  When we arrived at the East Coast the roads turned from a paved service to dirt and gravel.   After a few hundred yards Kirk stopped.  As Kirk started to go again,  we fell.  He thought he mixed up the clutch and the brakes.  Also he tried to start on a curve.  Nothing really happened to us,  except for a couple of scratches on our legs.  The motorbike did ok, except that the clutch handle broke.  A local guy,  around 20 years old, came over and asked us if we needed any help.  It was obvious we did, so we said yeah.  He said his brother would bring the broken piece from town and they would be able to fix it.  Of course we had to buy the guy a drink by the ocean and pay him a little later.  It cost us according to them 7000 TZS for the part,  1000 TZS for the guy and of course the drink.  We still think we got off pretty cheap.  Otherwise we would have had to call the rental company and that would of surely of been much more expensive.  The East Coast beach was absolutely beautiful,  like you see in advertisements.  Since we wanted to drive around some more, we did not stay long. We decided to test out the bike some more.  We then drove north.  Eventually Kirk got a better feel of the bike,  sort of.  He was still nervous driving.  But we had a lot of fun.  It is a great way to see parts of the Island you would otherwise not be able to.  We decided to go back to Stone Town.  It started to rain heavily, and it was probably a good thing not to ride too much more.  We had to go through a heavy rain storm anyway a couple of times.  In Stone town we visited the market again to get some food (fruit and vegetables) for the ferry ride tonight.  The hotel we stayed at was nice enough to allow us to use the upstairs restaurant to work on our website.   Maren splurged and had lobster for dinner.  For 2.25 bucks she could not help it.  Mom, just to let you know I have now tried King Fish,  Squid, and Lobster here.  They just do not taste good or have really no taste at all.  Can not see what the hype is about lobster.


Maren rolled out her sleeping matt and sleeping bag and Kirk built his bed on the chairs of the deck of the ferry with his bags.  Maren was better able to sleep.  Kirk was right in front of the bathroom, where an Australian girl was throwing up all night.  The ship left port at around 10:00 pm,  but stayed in the Zanzibar harbor till around 2:30 am before it left to Dar es Salaam.  At 6:00 am the ferry arrived, where we caught a minibus to the bus station.  The touts are a real pain and really hard to get off.  They attacked as soon as you get of the boat. You sort of have to just push them out of the way and lie a lot.  Otherwise they will not leave you alone.  At the bus station,  again the touts were at work.  When we realized that there were different buses going to Mbeya,  we were able to bargain the price down considerably.  Once you know there are different options,  you are in a much better position to bargain.  We were able to get the "Luxury" Bus for a good price. It has 2 seats per row, and there was no one standing.  The best bus we have had in a long while.  The 11 hour trip was very comfortable compared to which we were used to.  The bus passed through the Mikumi National Park where we saw some elephants and monkeys for free.  When we arrived in Mbeya the touts were all over us again.  After we found the cheapest hotel possible, we went back to the bus station to try and figure out what the bus costs to the Malawi border.  They originally gave us a price of 4500 TZs.  Kirk just asked them to give us the real price.  They went quickly down to 3500 TZs per person.  Still we said we would look around some more.  After following us,  they agreed on a price of 3000 TZs.  We heard later on that locals from here, pay only 2500 TZs,  but most foreigners pay between 4000 and 5000 TZs.  Well we got close to the local's price anyway. For dinner we ate in the Guest House. It was cheap and they had satellite TV with CNN.  We went to bed early,  since we did not sleep that much yesterday.


Chapatis and chai were on call for breakfast today.  We got great seats on the bus,  upfront with a lot of leg room.  The bus though took forever to get to the border,  It stopped everywhere along the way.   At the border we were met by money changers right away.  Even though we did not know the exchange rates,  one feels right away they are trying to rip you off.  So Kirk tested them until he found out the right exchange rates. He did this by bargaining with some, until they would give up on letting us get a better rate.  Then one knows where the correct rate is.  While they will exchange money as long as they at least make a little profit.  We eventually exchange the rest of our Tanzanian money on the Malawi side of the border.  Going through the border was really easy and the Visa was free.  On the  Malawi side we got a minibus to  Karonga and then a "country" bus to Mzuzu.  We were lucky again to get really good seats eventually. At first we had to stand, but after the first few people got out,  the attendant got us seats with a lot of leg room. We arrived in Mzuzu after dark,  not knowing really where we should go.  The maps in our guide book are ok,  but telling the distances is once in a while a little confusing.  Of course taxi drivers and others wanted to help us for a fee, but we just talked to them long enough to figure out the cheapest and closest hotel in town and how to get there. We had to walk there in the dark, but along the way a nice helpful elderly guy and his son walked with us and pointed out the hotel.  They did not even ask us for something. Wow!  The hotel was really basic and the dinner of rice and "Beef" was not very good.  By the way, we are now 4 months on the road today. Everything is still going well and even though we have spent 24 hours a day, everyday together, we are still getting along and are not near killing each other yet.  We are becoming a great team and are enjoying ourselves most of the time. We have not regretted leaving everything yet!



Kirk searched all over town to find someplace to exchange money.  The fancy hotel in town, had a horrible exchange rate and wanted on top 10 % commission. So after asking around town,  he found some store that exchanged money.  (It was Saturday and the banks were closed).  We then took a minibus to Nkhata Bay.  The lodge we wanted to camp at was a two kilometer hike away. Along the way the touts were a real pain, but that is their job as they say.  Even if you say please, they will not leave you alone. We decided to stay at Njaya Lodge,  even though it was more expensive than other campsites.  It was the nicest place and it seemed to have the best security.  All backpackers seemed to stay there.  It had a beautiful setting over looking Lake Malawi.  After pitching our tent,  we went to town to buy some food to cook for dinner.  Back at the camp we relaxed on the beach, contemplating if we should go for a swim.  We finally decided not to take the risk of getting Bilharzia. For 5 minutes of fun,  it is just not worth it.  Other travelers were taking the risk though.  In the late afternoon, Maren cooked. We went bed early since we were very tired.  We have decided to leave tomorrow.  It was really nice there,  but we have seen a lot of lakes now,  and we decided we rather spend an extra day or two in Zambia.  It is really weird,  on one hand we have all the time in the world,  but on the other hand we feel a little under time pressure,  trying to get to see so much in such a short period of time.


We started the day very easy around 05:45 am and had breakfast with the sunrise. A beautiful bright red sun. By 08:00 am we had packed all our stuff and were ready to leave. We took a minibus to Mzuzu but it took quite a while until it filled up with people and left. Arriving in Mzuzu we caught a bus to Lilongwe. The bus was almost full, so we did not get the front seats we wished to have because they are just so much more comfortable. We were told the trip would take four hours, which turned out to be a six hour painful bus ride. We stopped a couple of times and bought some stuff to eat like oranges and donuts. The oranges here are very cheap, you get about 100 oranges for one dollar. We have tried to eat as many fruits as possible,. The main fruits in Malawi are bananas, oranges and papaya. Around 05:30 pm we arrived in Lilongwe, the capital city of Malawi. On the way to the campsite we bought some bread for dinner and breakfast the next day. The campsite was really nice and seemed very secure but it was also very expensive, 3 US $ each for camping. We pitched our tent in the dark in a quiet spot and prepared dinner, left over rice and pasta with fried onions. Later on we updated our website in the bar and went to bed straight afterwards. The German girl working at the reception, was not too helpful.  She did not provide very good information, and gave you the feeling that we were bothering her by asking.  The guide books had said that Kiboko Camp was a good place for information.  That is one of the reasons we stayed there and not in a cheap hotel in town.  Well the information was thin and the girl was not the friendliest of people.  One expects a little more at a place that caters to backpackers and travelers.  It is sometimes too bad that some places give you a bad taste in your mouth because of one rotten person.  Otherwise the place is really nice with good facilities and security. It should be for that price.


We were happily surprised to find out that there was a direct bus from Lilongwe Malawi to Lusaka Zambia stopping in Chipata along the way. There we needed to catch a minibus to South Luangwa National Park.  Chipata is not that far from Lilongwe  but the bus driver tanked 400 liters petrol, which already took over an hour.  The border crossing was easy,  and we were able to exchange some money with the money changers.  They even exchanged our Malawi coins.  The first time Kirk exchanged he got an rate from 3550 ZK per dollar after bargaining.  Later on he was able to get 3600 ZK per dollar. That's life.   Sometimes you win and sometimes you loose. When we arrived in Chipata we were a little stupid.  There was only one bus per day to Mfuwe (South Luangwa National Park) so we thought we could not bargain hard on the price of the ticket and we were sort of daydreaming and not paying attention.  But we should have. We paid around 4000 ZK to much to Mfuwe and then a ridiculous price of 10000 ZK to the camp 2 km away.  Before we left Kirk spoke to some people on the bus and they said the camp was only 2 km away. Kirk then asked for our money back. They kept on telling us that they would give us it back but it turned out not to be that easy.  The drive was on a dirt bumpy road,  that passes through some remote towns and villages in Zambia.  It looked like what Maren and I both pictured Africa to be like when we thought of the continent.  It was beautiful. We also received a bonus of a gorgeous sunset on the way. When we arrived in Mfuwe,  Kirk and the driver started playing poker with each other, Kirk saying he did not want a ride to the camp, and the driver telling him stories how dangerous it would be to walk and how expensive it would be to hire someone else.  Finally the driver agreed to give us 7000 ZK back and drove us to the camp.  He did not want to pay at the end,  but Maren insisted that he did. It was a good thing that he drove us, since it would have been impossible that night to get there by walking.  Otherwise the driver was really nice and friendly. On the way to the camp we saw our first elephant crossing the dirt road.  At the camp we filled out the forms for the campsite and then pitched our tent and cooked some dinner.  When we went to bed,  strange noises kept us awake.  Kirk looked outside and saw hippos around our tent.   It was amazing.  In another instant,  Kirk wanted to get out of the tent,  turned around and saw Hyena staring at him 6 meters away.  It quickly ran off.   The hippos were around the camp eating the whole night.  We really feel like we are in Africa!  



Elephants on the move

What a great surprise.  We stuck our heads out of the tent and saw a heard of elephants roaming in between the tents at the campsite.  They got within 5 meters of us sometimes and when we were in the tree lookout post,  they were directly under us.  Amazing,  that is all we can say. We took over 150 pictures,  just of elephants. We got really lucky.  They roamed the campsite for over two hours.    We were not allowed out of the campsite,  at least not allowed to walk out,  since they claim we would be taking our lives in our own hands.  So we hung out in the campsite all day until 4:00 pm, when we went on a safari drive into the park.  We did not see too many animals the whole time. We saw impalas, zebras, lots of hippos, an elephant,  and some small other animals.  We thought the tour was going to be a failure,  but during the night drive in the dark we saw a leopard.  It was absolutely beautiful.  It made the safari worth while.  With these animal safaris one can never predict if one will see a lot or just a few animals.  Tomorrow at 6:00 am we are going on a morning drive.   We are really nervous about the pictures we took this morning of the elephants. We think the film did not work right in the camera,  and the pictures will not come out right.


We got up at 5:20 am to go on the morning game drive.  We saw elephants, giraffe, zebra,  impala, dickops, hippos, leopard, buffalos, bushbok, monkeys, poko, fish eagle,  storks, vultures, wild bores and other animals.  It was ok but we had hoped to see more. The leopard again saved the drive.  It had a killed impala right next to him.  It was also unusually cold and we were shivering the whole time.  We looked for lions but never found them,  which was too bad.  Afterwards we were starving and pigged out on noodles and rice.  Kirk then collected firewood for the evening fire. In the afternoon we were treated again to elephants. This time we made sure our film was correctly loaded.  We think we got some great close up shots of the elephants.  One elephant that we have seen now a couple of times,  has one tusk pointing upwards and the other tusk in the opposite direction.  Sometimes the elephants get a little ticked off at all the people watching and open their ears and swing the tusks in our direction as they move towards us.  In evening the elephants crossed the river as the sunset.  What a beautiful site.  Maren also asked the driver of an overland trucker group if he could give us a ride to Mfuwe,  he offered to give us a ride to Chipata,  which is even better.  We have to stay one day longer, but it is worth just to see the elephants again come through the camp.  We also will have some time to relax.  We only have to figure out how to get to town to buy some food because we did not have enough for one more day.  Tomorrow we just have a few oranges and bananas to eat.  For dinner we had rice with sugar. Reminded me when I used to go to china town with my parents when we were young.  The one Chinese restaurant we went to served rice with sugar.  It actually tasted really good.   



Elephants were again roaming the camp as we woke up.  This time probably around 20 to 30.  They were feeding on the trees and grass around the camp.  They later left to cross the river again into the National Park.  This time we were able to see the elephants crossing in the daylight.  Hopefully our pictures come out ok.  The sun was in a bad position, starring us in the face.  The herd had a couple of babies and a couple of really big males.  The elephants are just great to watch.  Along the bank of the river they washed themselves and squirted dirt all over.  We think we were able take some good MPEGS (small movies) of the elephants also.  Kirk had to collect firewood again since we burnt all of ,  our wood the day before.  One can actually buy firewood here,  but there is enough wood around for a small fire.   As Kirk was collecting wood,  a big snake darted away, scared him a little.  Luckily it was just as scared of Kirk and slithered away.  Maren got a ride to town to go shopping.  During the day Kirk lent his camera to the Overland Truck driver.  He got a thrill using the camera and taking pictures. We will send some of them to them per email.  They were loving life especially when they were able to take some MPEGS.  After Maren got back from town she cooked rice with tomatoes and onions. Later on we watched the elephants bath and cross the river again.  They are beautiful every time.  During the rest of the day we worked on our website. At one point in the evening we were interrupted by an elephant wandering through the camp.  We also met two girls from Holland who were not happy with the Kiboko Camp in Lilongwe too.  They had the same complaints as we did that the German girl working there,  was not very friendly and did not provide good information about how to get to South Luangwa Park.  She must have had information,  because we saw her here at Flatdogs with a tour group from the Kiboko Camp.   She saw us and did not even say hello.  Fit the first impression we had of her.  The two girls form Holland are also catching a ride to Chipata with the Overland Truck Group.  Tomorrow we are getting up at 5:30 am to go,  which is good, because we are hoping that there is a bus to Lusaka in the afternoon.  We had a great time here.   If we were not on such a tight budget you can really enjoy yourself here.  They have a nice bar and restaurant, along with a pool to swim in.  We were really impressed with the place, especially with all the elephant visits.  The extra day spent here was well worth it! Maren spent hours sorting our pictures we took.  We had probably had taken more than 350 pictures here and had to pick which ones we wanted for our website.


We were lucky to be able to hitch a free ride out of South Luangwa to Chipata with an Overland Truck group. Man, those things are luxury compared to what we are used to.  The two girls from Holland were also with us.  In Chipata we all had to change some money so we first looked at the banks for what an exchange rate they had.  The street changers gave a much better rate, 3775 ZK per US $.  The banks were offering 3650 ZK per US $.   All of us then walked to the bus station where they tried to overcharge us again, but this time we were hard and got the normal fare.  The bus ride was a long crowned,  and hard ride to Lusaka.  It took around 11 hours to get there. The bus arrived at 11:15 pm in Lusaka.  The original plan was that we would go to a camp for the night and leave the next morning.   A taxi driver said that buses were leaving at 6:00 am and he could arrange that we sleep in the bus.  It would save us paying for a night,  and it would have been a pain to pitch our tent,  sleep for only a couple of hours, and then get up really early to catch the bus.  So after the haggling over the price we decided to go sleep on the bus.  We felt a little guilty leaving the two girls to go to the camp alone.  Hope they made it ok.   At the bus station people were sleeping outside,  since we were tourists and probably that we were white the bus station guardian let us sleep in another bus.  We packed out our sleeping bags  and slept till 5:00 am when the bus station guardian came to wake us up and show us the bus going to Livingstone.  I will continue on tomorrows page.


After sleeping at night on the bus, we were happy that we got a luxury "Coach" bus to Livingstone.  It cost a little more, but we enjoyed the ride.  It went a lot quicker and easier than what we were used to.  It also left on time.  The bus also had a TV which they showed the movie Blade. Horrible movie, but kept one busy.  In Livingstone we checked out a few campsites and decided on Jollyboys International Backpackers..  It was priced in between the expensive and cheap campsite,  3 US $ a night per person to camp.  Afterwards we went to Shoprite to buy some food to cook because yesterday we did not eat much.   We will probably go to the falls tomorrow.   Just to remind everyone, if you have forgotten,  it is Maren's Birthday tomorrow.  So send her an email wishing her happy birthday, if you have not already.  That means you too Rita,  write one yourself!  Norbert you are not allowed to this time!!  You have to learn sometime!


(photos Zambia)

(photos Zimbabwe)

Its Maren's Birthday.  So if you read this she expects a Happy Birthday Email.  After changing money on the black market for Zimbabwe dollars and Zambia Kwacha  we took the free ride to the Victoria Falls.  The black market exhcange rate is much better than the official rate. Especially for the Zimbabwe dollar where it goes for 185/190 Z$ per US dollar on the street and officially is 53 Z$ per US$.   We visited the falls first on the Zambian side.  They are really spectacular.  You get really wet around the falls because the water is splashing all over the place.  They actually rent rain jackets to people visiting.  The falls are just huge and are easily a major highlight.  When walking,  monkeys came up right to us.  A couple of mothers had their babies hanging under them.  They were really cute.  On the other side of the bridge is Zimbabwe.  According to many it is the more spectacular side.  On the Zambian side we had to first get a temporary reentry visa for 5000 Kwacha each.  This enabled us to come back to Zambia within in 7 days without having to pay for another Visa (25 US$).   One crosses a huge brige overlooking the Zambezi.  There they have Bungi Jumping.  We thought about doing it, but it would have cost 90 US$ each per jump or 120 US$ for a tandem jump.  It would have been really cool to do,  but we decided we have enough time on this trip to do it.  Maren has already once Bungi  jumped, so eventually I will have to do it too.  On the Zimbabwe side we were a little disappointed when we found out that we had to pay for a full Visa just to visit the Victoria Falls on their side.  It was 30 US $ each.  A bit expensive for 2 hours of the falls.  After trying to convince the border guards for a half an hour to let us pay something less we started walking back to the Zambian side without viewing the falls from the Zimbabwe side.  Maren was against paying that much to see something we have already seen from the other side.  However,  Kirk then said we are here once,  and we should just forget the costs and do it.  After further 15 minutes discussions,  we decided to pay the costs for the visa.  Three Australian girls from our camp had also argued but gave up and decided to pay for the visa also.  The Zimbabwe Border crossing we assumed took Zimbabwe Dollars since they had a sign on the wall stating the price of the visa in their currency. However  they did not except them anymore.  They knew that the exchange rate on the black market was more than 3 times the official rate in Zimbabwe.  They just did not want their own currency.    The entrance to the Zimbabwe falls costs 20 US$,  however they did except Zimbabwe Dollars still.  They had to use the official exchange rate of 56 Z$ to US $.  While we were able to get around 185 Z$ per US $ on the streets.  So the entrance cost us in effect only 6 US $ each.  So we were able to save some money.  The Zimbabwe side was much bigger and made more out for tourists.  The falls were huge and beautiful.  We were both amazed how different both sides were.  Though it is really hard to explain the difference.  If one has the chance,  one should really see the falls from both sides.  They are just different.  We were very happy in the end that we were able to view the falls from both sides.  It was somehow worth the money.  In the evening we both took showers, long needed.  Maren cooked a great sausage dinner and we treated ourselves to a beer to celebrate Maren's birthday.  We also checked emails, and did not see many!!!!  Maren went to bed a little depressed that not that many people had written!!


The Australian girls that were at the falls the day before with us woke up at 4:40 am to catch the first minibus to Kasangula.  We were also traveling in that direction, but decided we could take a later one.  They were in a little more of a rush than we were.  They had to get to Windhoek within two days.  To our surprise,  when we got to the ferry that crosses to Botswana,  we saw them still there.  They had just missed a ferry as they were exchanging money,  and the next ferry broke down.  We arrived around 3 hours later.  To our luck,  15 minutes after we arrived the ferry was fixed and we could cross the Zambezi. They let us take the ferry for free since we did not have enough Kwacha left to pay.  The border crossing was easy and we quickly were able to catch a Minibus to Kasane.  The Australians were really nice and paid our fare (1.25 Pula each).  We had thought we could exchange money on the Botswana side, but there were no money changers.  The first time we have seen that in Africa.  In Kasane we decided to take the same minibus to the Namibian Border.   What was nice was that we got to drive through the Chobe National Park.  At the border we got lucky again and we got a free lift to Katima Mulilo from a guy in a pickup truck.  He was crossing the border at the same time as us.  Within the last 24 hours we have traveled through four different countries.  In Katima the Australian girls hoped to get through the Caprivi Strip with the convey that escorts all vehicles though twice a day.  There have been attacks by some Angolan rebels a few months before.  The convoys only go at 9:00 am or at 3:00 pm.  We arrived to late.  They had a tough choice to make.  Risk not getting to Windhoek on time,  or fly there the same day.  After deliberating a while they decided to fly.  Probably the better idea.   In town they had an ATM machine,  which was a nice change, even though Kirk almost entered the wrong PIN number to many times.  That would have been a catastrophe.  After shopping for food, we were walking to a campsite, when this lady stopped us, and asked us if we needed a lift.  She turned out to be German. Before we new it she invited us to stay at her house for the night.  She, Sabine is in Zambia working with DED trying to combat the huge AIDS crises here. As we found out later 35 % of the population in this region is HIV positive.  On the way to her house we met her husband Kai running. He runs in the Berlin Marathon every year.  Their house is direct on the Zambezi, a great location.  There we had tea and a great pasta dinner.  It was delicious.  It was really nice of them to take us in for the night even though we did not know each other.  We were very thankful.  


In the morning Sabine even drove us to the gas station really early so we could hitch a ride to Divundu.  We had to go through the Caprivi Strip.  Our goal was to get a ride through on the 9:00 am convoy.  We decided we try our luck at hitching a ride.  Well that ride took longer than we thought.  We almost got a ride from this American guy working in Namibia.  He however was stopped by the police at a checkpoint and could not go further because he did not have his drivers license on him.  So he had to turn back.  He was not going as far as we needed anyway.  Kirk later noticed 2 trucks pulling into a gas station up the road.  Maren had the guts to go in and ask the two truck drivers if they could give us a lift.  They said ok and Maren went in one truck and Kirk in the other.  Kirk's truck driver was of German and Holland descent that has been driving trucks for the last 7 years.  He wanted to drive trucks in Germany in two years from now.  He was really a nice guy,  but as we soon found out, he did not like blacks.  He was really racist.  It was really interesting to hear how these people really think and what their picture of the world is.   Maren's truck driver had the same views.  He was driving trucks in Africa for the last 27 years.  He collected coins for his son from different countries.  Maren was able to give him  few we had left over.  He was also very racist and barely spoke to the black soldier that escorted his truck through the Caprivi Strip.  Since his truck had gear problems,  they were both allowed to leave before 3:00 pm, but each had an armed soldier with an AK-47 accompanying them on the 300 km ride through the Caprivi Strip.  The ride went through the West Caprivi Strip Park.  It had beautiful scenery the whole way.  When we were almost at the end of the Strip, a fighter helicopter was parked in the middle of the road.  It was loading up on fuel and huge oil barrels, which we were told were bombs.  It was getting ready for it's next mission.  The truck drivers dropped us off at a gas station.  From there we decided to head to Popa Falls Campsite which was 5 km away. We were able to find a ride for 2 N$, which was good because it was getting dark.  At the campsite we were able to bargain the price down a little.  It was really nice campsite with all the modern facilities you would expect to find at a campsite in the US.  

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