Wednesday, 7 January 2009

Home again!

We awoke for the last time in Africa to the heat of a Dar es Saalam morning and a full English breakfast.

Rob had managed to check-in online last night and got the hotel to print our boarding cards for us, so that we could just drop our bags at check in. The minibus that collected us from the Blue Post Hotel was the nicest we had been in all holiday. For the first time, there was enough room for us AND our bags!

Some of us did some last miute shopping for (yet more) tat, or "curios" as the Africans refer to it before boarding our long flight home.

The wine flowed freely for some, while others took advantage of the film library, while others just slept. We even got offered two upgrade seats, but decided it was more fun travelling as one big group.

We are writing this on the National Express coach from Heathrow to Woking, having already said goodbye to the Scotts and the Heartleys at the airport. The troop is disbanding, but the memories will remain strong for many years.

Thank you all for following us on our travels. We've had an amazing time and hope you've enjoyed reading about it, too.

Rob, Deb, Katie, Greg, Paula, Sam, David, Doug, Ed, Ben, Luke, Amy, Fern, Daniel and Gergia.

Farewell to Zanzibar

After the previous night's lobster and seafood (served without the lobster that never arrived) dawn broke in the usual spectacular style with a lone fisherman the only person visible on the beach.

By now we were all really fed up with eggs for breakfast, however the mango was still delicious. Unfortunately Rob was still under the weather, although not as bad, from his diving allergy that was still unidentified although he did stick his head in a few underwater caverns that may have been the culprit.

Anyway we packed and jumped into a couple of minibuses, one for us and another for luggage, both of which delivered us to the airport rather than the ferry port continuing the hakuna matata African way that there is no worries and nothing is as it seems. We duly had a missing bag of Deb and Rob's that was promised to be delivered in a third van that didn't exist, although the bag magically materialised just before boarding the ferry.

Interestingly, we had inadvertently booked return tickets with the wrong dates that nobody spotted so we walked straight on, much to the relief of all. The ferry crossing back to Dar was first class and very comfortable, taking two hours with the wind behind us. We also managed to eat more samosas and coke and also with Debs managing to survive the journey without the fish feeding fountain we had from the previous days diving trip!

We arrived back at Dar around three, to a mahem of pushy taxi drivers in everyone's face, particularly Paula who gave a guy a dose of northern sharp tongue along with Rob who was still dazed but still mustered a set of clear instructions to another guy that nobody tells him what to do - although we did agree later the exception being Debs.

We all jumped into a van buried in luggage in stiffling heat to arrive half an hour later at our final location: Palm Beach Hotel. What a little oasis with running hot water and showers along with a tv. Of course like most of this journey we didn't mess about and raced to the garden bar for the usual G&T and vodka and along with Kilimanjaro beers by the handful. We then indulged in nibbles of chicken wings and spring rolls followed later by a delicious dinner including some local fish for some that they seem to overcook regularly.

We have not been great at staying up late and this was no exception with an 8:45 bedtime for all.

A sad moment, as this was our last night in Tanzania and leaving the fab weather and kind smiling people that we won't forget.

By Greg.

Wonders of the ocean

is 6.00 in the morning and all the families, the Donaldson's, Andrews's and Heartly's are up, getting organised to go and swim in the sea with wild dolphins.

We're all up and organised and in a van driving to a snorkeling place to get a boat. We got our boat and set out to sea. We got to the dolphins and we leapt out of the boat to some incredible, once in a lifetime scenes, then had to keep jumping on and off the boat to catch up with them. In our last two snorkels we got so close. Literally in touching distance!! After dolphins we had brekfast.

we were looking forward to a dive.......

We arrived at the diving centre but it was too choppy. We would have to dive tomorrow. We couldn't get a cab, so we walked the 2km home. it was so hot walking home, that we all enjoyed a fantastic dip in the pool. The best part of the day was getting so close to the dolphins it was a great experience and we all enjoyed it.

The next day we all woke up at 6 to go on a boat to go scuba diving and Fern, Doug, Rob, Luke and Katie were going diving whilst everyone else was snorkeling. After we got our wetsuits, fins and snorkels on at Sau Inn Dive Centre, we set off and arrived at the place we were diving in the middle of the ocean.

First, the two instructors, Doug, Rob and Katie went in and went down for 30 minutes. When they came up, they said it was like being in a tropical fish tank. Debs was ill on the boat as she gets travel sick. She fed the fish!!!! Next it was Fern, Luke, Katie and Rob's go for diving and we went in again for 30minutes. We saw lobsters, a massive fish, amazing coral, sea snakes, angel fish, harent fish, Nemo fish clown fish. It was like being in Finding Nemo. When we were heading back we all took our wet suits off and Rob had a big rash and it could be a jelly fish then went back to coral rock. He had to go for an injection because it was itchy and his eyes were swollen.

By Doug, Ben, Luke, Fern, Eddie and Amy

Monday, 5 January 2009

Coral Rock aka Fawlty Towers

Well, what can we say? We have spent the last two days bemused and confused but with plenty of giggles. The question is: do you want the story of three hour wait for 10 portion of chips, Katie and the red wine, The fruit salad saga or how many hours can you spend waiting for food?

Our accommodation is basic, hot water is... variable. Anyway, we are here to immerse ourselves in the turquoise tropical fish tank spanning the horizon.

We did a deal with Captain Chicken for a snorkelling trip. Of course, like most things in Africa, things are not as they seem. We walked straight out from our resort now known as Zanzibar Towers (part of the Fawlty Towers hotel group). We hopped on a traditional local tri maran. We tacked our way up to the snorkelling site. Wow, it was awsome. Starfish, sea anenomies and tropical fish galore, including some weird sea snails that squirmed into a ball. The only dodgy part was the leaky snorkel and masks, but hey everyone enjoyed it.

Everyone is now pretty horizontal here. Just chilling.

By Deb and Greg

Friday, 2 January 2009

Dave's blog (supplemental)

Been for a swim in the sea which washes up on the white sandy beach, then off for a massage followed by a dumping of hot water in the wet room. Must dash the Pouilly Fume is in the ice bucket.

See ya. Wouldn't want to be ya!

By David

The eventful morning after the night before

We all rose at varying times, depending on the level of alcohol intake the previous night. Had a hearty breakfast at Coral Rock of eggs, pancakes and fresh fruit.

Deb and Greg took the children on a long stroll on the beach. The tide was out so they walked quite a distance.... Saw a sea snake, lots of crabs and starfish. The kids loved bathing in the hot pools, but unfortunately Fern ended up being stung by something nasty in the water. Debs frog-marched her back to the pool, keeping her positive between sobs, bless! We considered a trip to the hospital but after washing the stings, applying vinegar, cortezone cream and anti-histamines, she made a swift recovery and was in the pool within an hour!!!

The Scotts left for Echo Beach just after lunch and the rest of us just played around the pool and snoozed on loungers. The ladies had a massage from the local village women, who were a little rough with their sand-paper hands....ouch! Polly had a couple of henna tatoos and is now believing she belongs in Zanzibar!

We had a tasty dinner in the restaurant in the evening, a few beers, wines, game of cards and had an early(ish) night.

By Polly

Thursday, 1 January 2009

New Year's Eve

More learning about how Africa works:

We booked a couple of 12 seat minibuses (that we have routinely seen stuffed with as many as 20 people) to take us back over the little ferry and drop us at the terminal for the fast ferry to Zanzibar. But when it became clear that they weren't interested in negotiating their fee down to a reasonable level, we moved to Plan B. We unpacked our stuff, started the truck and all clambered aboard.

Japhet and Joseph took us all down to the ferry terminal with the idea that one of them would accompany us as foot passengers to the main ferry terminal - a slightly daunting prospect, as the ferry gets very crowded. When we got to the ferry, however, the rules had obviously changed (again) and for less than half the cost of yesterday (when they wouldn't let us on) we were floating toward the town centre!

After a second tearful farewell to our trusty Scania and two drivers, we got in the queue for the Zanzibar ferry. Three-quarters of an hour later, we were all sat, in stifling heat, in the lower deck of the ferry, waiting for our "fastest boat" crossing of one-and-a-half hours. We disembarked after nearly three hours on the boat! We had been diddled into paying top dollar for the slow boat!

The journey from the port took another hour-and-a-half so, by the time we clapped eyes on the beautiful sight of the Indian Ocean, we were desperate for a beer. Fortunately, this was easily solved. We went straight to the bar and got stuck in.

The party revved up gradually around us and we all enjoyed the seafood buffet and beer and wine and cocktails, with the kids downing fizzy drinks like drains. Unfortunately, it all turned out to be too much for most of us, with only Sam, David and Georgia seeing-in the New Year and partying until the early hours.

It's been a tiring fortnight on the truck and we're all looking forward to a late breakfast in the morning.

By Rob.

Wednesday, 31 December 2008

The longest day

As penance for our lazy day, the day before, we had to make the trip to Dar es Salaam in one day - some 600km.

This meant getting up at 5 o'clock (again) and packing up to be on the truck shortly after six. We put the smaller children straight on the truck from their tents at the last minute, still in their sleeping bags. The back of the truck was filled from one side to the other with sleeping children for the first hour or so of our journey.

With only brief stops for Greg to make jam sandwiches (which none of us are ever going to eat again) and David to demonstrate his new-found prowess with pineapple, we made it to Dar es Salaam by 4:30. The city is vastly different to the rest of the country - there are people everywhere!

Then, our luck ran out.

It took Greg and Rob 45 minutes to buy the tickets for our ferry to Zanzibar the following day. Greg is no longer allowed to buy tickets - he can't cope with the bureaucracy involved. Hakuna Matata!

We the just needed to cross the river on a little ferry and our campsite would be in sight! But they wouldn't let us on the ferry with our truck, saying that it was too heavy. No amount of cajoling or bribery could convince them otherwise. This left us with a one-and-a-half hour drive around the river.

We arrived, tired and windswept, at Mikadi Beach at seven o'clock in the evening. There was a wedding taking place and we were served the leftovers from their buffet: red snapper, prawns, calamari, roasted vegetables and rice. Soooo nice!

We all went to bed early in the knowledge that we had another early start in the morning, but the heat was so stifling and the tall palm trees rustled so loudly in the wind that none of us got much sleep.

We are sad about leaving our truck in the morning, but more than ready for a little luxury!

By Rob.

Tuesday, 30 December 2008

A relaxing day

Today all the families had a relaxing day, messing around and having fun.

All the kids: Amy, Ben, Luke, Eddy, Doug, Fern, Georgia and Daniel were making boats, putting messages in bowls and sailing them down the stream (we all thought it was fun.) We also soaked each other with a hose pipe which the truck was being washed with. That was fun too.

We went to a local market and bought fruit, veg, and I chose some dried fish which still had heads on. It tasted nice but not much meat! There was a big rubbish dump in the middle of the market with a lovely sunflower growing out of it. It was interesting because the market was so different to the markets in England and everyone was very friendly.

All the 7 adults, not including Japhet and Joseph, went to the bar and had cold drinks. All the 8 children had cold drinks like Fanta, Coke and Spar Letta as well. Some of us went to a gift shop and bought presents for other people.

When we all got back from what we had been doing we all had sausages, steak, carrots and egg fried rice (it was very nice but it was very hard to cut the steak which was very tough) but we all enjoyed it! After we had all eaten our meal we went to bed and went fast asleep.

By Amy Donaldson xxxx

Monday, 29 December 2008

Impeccable manners

We finally packed up after a delicious bread-and-jam-sandwich breakfast to leave Snake Park, Arusha with a surprise. The lady owner said the children were a delight and the best manners she had seen. As a reward, free Snake Park t-shirts were handed out to the kids.

We hit the road again thankful we were back with our boys Japhet and Joseph and being blown around by the wind again although a real sense of freedom and well being as we were now heading to another milestone in our expedition.

We were now heading to the highest mountain in Africa with its highest peak Uhuru standing at a massive 5891m. We couldn't see the summit as it was enveloped by a ring of clouds.

The plan was the boys were to have a walk on the slopes to get a taste for the real thing from the challenging Machame gate in the south - definitely not for wimps. After messing about for at least 45mins with the red tape, bureaucracy and a very irritating tout we were fleeced of $161. Strange that $1 was for the guide until we found the usual snag of an extra $20 for an incompetent guide by the name of Frederick. The amount of porters carrying vast amounts of colonial extravagant accessories with boys as young as 16 the whole thing was a bit obscene with a bunch of wannabes that we all agreed had no chance of making the summit or even beyond 1 day. The idea of the mad hatters tea party with tablecloths and chairs after walking 100 yards was pretty farcical. They really thought they were special or with a royalty gene. I soon realised that Rob and Dave were clearly going to show some of these lounge lizards a severe lesson as they accelerated past and were described as a couple of cheetahs. Unfortunately I had to take a more sedate pace to avoid spending the rest of the trip in a wheel chair. To add insult to injury Dave was not happy with the record time ascending to the first hut at Machame camp 3000m, so sprinted back down informing all who asked he had already reached the summit and was off home.

Finally we arrived back at the gate at 5pm to find the truck awaiting and a cold beer followed by a bizarre photo with the ranger armed with an AK-47. Off we left down a dusty road lined with banana trees and locals dressed in their Sunday best. We arrived at Marangu hotel to meet the girls who had done a fab job on cooking the dinner without pots and pans.

A fab, although exhausting day to have a quick glance of the king of Africa - Kilimanjaro.

By Greg

Sunday, 28 December 2008

Inside the Ngorongoro Crater

I'd hesitate to say that it's starting to feel normal, but our bodies are no longer surprised by waking up at 5:30 to go on a game drive. As a bonus, none of us were eaten in the night by hyena, although this could have been due to them being scared off by Rob's snoring!

Watching the sun come up over the opposite rim of the crater, some eleven miles distant, was truly magical. The sky turned all shades of blue and pink, before the sun peeped over the rim and started slowly flooding the crater with light.

We left the tents (we'll take them down when we come back for lunch) and headed down the steep descent road in our two Land Cruisers. Our pass into the crater only lasted for six hours, but in such a confined space it didn't matter. Some animals, like giraffe, topi and impala, can't manage the steep 600m descent. Also female and young elephant stay outside, while the massive bull elephants take advantage of the small forest on one edge of the crater.

We saw rhino, wildebeest, gazelle, elephant, plenty of hyena (who walk around like they own the place) and a mother and two lion cubs, who had just feasted on a buffalo which was then being stripped down to clean bones by the vultures.

Although there weren't as many animals as we were all expecting, this was more than compensated for by the experience of just being inside the world's largest complete volcanic crater.

The trip back was uneventful - most of us slept - and we all enjoyed a barbecue feast with all the trimmings on our return to Snake Park. Glad to be sleeping in separate tents again (now that we weren't scared that the children would be eaten without us noticing), we all went to bed, happy in the knowledge that we didn't have to be up early the next morning.

All of us now feel that we've been somehow "touched" by Africa and discussions have started to turn toward planning a future trip.

By Rob.

Saturday, 27 December 2008

Playing cards in the bush, but who's the cheetah?

Last night each family were squished up in a single tent together all pitched close as we had been warned our night-time visitors could be hyena or wild pig.

We woke at 5:30am for a yummy breakfast of pancakes, egg and toast, and at the same time making friends with a friendly giraffe, before heading out on our game drive. We wanted to see a cheetah or a leopard and our driver made our wish come true by cleverly spotting the cheetah we've always wanted to see.

Now, that wasn't all we saw, because there were loads (at least thousands) of zebra and wildebeast outside our window, because they were migrating from the Maasai Mara to the Serengeti because the grass is more lush here in the Serengeti. Another animal that we hadn't seen before was the redbuck.

Just before lunch we stopped to do a wilderbeast trail to help us find out a bit about the wilderbeast and zebra. We were just going past the wilderbeast and we saw two lions creeping up towards the herd,we thought we were going to see a kill but we didn't (what a shame, we've never seen a kill).

We left the Serengeti to go to the campsite which was on the rim of the crater ready for the last game drive of our trip.

We head off to bed wondering if we will come face to face with a hyena in the night!

By Georgia Scott

Thursday, 25 December 2008

Nothing for miles on Christmas day

Today we woke up at 6.30 and it wasn't a normal Chritsmas because we had no presents and we were in Africa, but we had a Twix for breakfeast!!!

We packed our bags and left Japhet and Joeseph, because we were going in 4x4s to go to the serengeti, but 1 minute in, and not even in a game drive, we saw some elephants. And suprisingly it was a smooth road.

Half way there there was an amazing view. It was the crater. We were at 2500 metres and across it was 11 miles wide. The girraffe and the lepoard don't go down into the crater because there is no food and it is hard for the girraffe to get in and out because of their long legs.

Carrying on with the journey, we came accross a massive herd of zebra and wildebeast. They stay together because the zebra have got good eyesight and the wildebest have good sense of smell. There were 1000s of them.

Then it started to rain and our luck began to wear off to spot leopards and cheetahs. Then we crossed the lake and there was some hippos which was cool. Then we got to our camp site and set up the tents and are now relexing after a long journey.

And happy Christmas to everyone who is following the blog.

By Fern

Day 11- Daniel is in the Diary Room

Day 11 and it's our last day in Snake Park camp until we come back from the Serengeti and the Ngorogoro Crater. We will be leaving our ultra-cool drivers Japhet and Joeseph and taking 4x4 jeeps early tomorrow.

We visited Snake Park next to the camp and after looking at some nasty pictures of a snake eating a man whole on the python cage we (Eddie and I) arrived at the cage of the Black Mamba. The next cage had a snake and 3 live mice in it, but then the mice chased the snake away he obviously wasn't hungry yet as they were his next meal. Later we got a chance to hold snakes, crocodiles and tortoise. But when Luke had a turn the tortoise pooped on him.

Then we came back, we played until tea time whilst the parents had Christmas drinks in the bar.

Rob prepared a Christmas feast of BBQ turkey with stuffing,sausages and all the trimmings it was easily the best meal we have had all holiday. It was so good that we decided that Rob will have to not cook tea for three nights. (We are taking a cook on our trip!!)

After we ate it was time for the kids' concert and we sang a few of our favourite pop hits and a couple we made up ourselves which were apparently amazing.That's all for now, we would just like to wish all our friends and family a very merry Christmas. As you sit there tucking into your Christmas lunch we will be out game spotting in the Serengeti.

This is Daniel signing out.

Wednesday, 24 December 2008

Another glorious night in our tents at Karen Camp!  We all packed up, cool shower, treated the flea bites (picked up at hotel, previous night!) and we were ready to rock 'n' roll off to Tanzania.  Quick stop off at supermarket to purchase a turkey and sausages wrapped in bacon (at exorbitant cost) for our Christmas feast!  We hit the road and headed for the border, the tarmac road soon changed to dirt and before we knew it we were once again engulfed in clouds of dust and headed through numerous villages full of beaming children, bustling markets and docile donkeys and goats.  Four hours later, totally dishevelled with every orifice full of dust we arrived at the border.  We had a relatively hassle-free crossing and we arrived in Tanzania.  Unfortunately both Ben and Doug arrived with their first dose of African tum!

Our first impressions of Tanzania were: far less people and vehicles; very mountainous terrain; different style of huts from Kenya (round with thatched roofs); very red soil; but once again very welcoming people, waving and shouting from the roadside. 

We had a quick stop for lunch of dry sandwiches and delicious pineapple, a quick wee stop, where I managed to pee on Debs foot (I blame her entirely for being too close!) and we were off again.  The dry arid landscape turned to lush fertile soil as we neared Arusha – we arrived at the Snake Park just in time to pitch tents and head to the bar for G&Ts before sunset!

Not sure if they have been mentioned before, but we have two of the best drivers in Africa, Joseph (Kenyan) and Japhet (Tanzanian) – they have been fabulous and are wonderful with the kids, we are a big family group now.  We also have the coolest truck we’ve seen so far on our travels, everyone must be so jealous of us!

By Katie

Meeting the girls again

On the 22nd of December we got up from our 1st night in a hotel and had a huge buffet breakfast, it was so much better than a Jam sandwich everyday, that's for sure! After the delicious breakfast we went to the hotel's animal park and saw Crocodiles, Ostriches, Bush Babies, Monkeys and African Rabbits and we found out they feed the live Rabbits to the Crocodiles.

After that, we drove down to the rehabilitation centre and did a tour round it. We met the girls again and made new friends we played footie and danced with them. It was such a great experience and a great pleasure to see the smiles on their faces. We met Martin, the guy who owns the place, and we got told how he and his friend had made this centre a home and a school for 100 girls over a 10 month period. These children had been rescued from the slums of Nairobi where they would be in danger everyday with the torture. They would be harassed, catch fatal diseases and live in such a bad environment overall. And every 10 months new children get brought in and the ones that have left are educated and have a chance of going to school and live in rich land, for them. They also provide stuff for the kids' families, by loaning them money to get into the schools they want to be in and to get the jobs they want. So if you put that into account they are helping 1000 people every year as there is about 10 people in an African family.

Then we went on the truck back to Karan camp, where we picked up our Truck on our first day of Africa.

By Doug and Ben.

Monday, 22 December 2008

We're on the road to nowhere!

David is back in the land of the living, following 24 hours of Gastro, after eating or drinking something that didn't agree with his stomach.

It is time to leave the Maasai Mara to do one last game drive. We saw herds of buffalo and elephants who were none too pleased to see us and although we felt safe in our beloved truck, we knew full well that they were capable of charging at any moment, causing serious damage, but thanks to our trusted driver Joseph and guide Japhet we knew we were in safe hands.

After leaving the Mara we headed to Thika which is north of Nairobi and the home of the rehabilitation centre of the children we met at Fisherman's Camp.

Our journey was long and dusty and resulted in us getting horribly lost somewhere North East of Nairobi. In the pitch dark in search of a campsite with at least an element of security and a hot shower, we finally abandoned our quest and checked in to a hotel.

The Scott's being more happy to succumb to the idea of a comfy bed and a hot meal, the rest of the group finally admitted defeat and we all enjoyed a night of African luxury. A million miles from the 5* we normally accustom ourselves to, but a welcome break from "roughing it".

And so the road to nowhere ends under the mosquito nets of the Blue Post Hotel.

By Sam & David

Sunday, 21 December 2008

The land that goes on forever

Yesterday was our last full at day at Acacia Camp. We woke up at 6:00 because we were going on safari for 4 hours. On the safari we saw:

• Elephants 30+
• Giraffe 9+
• Lions 7+
• Thompson Gazelle 50+
• Dic-Dic 1+
• Jackal 4+
• Heartbeast 20+
• Wildebeest 30+• Antelope 40+
• Hyena 4+
• Miakat 1+
• Buffalo 60+

After a few hours in the truck, we went to a Wilderness Lodge in the middle of nowhere. We all went swimming and there was a big bridge and underneath the bridge was some hippo. Luke got chased across the bridge by a monkey.
When we got back in the truck, we went on safari for another 2 hours. Unfortunately we still didn’t see any cheetah.
Once we got back at the campsite, the children practiced for their singing competition that will be held on Christmas Day. For tea, we had a sausage risotto, with leftover goat curry from the day before.

After we had eaten, we talked to a Masai Warrior about their life. We found out that they have to go out in the wilderness for five years before they are allowed to come back and get married. Masai wear red, because all animals bleed red and it’s a powerful colour. We also found out that the first one to kill a lion is a hero and gets to keep the mane to make a hat and the others in the hunting group make jewellery from the lion’s canines and claws. We found out that one arrow can kill an elephant, because of the poison, made from herbs. The Masai bow is made from a branch of an olive tree. The bow is very thin, but extremely strong. When firing an arrow, it can go up to 200 metres. Masai do not get to choose their own wives; their parents do that for them.

The best part of the day was talking to the Masai Warrior, because we learned so much that we didn’t know before.

By Eddie & Luke

Saturday, 20 December 2008

Travel, lions and "goulash"

Yesterday was a travelling day. We all really enjoyed our time at Fisherman's Camp. Some were kept awake by the growling/groaning noises of the Hippos, who came to graze every night, others were oblivious until they went to the toilet in the night and saw them, just a few metres from the tents.

We packed up and headed off, first to Narok for supplies, where Rob insisted on buying half a goat from a tiny butcher:
Rob - "What meat do you have?"
Butcher - "Goat."
Rob - "OK, we'll have goat."
Then we carried on to Acacia Camp in the Masai Mara.

After the men finished preparing the goat curry, we all got back in the truck to look for lions. We were not disappointed. Joseph and Jaffad (our drivers) managed to get us within 5 metres of a family of lions that were sunbathing in the evening sun. How fantastic!

Back at the camp, the Masai chef, who was cooking for the truck next to ours, proclaimed our curry to be "a goulash". That didn't stop most of us having three helpings, though!

Early to bed, in preparation for our 6 o'clock start in the morning.

Thursday, 18 December 2008

Lake Nakuru and Fishermans Camp

Weds 17th Dec:

Wow what an early start, woke up at 5.30am to find more hippos not far from our tents.. an amazing sight again.  Packed up the truck and headed off for Lake Nakuru, a 2 hour drive from Navaisha.  It was a cold morning and we all got a little wind swept as the sides of the truck were up and had a nourishing breakfast on biscuits en route.

Parked up in Nakuru town to organise the 4x4's and got totally mobbed by locals trying to peddle their wares.  We bought a few safari hats for the kids for a pound each.. bargain and they look fab.

We jumped in 2 4x4's and went into the Lake Nakuru National Park.  We did a game drive for several hours and saw an abundance of animals including white and black rhino, impala, giraffe, waterbuck, buffalo, wart hog, flamingo, pelican, baboon and probably some others along the way.  It was a fantastic park, but unfortunately we couldn't find any leopard... maybe in the Mara or Serengeti, fingers crossed!  We lunched at the lodge on the Park Gate and had a few cheeky monkeys surround us and stole 2 mangos from Greg's rucksack... hilarious!  We left the Park around 6.30pm and travelled back to Navaisha in the dark.  The roads were pretty hairy, but the adults didn't even give this a second thought as they downed 2 bottles of red... with no glassess, necking it from the bottles.... it reminded me of an African 18-30's party!  Got back to the camp quite late and Rob rustled up a very tasty supper of chicken, potatoes and veg...yum! The adults drank yet more wine surprisingly and all had quite an early night.
Thurs 18th Dec:
After yesterday's exhausting but exhilirating game drives and travelling, we decided to stay at Fishermans Camp for the day to chill out.  A large party of African children arrived at the camp... 98 girls from a rehabilitation centre in Nairobi for children from the slums.  We went to speak to their camp leaders and offered to give them some football kit.  The girls were delighted and all put on their Mytchett away kits and Stalbridge School.....their smiles were amazing.  Our party went over to their camp and the girls sang some beautiful songs about Friends & Flowers.  I (Paula) for one was in floods of tears, it was very humbling and emotional.  I think there were tears all round!

We had a footy match, the 98 of them against the 15 of us and they won 8:4.  It was unbelieveable as they had absolutely no fear, bearing in mind that most of them had no footware and were running around on the stones, acacia spikes and rocks.  Personally I have to say that this day has been the highlight of my trip so far, very emotional and humbling.  In the afternoon, after another footy match, they girls showed me how to shake my booty African style and we taught them lots of English songs.  Amy was fantastic and played her guitar whilst everyone had a good old sing song.

Edward and I went back over to the kids camp later in the day with Footy Match Attack cards and other little gifts.  We got mobbed as the girls couldn't containt heir excitement!

At 5pm we all went on the Lake in a boat to see the hippos swimming by the shore.  The boat captain threw fish into the lake and the Fish Eagles (who are clearly well trained) swooped down to get them giving a great photo opportunity for Rob!   We had a quick beer/g&t at the bar before having a fab supper of bbq chicken, mash, carrots and brocolli... Rob, you are a star chef.... you'd give Gordon a run for his money!  More wine of course and then early night in anticipation of tomorrow's long journey to the Masai Mara. 

By Paula

Wednesday, 17 December 2008

Cycle safari in Hells Gate

Yesterday morning started a little earlier than planned, when someone got out of their tent at 6:30 and shouted, "Hippos!" There were two, medium sized hippos grazing on the edge of the campsite. Even though we were separated from them by an electric fence, they still made us feel nervous enough to keep a respectful distance. Oh, and then Paula got pooed-on by a monkey, who was sat in the tree above her!

We then picked up our rental mountain bikes - some of the brakes worked, some of the gears worked - and headed off to Hells Gate National Park. Some cycled there and the rest piled their bikes onto the truck.

We all got on our bikes at the entrance to the park and set off for the Rangers Post. Along the way, we saw Hyrax (which we fed biscuits), Zebra, Griffin Vultures, Eagles, Thompson Gazelle, Eland, Ostrich, Baboons, Warthogs, a heard of Buffallo and a Giraffe. We also got sore bums from the bikes!

From the Rangers Station, we got off the bikes and went for a trek down a gorge which had us scrabbling down steep rocks and showering under natural hot springs.

The kids all put in a sterling effort on the cycle back, and none of us have ever seen Deb pedal as fast as she did, when she thought that we might get trampled by buffallo!

The lads then cycled back to the camp, stopping off at a Barclays cash machine in the middle of a slum.

Our lesson for the day: "45 minutes" really means two-and-a-half-hours.

Monday, 15 December 2008

All the Girls had too much wine last night so today started slowly but by 10:30 we were en-route to our 1st stop - it was to find a Geocache that Rob had found on his GPS - some sad people hide things and put the co-ordinates on a website that other sad people go and find (Rob). Then we headed off to Lake Naivasha via the Rift Valley. 

As we left the plateau and dropped down to the valley we stopped to take in the view at 2000m  across the valley. We were then swamped by locals selling souvenirs, 
Daniel took to haggling with great aplomb. It was then on to the lake, where the Girls and the drivers put the tents up while the boys had a well earnt beer (or two). During our beer we spotted a local football team training - all in jeans and T-shirts, they were very grateful for a gift of a new Mytchett Athletic football kit.

Two memories of the day - the beaming smiles of tiny children living in abjact poverty and the fact that children can't listen to a song for more than 30 seconds.

Yesterday was a really good first day.
We all woke up gradually, with some people affected by the 8 hour flight, some by the 3 hour time difference and some by the beer the night before.

After breakfast in the sun and writing a shopping list for supplies, we went off in our truck to an elephant orphanage, where we saw the baby elephants having their mud bath, followed by feeding time. Edward was SO exited that he managed to stroke one of the elephants.
From there, we went to see some giraffes that you could get really close to. Kellee (who we met after breakfast) got really up-close and personal with one of them!

We cooked out evening meal next to our truck and all sat round eating our food and enjoying our wine until late into the darkness.

We're all really exited, now that the truck is being packed-up and we'll be off on our travels very shortly.


Saturday, 13 December 2008

Just arrived!

We all surived the early start, the National Express coach from Woking, Heathrow Terminal 5, an 8 hour flight, immigration at Nairobi and a local taxi driver who seemed almost terminally laid back, with an unexplained manic grin.

11.55pm We're now sat round a table, outside the bar at Karen Camp, on the western outskirts, enjoying what seemes like a well earned beer. Kids are running around the gardens, eating crisps and getting told off by people tying to sleep. David just keeps repeating "more beer, more beer"!

Friday, 12 December 2008

Last-minute packing

Debs is in her element!

This post was added from my BlackBerry, just to test that it was possible to keep the Blog up to date, when the laptop can't get a connection!

Tuesday, 2 December 2008











































Karen Camp






Snake Park






Go in 4x4

















Snake Park






Marangu Hotel






Marangu Hotel






Lawns Hotel






Lawns Hotel






Mikadi Beach



  31-Dec-08    Leave the truck and group heads to Zanzibar

Monday, 24 November 2008

Somewhere between nervous and excited

There are now less than 3 weeks to go, before we set off on our trip. We know that we've got most of the major stuff (although the Malaria tablets are still work-in-progress) and we are all starting to wonder if we need "anything else".

David wants to buy a tent with integrated plumbing (he's obviously intending to employ a porter, too), Paula seems to be unsure how many bikinis would be appropriate and Rob wants to pack gaffer-tape and the whole contents of his local Millets shop.

In common with the rest of the girls, Deb seems intent on writing lists and having a pre-packing session, to make sure it all fits in the bags.

We will probably all find that we only pack half the stuff we've thought of, and find that we only actually use half of what we take!