Africa is amazing in so many ways. When we think of Africa we think of beauty, open spaces, law of the jungle, animals. And that is what I have experienced on my trips through Africa.
The first trip I would love to share with you in my Africa travels is my “Smelly Wagon” 8 day overland trip.
A good friend of mine from the UK called me one day in June 2010 and asked if I would like to do an overland with On the Go Tours through Kenya & Tanzania. Who am I to say, “No” to an adventure of a lifetime. And so the arrangements began… Flights, booking the trip, Visas, Spending Money, Inoculations, oh… and a simple matter of reading the itinerary to make sure I have everything I need to make this trip perfect. Camera, check. Ipod, check. Suncream, check. Shower paraphernalia, check. Clothes, check. Costume, check. Itinerary….read read read… ummm… CAMPING?!!??!! For 7 nights? What had I gotten myself into? In my entire Travel Industry career, I’ve always stayed in hotels (usually good hotels). The most I had ever camped was a night or two at the Vaal with mates. Stress! Stress!
So I ran off and bought myself a blow up mattress and it felt as if the weight was off my shoulders. Or actually on my shoulders because I had to fit it in my Backpack. To prepare myself for my first Back Pack experience, I carried it around the house for half an hour at a time and bent over to pick up things and practice balance, only to fall over on my back a few times, like you do in the “Dead Ant” game.
And the day FINALLY arrived. I didn’t know what to expect. I was nervous, scared, excited. An my biggest worry of all was that reality struck me – I was going to be in an Overland Truck for 9 days travelling over 3000kms with 21 other strangers (well 20 less Dan, my friend from the UK). Oh and the problem that I get motion sickness in cars / trucks / things with wheels where I am enclosed. Great!
So we arrive in Nairobi at the meeting spot at a back packer lodge, where all the other eager Africa go-ers would rendezvous. It turned out I was the only SAFA (South African in Australian speak). 21 people, 1 South African, 2 Kiwis, the rest Ozzies! Krykie! Ended up actually being a great combination and a great group.
So on the truck we jump, ready for our Adventure into Africa. T.I.A.
First Stop, The Great Rift Valley. Of course there were the masses of “sales” people with their fabulous sales techniques there, but after a bit of face pulling and avoidance, we got to see the beautiful view.
This scenic stop was a great introduction to our fabulous adventure that awaited us. It set the tone and left a taste on our adventure pallet for the ecstasy that lay ahead.
The first few bumpy 100kms or so, we all sat on the truck and got to know each other. So many interesting people on this trip that I found myself engrossed in all their life stories and after a few hours (oh and a few slugs of the Patron that I brought with on the trip – always an ice breaker that alcohol) we felt as if we knew each other for a longer time than reality. There were doctors, surgeons, anesthetists, marine biologists and many more impressive learned fantastic individuals.
Another stop for lunch and we enjoyed our first taste of Kenya!
The first day was spent travelling, talking, sleeping, pretty much nothing much happened except getting to our first destination – The Masai Mara.
We arrived at our campsite and showered in the communal blocks and got ourselves ready for dinner. Of course, we needed torches, because there was only a generator that switched off at 10pm and after that we needed to create our own light. Oh, did I mention that this was one of many campsites that were not fenced? Yes, we were indeed food!
We smothered ourselves in insect repellent and had dinner around a campfire. And what better way to have an African dinner under the beautifully starlit sky, than to be entertained by the local Masai tribesmen. They put on a show for us that was my first pivotal moment on my trip.
Day 2’s awakening was a brutal reminder that there was no sleeping in for the next 8 days. Every morning would be a 5am wake up! [insert obscenities here]
Breakfast done, tents and back pack loaded on truck and onto the Smelly Wagon we climb. We drove into the Masai Mara National Park. The first thoughts I was capable of processing were, “NEED SLEEP!” and “I’ve seen enough animals to last me a lifetime”. But what was about to unfold from the moment the driver started the truck was not expected and well worth yet another “Game Drive”.
Buck, Zebra, Buck, Buck….. Wilderbeest, Wilderbeest – yes! The Great migration! We missed it by a week. There were a few left grazing around in the Masai Mara.
But by few I mean 500 or so at a time. Even though I have seen these in the Kruger Park many a times, seeing the numbers that I did there and then made me stare in awe. But I had a good laugh at Kiwi’s and Ozzie’s reactions, some of them seeing wild animals for the first time ever.
Our drive through the National Park was fruitful with animals of plenty: Wildebeest, Buffalo, even a Lion.
We had a lunch stop at the river where we could sit and watch the hippos and monkeys and the beauty that nature blessed us with.
One of the monkeys stole Dan, my friend’s, lunch from his hand. It scrambled up his leg and swiped the food from Dan’s hand as he was about to take a bite.
Back on the truck and another bumpy 50km truck ride, we started to smell something rotten. Actually a stench! The more we drove, the more the stench became unbearable working it’s magic on your throat reflux. Crossing the bridge, we discovered the source of the stench.
Rotten Wilderbeest corpses! The ones who never made the pandemonium frenzied river crossing. The corpses were blanketed with feeding Vulture-like birds.
We had a photo-opportunity stop and there was more to be discovered other than the memory of the migration.
The rest of the day was spent game driving and there were many beautiful moments that a wildlife photographer would kill to have.
And back to camp we went to get fed and shut our eyes ready for our 5am wake up call.
Day3 Breakfast done, tents and back pack loaded on truck and onto the Smelly Wagon we climb.
And many bumpy 100’s of kms later we arrive in Arusha.
First thing’s first. Exchange Dollars for the Kenyan Shilling.
And then off to set up camp for the night and have a few beers.
A few drinks later, lights out and 5am arrives and we welcomed it as we would the flu. With great dislike (putting it mildly) . The beer swelled our brains (so to speak). I was on duty to set up the chairs with my team that morning and as you do when you are a little worse for wear, you become silly and find anything to amuse you. So we set up the chairs in a shape, and decided from that moment onwards we would set them up in a different shape.
On this morning, we had a different agenda than the usual “tent, back pack, truck” routine. We each had to take a tog bag with clothes for 3 nights, our tent and our sleeping bags and pack it in a Landrover that fits 6 people. We were going to camp out for 2 nights outside the Ngorongoro Crater National Park and 1 night in the Serengeti and only a Landrover could get us there. So off in a convoy of Landrovers we made our way to the Serengeti via the Crater.
We finally arrived at our camp site for the night. We set up, washed up and then we were spoiled with a feast of delicious food that was cooked in a kitchen, not over an open fire and a luxury – popcorn.
That night we bonded better than ever. We played “I went to the market…” It all went very pear shaped and our muscles and cheeks were so sore from all the laughing.
5am! Sore head. But very exciting – we were going to head for the summit of the Ngorongoro Crater. No words can describe the amazing sight when we eventually arrived. It’s times like this that I wish I had a panoramic camera.
The drive down into the crater was the bumpiest ever, so bumpy it lulled me to sleep. And what a way to be awoken, but to the sights that the crater houses. It was like an oasis. There were so different types of vegetation, animals and rock structures. It’s as if we tele-ported into another country. We even saw Flamingos!!
After our trip out the Crater, we stopped for lunch on a hill. There were Falcons hovering around above us obviously wanting a bite of our food. One eventually did. If you look closely at this picture you will see the Falcon swooping over (on the right just behind the girl falling off the log-come-chair in the bushes) it’s lunch victim.
5am! Breakfast done, tents and tog bag loaded and off we went heading for the Serengeti. The drive was through a desert type landscape (not with dunes, but arid, savanna, no trees in sight and enough dust to build a pyramid. This trip took us close on 3 hours – just to get to the main gate and then an hour or 2 to get to our camping site. I forget because I was asleep half the trip from the Valoids I took for the motion sickness.
We took another game drive before reaching our camp site we spotted the BIG 5 in one sighting. Unfortunately my camera ran out of battery just as we spotted the leopard. But what a majestic animal. We sat with it and followed it and it followed us for about 2 hours.\\\\
That night we pitched our tents and while we were doing this, our guide let us know that there are more leopards and lions than we actually saw on our drive and that there had been a Zebra kill in our campsite a week prior to our arrival.
Well, you know that we didn’t need the bathroom during the night. And it was a bit of a sleepless night what with the hyena laughing at his food right outside our tent.
5am! Breakfast done, tents and tog bag loaded. We headed back to Arusha. We had not showered in 3 days, so the first thing we did when we arrived at camp was race to the showers and clean off all this dust and grub and mud off our bodies. Even though the water was lukewarm, it was the best shower ever, or so it seemed.
That night we all had a few more Tuskers as this would be our last night together as a group. We played a few card games and chatted and were merry. Reminiscing over the highlights of our trip and exchanged email addresses.
Yes, after all the excitement, adventure and spectacular sights, this seems like an abrupt end, but that’s where it ends. We all went off on our merry ways and most of us are still in touch with each other. This was by far the best trip I have ever had in my 11 years of travelling. And YES! I will do an overland CAMPING trip again!