South Africa, bru!

Posted in Uncategorized on September 3, 2011 by nornironafrica


Chris had been building South Africa up the entire trip. When we get here…you can get…you can do…so on and so forth. When we finally arrived it poured rain. Its was brutally cold. The tent flooded. And the legendary biltong was expensive! South Africa didn’t impress us. Only at first, then the sun came out, the landscape changed and everything was right in the world. We arrived in Stellenbosch and had a good look around the wine farms the region is famous for. We went out to one of the local student bars and met some friendly locals. We shared a few stories and they told us about their experiences about growing up in South Africa. The next day was the day we officially ended the trip, we drove to the most southern point on the African continent: Cape Agulhas. The drive was beautiful, South Africa was earning us back to it. After we visited Agulhas we took the whale route back to Cape Town. And it is indeed the whale route, we saw a few just off a beach. We arrived in at Fish Hoek on the Cape of Good Hope to visit Chris’ uncle and auntie there. They very kindly put us up for a few nights and let us clean out Doris. We ended up heading out in Cape Town and pub crawled around the bars and hotspots of Long Street. We visited the V&A waterfront, saw the District 6 museum for some culture and drove through a township. All throughout Africa you can see the disparity in wealth and poverty. They are so very close together and this is truly shocking. We had a fairly rash climb up to the top of Table Mountain on a closed pathway. We had a fantastic drive around Camps Bay and Hout Bay. The scenary is absolutely incredible. South Africa has earned a special place in our hearts and all of us have vowed to return there. However, this is likely to be more than a few years down the line. There are more regions of the world to visit first.Sadly this is it. The end.

JC is returning to his Masters in Mechanical Engineering at Queens.

Jack is returning to the UK in hope of finding a Phd or job.

Chris is staying in South Africa to visit family but will return to NI for a placement in Architecture.

Red failed to secure the job he was after and decided to return to university.

Its been a crazy adventure and we’ve all learnt a lot about, life, the countries we visited, ourselves and what we want out of the future. It wont be long before we’re off on another crazy adventure to another part of the world. Stay posted…

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Skeleton Coast

Posted in Uncategorized on September 3, 2011 by nornironafrica

We left Botswana and headed into Namibia again but this time from the East. We travelled up to Windhoek and managed to do some admin, including a shop and some Internet. Sadly we didn’t have enough time to update the blog so you are getting a number of stories in one big blast. The first thing we realised about Windhoek is that we seem to be leaving Africa proper. Everything is much more modern and European looking and this is the colonial influence Germany has had. We left Windhoek and headed for the coast. Swakopmund is a quaint little down right on the Skeleton Coast. Here we treated ourselves to some fantastic seafood straight from the Atlantic. Last time we had seen the ocean had been in Dar es Salaam. We had crossed the entire continent of Africa. We headed North to the town of Eis to see The White Lady cave paintings. These were found in a valley that acted as micro-climate for the bush men for thousands of years. A small oasis in the Namib desert. We then headed back to Swakopmund and went south towards Walvis Bay to see the massive sand dunes that has made Namibia famous. On our way down the coast we spotted a ship wreck. We had to check it out; ship wrecks have made the Skeleton Coast notorious with sailors. If your boat got thrown upon the coast, your chances of survival were pretty much nil as you were simply greeted with an endless desert. We reached the massive sand dunes that sweep right down to the sea. It’s quite a climb up to the top but the view makes it worth it. Truly spectacular.

Back in Windhoek we celebrated JC and Jacks birthdays by going to a Game Buffet. There were unreal quantities and types of meat. There was Zebra, Springbok, an assortment of seafood and deserts. We all ate too much and struggled to stay awake on our trip to Fish River Canyon. The views are immense; it’s hard to judge the scale of the canyons walls. Namibia had treated us well, we were sad to leave it.

Botswana!

Posted in Uncategorized on September 3, 2011 by nornironafrica

We had a bit of a detour to get into Botswana. Firstly, we left Zambia and dodged another fine from the police for another bit of paperwork we were “required” to have got at the border. We claimed ignorance and after some pleading we were sent on our way. We entered the Caprvi Strip in Northern Namibia and journeyed down to the border crossing with Botswana. Here we ran into some fellow Irish folks, Kate Meehan and her brother and sister JP and Lucy. JP and Lucy had come out to visit their sister Kate who is an expat in Botswana. Kate was showing them around Botswana, Zambia and Namibia for a few weeks. Kate very kindly offered us a spot for the night and a chance for a shower. We must have looked (or smelt) like we needed one and Kate took pity on us. She led us to her lovely house which is situated right on the Okavango Delta. Once we had cleaned ourselves up, we set about gathering firewood for a braai. Kate and Jack produced some fine salad and roast potatoes while JP and JC char grilled some steaks over the fire. We ate dinner around the fire and traded stories of travel. Kate told us of times when she was travelling and people had taken her. She was simply forwarding the hospitality she had received. We were really touched by the kindness and generosity that Kate and her family had shown to us. We have been left with a lot of traveller debt that we will need to repay to other travellers in the future. The next day we said our goodbyes and got on the road again. We headed down to Maun and then up to Moremi National Park. We travelled up on the gravel road and found a clearing to camp for the night just outside the Park. There were signs of many wild animals, elephant, deer and of course, lions. We lit a massive fire and used our lamps to scan the field for glowing green eyes. No creatures found us that night and we went on and into the Park. We saw a massive herd of elephants, lots of mothers shepherding their young, while the bull elephants cleared the path ahead. The savannah held plenty of zebra, wildebeest and water buffalo. We luckily saw a number of predators including cheetah, spotted hyena and wild dogs. We had headed up to Mboma boat station to get a ride on a dugout canoe. We reached the road to the boat house and were surprised to find it was covered with a stream of water. The pool was about 12 feet across with sand on both sides. The water was murky and still. We followed all our river crossing drills correctly, letting Doris cool, wading and crossing the river first and of course checking for crocodiles. We waded across and although the bottom was silt we figured we could make it across. Of we went and immediately got Doris stuck. How stuck she was weren’t quite sure. The first hour we spent jacking up the wheels and putting sand over the silt. Then we realised that the back axel was stuck on a sandbar, we began digging. We failed at pushing her out. We then found that she was stuck on a sandbar at the front axle also. All this was happening while water was perilously close to entering the air intake and killing our engine. We had phoned the ranger station at the front gate which was 60km away, they hung up on us. We phoned the National Park reservation office in Maun, 90km away. They said good luck. We prayed another vehicle would come along and tow us out. We had managed to get ourselves into one of the most difficult self rescue situations possible. We were in a river, the water was nearly over the engine. Each wheel was buried in silt. Both axels were stuck on a sandbar that ran front to back under Doris. No vehicle had come along the road in two and a half hours and there weren’t any trees close enough to winch off. That and I’m pretty sure I just saw a croc’s tail in those reeds. We needed to get out of here. An hour of digging at sandbars, jacking wheels, unloading heavy items and croc watch (not as good as Bay Watch) and we thought we were ready to give reversing another go. She moved an inch, and this is with Red, Jack and Chris pushing with all their might. An inch is an inch. We got her one more. Another try and we gained another. One final big push and she was free. After some celebrations we picked up our kit and got ourselves out of there. Phew!  We got out of the National Park just before closing time and the sun set. Knackered we ate dinner and turned in. An African adventure we’ll do our best not to repeat.

Zambia

Posted in Uncategorized on August 23, 2011 by nornironafrica

We drove across the first half of Zambia without much incident apart from a few massive potholes and some dodgy corners. Time meant that we couldnt travel north to the Camara Hub in Kitwe. We arrived in the concrete jungle of Lusaka and got the opportunity to do some admin. Once we had done that we headed south to a town called Chikankata. Chikankata is famous not only throughout Zambia but also worldwide as one of the best Salvation Army mission hospitals in the region. Here we met our friends Dave McKinney and Tori Graham who were on medical placement as part of their degree course. They had kindly offered to put us up for a night and show us the work they had been doing at the hospital. Chikankata can handle over 200 patients but for all this there are only a few doctors plus the medical students who were there for a period of 6 weeks. Chikankata is also a college for Nurses and Biomedical Science. Dave showed about the different wards. A number of things shocked us. The windows need to be kept open at night to avoid the spread of Tuberculosis which means the patients are left freezing every night. Outside one of the wards was a very nice pond, but Dave pointed out to this that this was a perfect breeding ground for Mosquitoes. Dave outlined the problems he had faced while working there. Most cases he saw were simply failures in hygiene that had gotten out of hand or infected. What are simple cases in the UK and Ireland are exacerbated by the environment or a lack of knowledge in Zambia. Sex Education is becoming less of a taboo which is necessary for the prevention of HIV/AIDs. Dave also found it hard to work with the locals, due to language barriers and different perspectives on life very different from his own. He had a number of issues with how the hospital did business, there were lots of people on the payroll who didn’t need to be or simply didn’t do all that there job required of them. He said there were extremes in the care provided by the nurses, some will dote on patients and take really good care of them while others will only take action if they really need to. If anything it really makes you appreciate the level of health care available to us back home.  Dave had finished his placement and was heading off on an adventure of his own to climb Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. We said our farewells and parted ways with promises of a reunion in September over Gucci Chips kebabs. We journeyed on towards Livingstone to see Victoria Falls. We found ourselves in a Backpackers Campsite near the centre. The next day we went up to the Falls and the first thing you notice long before you see it is the roar it makes. We went right up to the bridge with Zimbabwe to get our snaps at the border. We then travelled up to the viewpoints right beside the Falls. We had been warned by others to protect our cameras from the Falls spray. It was like a November day back home as a fine misty rain decended upon us. We could see the droplets of water gravitating up towards us. We sat in the shade of some trees and watched as tourists did the bungee jump. Jack and JC decided to go and have an adrenaline rush of their own and hired a local to take them out over the lip of the falls. They had to battle against the strong currents of the Zambezi to get out to the lip. The view was spectacular while Chris missed out as he was tired out by the short hike to Boiling Point look out point, altitude being the reason rather than attitude. However, Victoria Falls is really one of the most awe inspiring sights we have seen on the trip.

Malawi

Posted in Uncategorized on August 23, 2011 by nornironafrica

We left Tanzania and began heading south. We crossed the border close to nightfall and began looking for a campsite. Malawi like Ethiopia has its population concentrated around the major routes. This meant it was going to be difficult to find a wild camp without upsetting a local farmer. We kept heading south until we came across a sign saying “campsite” attached to what we thought was a dolphin, we pulled in and found ourselves in the middle of a clutch of beach huts. We were met by the hostess who battled again the gale coming of the lake to show us around. She prepared some Ugali for us and we set the tent up. The gale died down and we got our heads down. The next morning in the light of day we suddenly realised how lucky we were. Mr Mdokera’s campsite was right on Lake Malawi, it was a scene straight out of a travel magazine. Locals were out on the lake fishing in dug out canoes, a crowd had gathered around one returning boat to buy their catch. We then met Mr. Franco Salima, he was the manager of the campsite but in his former career had lectured about African politics. He gave us the run down on Malawi’s politics and why there had been violence against the government lately. Mr. Salima blamed the culture of African sham democracy were you can fill all the government posts with friends and family. He is hoping things will change in the near future.

We spent the morning jumping in and out of Lake Malawi and watched the comings and goings on the water. Then Jack shocked us all “Guys I need to get to a hospital”. Jack had been suffering from stomach pain for around a week at this stage, he said it had gotten worse and wanted to see a doctor. We packed ourselves up and said our goodbyes to Mr Mdokera and his family who had been excellent hosts. It was a 590km drive to Lilongwe and we knew we couldn’t get there that night but we had to get as close as possible. The next morning we got into Lilongwe and found a hospital for Jack. The doctor diagnosed his pain as a stomach ulcer and prescribed a course of antibiotics to clear it up. We headed into Lilongwe which we found to be the strangest capital city we have visited on the trip. There are no high rise buildings, lots of green spaces and everything is very spread out. We did our weekly shop and found a place to camp for the evening. The Sanctuary Lodge had an awesome campsite with great facilities. We went there to meet a contact who was interested in buying Doris. Sadly this turned out to be a dead end and we went on to the Zambian border and our appointment with Dr. Dave McKinney.

We’re alive!

Posted in Uncategorized on August 21, 2011 by nornironafrica

Sorry for the lack of updates! We’re all alive and in tip top condition but we just dont have enough Internet to post updates. We’re currently in Windhoek and we’ll post our stories soon!

Hunting for Lions

Posted in Uncategorized on August 9, 2011 by nornironafrica

We had decided that Kenya would be too expensive for a safari and opted for Mikumi National Park in the middle of Tanzania. We entered the National Park and after a few kilometres were greeted by a giraffe. Just standing there chilling, eating a tree by the side of the road, as you do. There was an excited flurry inside Doris as cameras were grabbed and pictures hurriedly taken. Little did we know we would see plenty of giraffe by the end of the day. We bought our permit at the office for $60 for a 24hour pass and permission to use one of the campsites. We then set off into the National Park. After two kilometres, we were greeted by a herd of elephants. We then found a lone bull Elephant that enjoyed mock charging at us from time to time. He always stopped and flapped his ears at us. We spotted impalas, more giraffes, zebras, wildebeest, gazelles, hippopotamuses and warthogs. However, there was no sign of lions. We returned to the campsite and found that it was overrun with baboons! We lit a huge fire and the baboons lost interest and went on to bed. That night we prepared a delicious mix of noodles and ration packs. The next morning we rose early and were back on the hunt for lions. We toured every road in the National Park, pausing intermittently to see if they appeared. We eventually ran out of time in the Park and had to shoot on without spotting our elusive lions. Maybe next time. That night we set up camp off the main TanZam highway. Its winter in Tanzania at the minute, still much warmer than home but the trees around our camp site had shed all their leaves. The forest looked like the set from the Blair Witch Project. Nevertheless a peaceful nights sleep was had, almost. Jack has been having problems with his anti-malarial tablets. They have been giving him a serious dose of heart burn and discomfort. The next morning we set off for the border with Malawi. After just starting out we got stopped at a police check point. He pulled us over and asked us to show him that lights, wipers, driver license and brakes were all in order. The police officer noticed one of our brake lights wasn’t working. Penalty! We got fined 10,000 Tanzanian shillings which is about $4USD. After that we continued on and just before we reached the border we got stopped again. This time they wanted our insurance details. This was a problem as we had tried to buy insurance at the border but the man had refused insisting we wouldn’t need it as we weren’t in the country long enough. We explained this to the police but they weren’t having any of it. They insisted we buy insurance, one of the police officers called a ‘colleague’ of his who swiftly offered us one months insurance at $70USD. This discussion was all taking place 800m from the Malawian border. He wanted us to pay almost a dollar a metre in insurance. We negotiated with the police officers that this was crazy and eventually they relented and let us pay a fine of 20,000 Tsh. Phew! Insurance crisis over we made sure we got a comprehensive policy for entering Malawi!