Archive for August, 2011

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.

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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!

Dar es Salaam

Posted in Uncategorized on August 9, 2011 by nornironafrica

We left the foothills of Kilimanjaro and headed south to Bagamoyo. Bagamoyo is a long stretch of white sandy beach 2 hours north of Dar es Salaam. We found a resort campsite right on the beach and pulled on the dodgy Hawaiian shorts and went swimming. The water wasn’t as warm as the title “Indian Ocean” would have you imagine.  We set our stove up and made brews of tea and hot chocolate and chilled out under the coconut trees. This was the first day in a while were we could relax as we didn’t have to make up any distance or sort out anything. We were free to relax on the beach. That evening we even weaned ourselves of the ration pack diet and went to a restaurant. The next morning we slept in and went beach combing. When the tide went out it left a number of rock pool’s with an abundance of life in them. Jack and Johnny went off capturing hermit crabs collecting shells. They managed to scavenge a number of shell fish for dinner. We then set off for Dar es Salaam to meet a relative of Chris who lives out there. After exploring the streets of ‘Dar’ we met Roach at his work (Don’t worry Chantelle, he fed us well). He took us up to his friend Sid’s house where he kindly let us set up our tent in his backyard. Jack and Johnny went on a recce to find somewhere to cook our shellfish for us while Red and Chris did some website updating. We weren’t successful in finding a local place to cook our shellfish so we boiled them ourselves. We met Sid’s security guard Leganasa, who was a Masai. He explained that the Masai move their cattle once a year. Leganasa was working in Dar to earn enough money to buy more cows for his herd. He was engaged to a Masai girl in Arusha and needed another 20 cows as a gift to the girl’s father. We sat up chatting to Sid about the usual topics of women, sport and politics while sampling some of the local sugar cane spirit Konyagi. Sid was an awesome host and it was a pleasure to have met him and his father. The next morning we decided to investigate a noise that had occurred in the back right wheel. On closer inspection, Johnny in his encyclopaedic knowledge of mechanics insisted buying new brake pads was the way forward. Roach kindly organised a local mechanic to deliver some new pads down to us. Twenty minutes later Doris was all set for the road again. We bid our farewells and set off on our new direction of south west. We were now leaving the Indian Ocean behind and are making our way across Malawi, Zambia, Botswana and Namibia to the Atlantic.

Mombasa

Posted in Uncategorized on August 1, 2011 by nornironafrica

We had been warned about the road from Nairobi to Mombasa and sadly the warnings proved true. As Mombasa is the biggest port in the area the main road in and out of it has a lot of freight on it. The main road isn’t a Dual carriageway either, it’s a simple potholed two laner. To get anywhere on this road you’ll need to get very good at overtaking very quickly. The sides of the road are littered with over overturned 50ft trucks, blown out tyres and glass from windscreens. We arrived at an accident minutes after it happened. Sadly there was one fatality and one serious injury. We drove more conservatively after that. We eventually arrived into Mombasa and went down to the Camara Hub on the edge of Mombasa town. We met Shakeel and the local volunteers who work in the Hub. They showed us around the workshop where they prepare computers that arrive in from Ireland. The Hub has a number of classrooms for educating teachers in on how to use and set up the computers. This is what the Hub is doing most at the minute. They run two four hour sessions a day for teachers all over the city and surrounding countryside. The volunteers hold a number of classes in different areas to make it easy for the teachers to attend. It was superb to see the work that was being done in Kenya, the professionalism and enthusiasm of the volunteers really struck us. We met up with some of the Irish volunteers that night and had a few beers. Top of the agenda the next morning was the beach. Straight down the road and onto the white sand that covers Bamburi beach its not wonder it makes such a popular destination. After a `quick dip we packed up our gear and headed out to the Tanzanian border. The road from Voi to Talveta was actually a dirt track just slightly better than the Moyale Highway. After more corrugation skimming we got down to the Kenyan border. As the sun was setting it threw dappled sunlight on Kilimanjaro. It was absolutely fantastic to see the sun setting behind the massive mountain. A highlight of the trip.