Wednesday, October 29, 2008

safari collage

olduvai gorge panorama

more olduvai gorge info here

more zanzibar...

stonetown waterfront

Chlorocebus pygerythrus - prettier than its name
(vervet monkey)

six o'clock dhow

stonetown crumbling away

crumbling abstract

yellow prisoners

upwards abstract

tabletop abstract

corrugated abstract


OK - I admit it. I don't like Singapore.

The suburbs look like a giant lego town and the city is basically one massive shopping mall.

I have been there about 4 times now but to be honest never for longer than one day.

It's just that it's! It feels like Disneyland rather than a city. I feel no soul there, it's as if the plastic wrap has just been taken off.

I spent 11 hours there on my way home. I wandered around the Orchard Rd area watching the general public overloaded with shopping bags for several hours, tormented shopkeepers by window shopping but not going inside. Then finally went to the movies to kill a couple of hours. ("Blindness" - don't rush, it makes you wish you were)

It doesn't help the place that it is usually the last stopover before getting home, which doesn't really help enamour the city to one.

However, their train system makes Sydney's look like Kazakh State Rail.

Monday, October 27, 2008

kili summit glacier

panorama of a glacier at the summit of kilimanjaro
*click to enlarge

Thursday, October 23, 2008

random zanzibar

Some random pics from around Zanzibar:

small sails




dhows at sunset

i wondered why there were no cows


world game

Wednesday, October 22, 2008


diving has been a blast.

I've taken to it like a to..err

Anyway, I have now completed 12 dives, 6 in the north at Nungwi - the very northern most tip of Zanzibar (BTW the post heading is a diving joke)and the other 6 off the coast of Stonetown, the capital city of this small but historically important island.

I left Neil to fly home at Kilimanjaro airport and flew direct to Zanzibar, heading straight to Nungwi. As soon as I arrived and had lunch, the dive centre started me on the dive theory. More study?

back to school

The following morning I was in the water practicing my fin pivots, BCD underwater removal, signing, etc etc. By the end of the 3rd full day I had passed the course.

getting in the BCD can be tricky

ready to go

out the front of my bungalow

safari time

tanzanian landscape

A six day safari in hindsight was a little too long.

I won't bore you with loads of chat about Zebras, Giraffes and Lions, or post a plethora of pictures of same. You all know what African animals are like and as most of us have been exposed to the wonders of David Attenborough, my own collection of photos is embarrassingly amateurish.

zebra crossing (groan...)

But in a nutshell, Neil and I began at a place called Lake Manyara which gave us our first glimpse of Hippos, Gazelle, Monkeys and also Elephants up close. It was here that we had a baby elephant getting a little stroppy and practicing being aggressive with us. It would advance towards our landrover stamping its feet and shaking its head and then turn scaredy cat and run into the bushes. Shortly after it would emerge and do the same thing. Very endearing.

From Manyara we took a long drive via Olduvai Gorge where they found the earliest hominid footprints,

olduvai gorge

out into the Serengeti. It was here we saw our first leopard.

It was also here that I was chased by a hippo.

We had gone out around 6am for an early morning game drive. We found ourselves at the hippo pool, which also happens to be one of the few places you are allowed out of your vehicle. The pool is a couple of metres down a muddy slope - far too steep for the unwieldy beasts to scale. But to one side there is a cluster of thick bushes, and when we stopped the landrover a large hippo suddenly emerged from the bushes to within a few metres of us and bellowed at us before disappearing back into the undergrowth.

After a short while it seemed like the animal had wandered back down to the pool.

So we left the car and I wandered over to the muddy bank overlooking the pool. I decided to use the 'film' option on my camera for the first time as the hippos were moving about and yawning a lot.

I began filming when suddenly I heard our guide yell "Hippo....RUN!!"

I spun around, took a step, slipped in the mud, hit the ground, sprang up, lost a shoe - hesitated between saving my shoe or saving my life for several minutes, then finally made it back to the car.

By this time, said hippo had given up on us as a bad joke and gone back to bathing. My camera was still running, and when I played it back to our guide he was weeping with laughter. I will try and post the video when I get home.

hippo pool

After Serengeti we went to Ngorongoro crater, where we rounded up our 'Big Five' (Lion, Leopard, Water Buffalo, Elephant and Rhino) by spotting (from a distance) the Black Rhinoceros.

From Ngorongoro we then headed to a Bushman's camp. These bushmen are different from the Masai, and live a far more basic and nomadic life. They sleep on animal skins and do not build shelters except in the 'wet', and appear to keep no possessions except minimal clothing, weapons and (I'm guessing) a few pots for water and cooking.

We joined a small group of men for an early morning hunt. Not the most ideal adventure for a vegetarian. Fortunately, big game is scarce this time of year so their hunt consisted of a solitary bird for the time we were with them. (Not so fortunate for said bird).


But it was fascinating to watch one of the men making an arrow when we first arrived.

Finally, our last game drive was at a place called Tarangire. This was another park that gave us more of the same.

dusty and tired

One of the things that I was particularly struck by were the baobabs. These magnificent trees were sometimes enormous in scale, and were currently without their foliage. Their stark silhouettes against the darkening African skies is an image I will long remember.

beautiful baobab

kili day six

Well it was all over bar the tipping.

The following days walk down to the gate was short and uneventful. We passed back into the tree line and soon were in the rainforest region once more.

our crew

By late lunchtime Neil and I were back in Moshi at the Coffee Shop patting ourselves very firmly on our backs. Tomorrow morning we were heading off on the six day safari.

kili day five

The long road to the top.

After having stuffed us like fattened calves for the slaughter every day on the mountain, our crew then decided it was in our best interests to accomplish the 6 - 7 hour uphill slog by setting off with a cup of tea and two biscuits.

Not Tim Tams or Chocolate Digestives. No - Rich Tea. (You know the ones - they are always the ones left over from the Mixed Varieties pack of biscuits.)

There's no need to go into details about the climb - you've seen Lord of the Rings and Frodo and Sam's trials on Mt.Doom. Well that was a walk in the park as far as I'm concerned.

the end in sight

But reaching the top was brilliant. Amazing. Dizzying (that was the altitude.)

Taking photos was tricky as after only a minute in the biting air, the camera's battery would freeze and I would have to stick it under my arm to warm up. (I originally stuck my two spare batteries down my undies but didn't like the looks I was getting when trying to fish them out.)

The stay at the top is very brief and a quick descent was advisable. Heading down was possibly worse than going up - except for the ash-slope 'skiing' which was great fun.

heading down

Neil and I finally arrived back at base camp tired and wobbly for a one hour rest, a quick lunch and then another 3 -4 hour walk to the next camp.

I found no evidence whatsoever.

Fortunately it was a gentle downhill slope all the way and we arrived with about an hour to spare before dinner and our last camp on the mountain.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

kili day four

wed. 1st october 2008

Last night we camped on the edge of a ravine. It looked right down the side of Kilimanjaro so that we could quite clearly see the lights of Moshi far below.

Last night it rained a little and then began to hail.

This morning we had to climb what the guides call "breakfast wall" - a very steep climb up out of the valley we were in, where it was necessary to use both hands to scale the rocks. (I began chatting to a guy behind me and discovered Peter lives just streets away from me in Rushcutters Bay!)

We walked 8kms to Karanga Valley (3,930m)where we stopped for lunch.

Then another 3 hours to Barafu (4,600m) for the nights camp.

We arrived at 4pm and had an hours nap.

At five we were served dinner, took 2 sleeping pills and slept until 11.30pm.

At midnight we downed a cup of tea and two biscuits and set off for the 6-7 hour climb to the summit.

Our guide had fallen asleep the night before with his head torch on and ran out the batteries. So he had to borrow mine for the climb. This meant I had to try and follow in Neils footsteps all the way up. This made it especially difficult.

glacier at the top

neil setting off for the summit

view of the crater at the summit

kili day three

tues. 30th september 2008

Todays hike took us 17kms - finishing only 800m higher than we started but involving lots of ups and downs. Highest point was Lava Tower (4,600m) where we stopped for lunch.

From here we descended to camp at 3,700m to maintain that old mountain climbers adage "climb higher - sleep lower"

the trail

some green stuff


kili day two

mon. 29th september 2008

Todays walk was only for 4 hours/6kms but included a lot of ups and downs. Very steep in places but dramatic scenery.

Stopped at Karanga Hut for lunch where I found french toast in my lunchbox.

neil & terry at lunchspot.

closer & closer

Hot and sunny day and we arrive at camp by 1pm where the porters have already set up the tents and made tea and freshly made doughnuts (!!! on the side of the mountain)

Our guide then took us for a walk a few kms across to another camp for some exercise at altitude (3,900m)

the leunig tree

I thought this tree in Moshi looked like something out of a Leunig cartoon. (Something about the curvy way the branches are formed)


Well I am now a fully qualified PADI Open Water scuba diver. I finished the training yesterday with my fourth dive. It is the most exhilerating thing to do - must feel close to flying. Once you have buoyancy in the water you 'hover' at any depth (well up to 18m for me) and control your ascent and descent purely by breath control. It is like having an inbuilt rudder system.

Have so far seen too many fish species to mention as well as stingray, a large octopus that I followed and watched as it changed colour and texture whenever it settled on the coral, moray eels, lion fish, huge sea cucumbers that look like massive rolls of bread dough, as well as swimming amongst a large school of fish who seemed completely unaffected by my presence.

I have been in Nungwi, a small diving/beach village on the very northern tip of Zanzibar, for about 5 days now. I finished the dive course in 3 days as it was one-on-one with the instructor. I still have a fair amount of time so am as yet undecided on where to go and what to do next. I want to do a couple of more dives at least - but Nungwi is a little too quiet for me. Nothing to do but sit by the sea on white sands and turquoise waters sipping mango juice watching the dhows drift by.

Will update on the trip when possible.

Here was the view from my cabin's porch last night.

picture posted purely to incite envy

Friday, October 10, 2008

back to the beginning

36 hours, 4 planes, endless cups of airport coffee and we get to Moshi, a small town at the base of Kilimanjaro.

all aboard the dar es salaam to kilimanjaro express

moshi lion

It appears we have 7 staff. Head porter, our cook, staff cook, head porter/waiter, 3 porters. I told them to leave the toilet paper carrier, the shoe shine, and the personal fanner behind. One is, after all, roughing it.

We set off at Machame gate (we are climbing the Machame, or "Whisky" Route)and almost immediately found ourselves in the company of some B+W colobus monkeys - which our guide says are a thumbless breed. (What the evolutionary decision to remove a digit is I can't fathom.)

The start of the trek was in rainforest. We had sun for the most part and then it turned misty. It wasn't physically taxing, but we began climbing almost immediately.

We passed 3000 metres and kept climbing.

When we arrived at camp we found the porters had arrived first, had set up the tents and were preparing dinner.

Weather had turned a bit and it was a little wet so dinner was had in the tent's 'porch' (the technical term I believe, and not me being a tosser)


peek of kili peak