Sunday, 31 October 2010

Bungi jumping in Vic Falls

Baboon with my cookies (photo: Irka)
We were able to get our room with two separate beds in Fawlty Towers at 8 or 9 in the morning because it was unoccupied. Internet is free but so very slow here. It's a real pain. The backpackers is not as good as advertised but well, it'll suit well enough for 3 days. We went to town after having tested the pool a while. We went looking for the tourism center. We walked some time around Livingstone but couldn't find it, so we went to eat at the Sunrise Restaurant which is a small local place with local food. It was really nice and really good food was served. We ate with our fingers. There was no other white person in the restaurant while we were there. The waitress asked us if we needed cutlery, and we told her we could manage without. We had smoked t-bone with nshima (white wheat of some kind) and 3 different sauces. After dinner we went again for our search of the tourism center because we still wanted a city map. On the way I bought my 4 SIM card of the trip (I have one from each country visited except Zimbabwe). A while later we passed in front of the Ministry of Tourism department. There some people asked us what we were looking for and as they didn't really know where it was they told us to just go upstairs and ask at the ministry. So we went upstairs and found a very welcoming man who told us he himself didn't have any map, but he would help us find some. He asked us what we were exactly looking for, as he was very keen to help us more. So he phoned the Survey department and told us how to find them. Lastly he gave us his card and told us to call him in case we had a problem. A really nice person. So we went to the survey department in the Mosi-Oa-Tunya building, in its old wing which looked newer than the new wing. We went upstairs, and found the right corridor by asking around. We were expected by the people there and they sold us two maps at 5000 Kwachas each (about 1 USD, those from the backpackers cost 10 USD and are exactly the same). That was a really cool African Experience :)

What am I doing here ?
As we were not that pleased with Fawlty Towers backpackers we went to look at Jollyboys backpackers which has been recommended to Vincent by the people at Chameleon Backpacker in Windhoek. We first drank a beer or two and then asked about a room for later days. Vincent then spotted Irka who was staying there and so we drank a few beers (diet coke for her). She then introduced us to a friend of hers from Windhoek, Jurgen, with whom she was travelling. We then spotted a nice picture of a guy jumping from a bridge on the guy's laptop. He told us he did the combo jump (slide across the gorge, swing and bungi) and that he greatly enjoyed it. I was convincing myself for a few days that I needed to do a bungi jump in my life and that it was the best place in the world to do it. It's one of the seven natural wonders (well not the bridge but the falls anyway). I told so to Irka and Jurgen and he said, if we go, he would join us. So we went strait to the backpackers' booking office and booked ourselves our little combo-jump for the next day. When we came back Irka told us she wanted to jump too, so we just added one more person on the voucher. Later we made ourselves some pasta and drank some more beers with Adam (the guy who had his laptop open).

Vincent's swing
We organized our transfer ourselves because there was none provided. So Irka and Jurgen hailed a blue taxi from their place and fetched us at ours. We stopped at a hotels bank near the bridge to get out some money because we wouldn't have enough US dollars to get us through the day. We calculated 145 USD for the combo-jump, 35 USD for the CD with videos and pictures, 30 USD to go over to Zimbabwe, 20 USD to enter Vic Falls park in Zimbabwe and 50 USD to come back to Zambia because we only had single entry visas. It was a really expensive day, the most expensive in my trip. I couldn't get out any money from the ATM so I changed some Euros to USD. It's weird how I never have the right money in my wallet. When I was in Botswana I needed some Pulas I only got later when I needed Kwachas or USD. I have like 5 or 6 different currencies with me: Botswana Pulas, South African Rand, Euros, US Dollars, Zambian Kwachas and some Swiss Francs. After having gotten some money we went on to the border post. I had a plastic bag with some bottles and a pack of cookies in my right hand. Vincent just saw a baboon pass him by and wa s quite surprised as he saw him jump at my plastic bag and pull it out of my hands. I didn't realize what happened quickly enough and let go of the bag. The f*%@#& monkey got away with the only food I had with me. We didn't eat much that morning from fear of having to let it back out the wrong way. All the way to the bridge we built up our fear of what was to come. Actually Irka didn't need to build up hers as it was quite high then.

My bungi jump
Once there we registered at their office and looked towards the bridge from their lookout point. After some time we put on our first harness for the slide over the gorge. As there were only three persons who could go at one time, Vincent took pictures of us sliding across. The slide was nice but not that impressive. The depth of the gorge (111m) is impressive though.

Not so funny anymore
Then we went to the jump off point on the bridge where we saw Vincent prepare himself for the swing. He would be the first of our group to try the big jump. The guys from the Bungi crew explained to him what he should do: step on the platform with your toes out, watch the horizen and jump with your feet first. Afterwards he did this and the guy said “5 4 3 2 1 SWIIIIIING” and pushed him of the platform. He dropped fast but I managed some nice shots anyway. We waited long in between jumps but we all did our two jumps. Vincent and I began with the swing and did the bungi second. Irka and Jurgen did it the other way round. The second jump was worst for all of us :)

Irka's swing
When you're standing on that platform waiting to jump down, with the weight of the rope pulling you down, you just don't want to go anymore. But you don't have the choice anymore, so you step out, and when he says bungiiiii or swiiiiiing you just do it. You don't know why or how, but you jump of that f*ç%@#¼ bridge !!!

We were quite thirsty and hungry afterwards but didn't have much money to buy food. We drank some drinks while watching our jumps on pictures and video. A group of South American people came by and filmed our movies and took some pictures with us like we were crazies or stars. They were funny.
Number, weight and C for combo

8 days safari: Okavango, Caprivi, Chobe, Vic Falls

broken window
In a mokoro in Okavango Delta
I was fetched by a guy who I met before at Wild Dogs' office. Two Austrian girls, Christina & Heike, were already in the bus. We then drove on from Klein Windhoek to Eros to fetch a couple from Norway. The next stop was the office, and the rest of the group met us there. Vincent arranged himself another tour for after this one, with a few days in Livingstone. He's going to do the 7 days South Namibia tour towards Fish River Canyon, Orange River, Sossusvlei and so on. There is a couple from the UK in their fifties who are quite nice and another couple from Holland. When we were ready, we set off to our long journey through the Kalahari. We had to stop not far from Windhoek because we were getting lunches for the road. We stopped in Gobabis to stock up for the first part of the trip. The Trans-Kalahari Highway is a boring stretch of road with pretty much no landscape change, so we read and slept a lot. I even had time to finish my reports of the previous tour, and would've had enough time to write more and sort out pictures if not for my laptop battery which doesn't last too long. After our stop in Gobabis, we had lunch while driving. It was a box not unlike those you get on airplanes. The day was really cloudy. It was a first. We even had some rain. Our first day was quite uneventful, but it would only be the first in a row. We put up our camp in Ghanzi Trailblazer and left the next morning for another stretch of road. This was the first border crossing to Botswana and we did so at the border post of Mamuno. First we went to the Namibia customs then to the Botswana customs with a form to fill in at each point. The Botswana customs girl was really nice and asked about each of our countries languages and how to say “how are you ?” in each language.

Stealing blue-balled monkeys
The next day we started towards our next stop which was Etscha 13 on the western border of the Okavango Delta. There we were to unload all the luggage and most of the camping gear and load in onto a 4WD truck. During the trip we wanted to open the windows so we could have some air. Because although it still was very cloudy, it was pretty hot and not as dry as in Damaraland. But the three persons in the back do not like the air flow, so we had to close the windows again. Fortunately, we followed a truck which transported some stones and which was kind enough to throw one into our top right window. Now we had enough air :) A bus full of girls is much livelier than a bus with mostly couples. I felt pretty down with all those clouds and the previous trip still on my mind. So I mostly listened to some music and read or slept. Those two days were completely uneventful and boring. We arrived at Guma Lagoon Camp after having changed truck and driven through the first parts of the Delta. The camp is a lovely place located on a lagoon with the sun setting onto it. We drank some beers while watching the sunset and played a dutch game with poker cards not unlike Uno.

Feet disinfection
The next day we could sleep late if we wanted, because the pickup for the boat trip was scheduled for 9 am. We had breakfast and prepared some sandwiches. Josia, our driver, told us we could make enough sandwiches so that if we had too many we could give some to the polers. I asked him if we should make extra sandwiches but he told me no, so I finally only made two. When I asked him about their lunch he told me they would have some but would be glad to have some sandwiches too. At 9 we went to the boat landing and jumped into the fast boat which was to bring us across the lagoon and way into the delta to a Moroko (dugout canoe) landing point. When we arrived there, the five polers were already waiting on us. We then took place in our morokos. Two persons sitting down and the poler standing and poling in the back. We made our way into the Okavango through papyrus and other dense grass. It was very relaxing, but very hot too because we were in the sun the whole way. At one point we saw an elephant from far. We tried to get nearer but he didn't stay long. We arrived at an island in the delta and stepped out of our fiberglass dug-outs. The main poler took us for a short and easy walk through the bush where we saw a hippo poo and a antelope skeleton in a tree (which must have been from a leopard if not put here by humans ;). Back to our shady spot where we landed we ate our sandwiches. I needed some exercise because after 3 or 4 days sitting in a bus and barely moving I couldn't stand it any longer, so I went for a short walk of my own through the bush. I found a place where the elephants go to drink. When I came back one of the polers had prepared a piece of wood (with my replacement pocket knife) to make fire with it. They tried some time getting a thick smoke but no fire. We asked them what we would gain if we managed to make the fire catch and they said to try first and then they would see. So we tried hard a even managed to get a thin smoke. When they saw this they tried again harder and longer with new sticks. They never got it on anyway. Someone from our group told the polers it was time to go back so we prepared to go. On the way back we stopped at a place which is commonly used as a natural pool to take a swim. Back on the fast boat we made a little detour to a dead red hippo which was stranded somewhere. We thought maybe we'd see some crocodiles there, but there were none.
Elephants in Chobe NP
The next day we woke up early again to drive and get to camp at 3pm to do nothing (not even an afternoon game drive into Mahango). We had a “game drive” in the morning through the main road of Mahango game reserve. We had lunch in the reserve and there were a lot of blue-balled monkeys (as I call them) and some even tried to steal some of our food. After lunch our driver decided to drive fast anyway so we couldn't spot any more animals. Arriving in early afternoon, the driver told us to relax and drink a beer at the pool (we just relaxed 8 hours in the bus), so we organized ourselves our own boat trip on the Okavango River and saw lots of hippos and some crocodiles. We then enjoyed a beer at the pool.

One more driving day and getting up even earlier (5.30). Bored and tired. We crossed the Namibia/Botswana border again and had to disinfect our feet because of the mouth and feet disease. This is a joke seeing how it is done. On the road through Chobe NP we saw elephants and other game. We arrived at Kasane at about 4pm so we went to buy some beers into town.

The following day I woke up at 4am and couldn't sleep anymore. I was pretty tired of camping and touring. We stood up at 5 to prepare for our early morning game drive, which happened to be a mass tourism game drive. We started at 6 and went into Chobe NP where we saw water buffalos, common antelopes, kudus, elephants and so on; we didn't see the leopard which was found in a tree but hid in a bush when all the cars came. There was a coffee break which we made at the same spot as all other cars. It was terrible. When we came back we had a small brunch and afterwards I went into town to buy a SIM card for Botswana and then we wrote postcards at the pool until 2.30pm. At 2.30pm we went on our mass tourism boat trip on the Chobe and saw elephants, buffalos, and so on... We spent 3 hours on that boat and I was getting really bored.

Vic Falls Zambia
The best day in tour was the day we crossed the border from Botswana to Zambia. There's a ferry once you pass the Botswana customs. We waited in line for our time to cross. I managed to get to Zimbabwe for my first time, and illegally. There was a barbed wire fence lying on the soil which I crossed to see if I could find some crocodiles in the bush. A Botswana policeman whistled me back over the fence and told me I could get arrested if I was caught in Zimbabwe. Afterwards I tried some dough balls with soup from a local food seller. They were pretty good and held to my stomach for the whole morning. When we finally had a place on the ferry we all went on foot onto the ferry. A little after halfway, some mokoros (dug-out canoes) accosted the ferry and loaded fuel onto their embarcation. Contraband ? Probably. It still took a long time to get done with the car customs so we had to wait until our driver was done. Our own custom formalities were quickly done as it was only a stamp to get and 50USD to pay. If they had informed us better I probably would have gotten a multiple entry visa at 80USD which would have cost me less than to pay the entry twice. Going to Vic Falls on the Zimbabwe side two days later proved to be very expensive.

Vic Falls Zambia
The same day we went to see the Victoria Falls on the Zambian side. Unfortunately we hit the driest time of the year so the view was not what we all expected. The main falls could be imagined on the Zimbabwean side but not seen. With Vincent we walked all possible paths but could not find what we were looking for: a lot of water. We went onto the falls where there are guides waiting and so we followed one of them to go over the edges of the falls.

The last day of the safari we woke up later and got ready to be deposited at our backpackers. We were soon to be free ! Yiiiihaaaaa !!

Friday, 29 October 2010

7 days Safari: Damaraland & Skeleton Coast

Himba girls with Marianne's camera
Our last game drive in Etosha led us to the park's gates and on to our next stage of the trip. Our next stop was a few kilometers from Kamanjab on farmland owned by a man named Jaco. Jaco's project is to help Himba children in difficulty. So he invited Himba people to settle on his land and helps them however possible. It is a village built in traditional Himba style. When we arrived at the campsite nearby the village, we found the open roofed toilets and showers and we settled to some easy activities in the heat of the day. Some of us went onto a rocky outcrop next to camp to admire the view, others just stayed around talking. I wrote some postcards there. At about 4pm Tumbee, our guide for the village visit, came by to fetch us. It was still very hot but we managed to get ready to leave for our first Himba village tour. Between the campsite and the village, Tumbee explained a few things about the Himba culture and taught us a few words of greetings and how to do the handshake. He told us that the villagers don't speak any other language than their Himba tongue, so he was to interpret anything we said to them and anything they said to us. Once we got to the village we all happily said moro (hello), perivi (how are you), naoa (i'm fine). We first passed a group of men playing at some board game with pebbles in the sand. We then arrived to the village where there was not much activity. We met with two Himba women all painted in ocher color and with their special headdress. There was a child with one of the girls and the other one was preparing a skin to make a dress of some kind. Their body paint helps for the skin and protects from the sun. The headdress is mainly for the decoration to appear beautiful to the men. They take two hours each morning to get their color on the body and each three months they spend three days renewing their headdress. The girls wanted to know our age and where our life partner was. We told them we were all singles (or almost all). Each time we took a picture they wanted to see the result on our camera. We then set off to a different group of women where children joined us and they wanted to know our age and love situation again. So we told them again through Tumbee. I was then standing next to Marta and one of the girls, after having absorbed the shock of having people this old that weren't married, said something like: “the two of them could be together”. That's when the myth started about my wedding with Marta. One Himba girl wanted to take a picture of another Himba girls hair with Marianne's digital reflex camera. She had to look through the viewer but did not really know how to, so she looked quite funny while trying. We went on with our visit to the Holy Fire which is in a direct line with the fire in the headman's hut. If you are not welcome in the village you cannot cross the line between the two, you are to bypass it. There Tumbee explained us how between the age of 12 and 16 the front teeth were extracted with sticks and stones and without anesthesia. The purpose is to look beautiful. Once inside the hut he explained a bit more about the customs and traditions. He showed us some items they use and the hunting tools. Once outside again the children wanted us to take their picture and of course, to see them. So I showed them mine and they wanted to see all my pictures. I had at least 6 children on top of me and at one stage I toppled backwards. Then Vincent took out his camera and showed them his lion movie from Etosha. When we got back to camp we went up to the rocky outcrop to see the sunset and took our showers before having dinner.

Danna in Twyfelfontein
The next day we drove on to Twyfelfontein which literally means doubtful fountains because of the uncertainty with which they flow. We went on a short and easy walk with a quite uninteresting and boring guide. She showed us the rock engravings there like she were showing us the different stalls in a supermarket. We didn't take long to finish and then we had our lunch nearby.

We drove on for a long time to Brandberg. Everyone was having enough of this bus driving. We craved for some activity. Once in Brandberg we prepared ourselves for a hot walk of one and a half hour to the White Lady painting and back. It was still so very hot and we walked in the sun. There was barely any shadow. The landscape is really magnificent though and the lighting permitted some really nice shots. Once at the painting the guide (Stanley) explained a bit about the painting and the customs and then we were allowed to go in with only our cameras (no food, no drinks, no bags, no hats). Danna and Kathryn didn't want to come with us on the walk so they were dropped of at the lodge's pool. Cliffton and Jason used the time to set up camp. We went to the campsite where the showers and toilets were open air again and had Oryx steak for supper. We talked a while and joked about different things like our wedding at the Himba village or Cliffton talking with nobody listening. Rebeca and Ainhoa went to sleep on the top of the bus like they did on the previous night, Cliffton made himself a bed with two cooler boxes and the camping table and the rest of us crept into our tents.

Marta, Rebeca and Ainhoa in Twyfelfontein
We had breakfast and broke camp early so we could leave early and so arrive early in Swakopmund. We started for Cape Cross and the Seal Reservation there. I was in a bad mood after the morning's events and spent my time listening to The Fire and Nightwish. The drive through the Skeleton Coast was long and uneventful. The landscape was getting flatter by the kilometer and the vegetation decreased to almost nothing. The weather was getting colder by the minute. The Benguela current comes from the arctic and the water at this time was about 12°C which cools down the whole coast. Long hours later we arrived at the crossing at the coast and turned north towards Cape Cross. Arriving at the Seal Reservation we smelled the stench of seal poo and decaying dead animals. We stayed long enough to take some funny pictures of ourselves pinching our noses close. We then drove south again and stopped for lunch at the coast latest shipwreck which had gotten loose from a nearby port and stranded their two years ago. We then drove on south to Swakopmund which was quite uneventful too.

Arriving in Swakop Cliffton drove through the town center to show us around and then brought us straight to the Amanpuri Guesthouse. This one was located even farther from town center than Villa Wiese. With Vincent we shared a room like we shared a tent. We unpacked our bags to take out the dirty clothes to give to laundry. Then we went to town. We bought some postcards and stamps and I showed him the the mole (passing by the lighthouse which I didn't know where to find) and the jetty. We then went to a coffee shop where Vincent began writing postcards. I was so very tired that once my cup of hot chocolate was emptied I said goodbye to Vincent and found myself a shared taxi to bring me back to the guesthouse. It's funny how the taxi drivers never seem to know the place where you want to go. I had to tell him where to turn to find the guesthouse. Once there I had too much on my mind and couldn't sleep anyway, so after a while I took out my laptop and began sorting pictures and watch if there were some new comments on my facebook, picasa and blog postings. There weren't that many, so I suppose there is not much interest in what I write. Or perhaps people just watch and read without commenting ? Who knows. Out next appointment was at quarter to seven at the bus to go to the Lighthouse Restaurant to have supper. It's the best place in town and I had a grilled Kingklip fish with chips. The girls took tons of pictures around the table and we had great fun. Vincent went around the table to take a picture with himself and each person. When he got to Cliffton, he put his arm around his shoulder and Cliffton looked like it was some disgusting animal on his shoulders. His eyes said “what happens here, take him away from me”. He then said “Oh my goodness” in such a funny way that sometime later Vincent managed to record it on his camera. After supper we went to a bar (the best in town and the same as my first time in Swakop) and danced on Wakka Wakka 3 or 4 times and other songs too were repeated. As the Spanish girls asked for Wakka Wakka in Spanish he put on one or two other Spanish/Latin American tunes.

The next morning the three Spanish girls left us alone because they had a fast transfer to Windhoek airport as their plane was due at 4pm. I woke up early to say goodbye. The transfer was the city hopper which arrived an hour later than scheduled. Por que estes Africa. We left at 10.30 am and I tried to sleep through the whole drive to Windhoek. With stopped twice and got to Windhoek at about 4 or 5 pm. We scheduled our dinner at Joe's Beerhouse (again) at 7.30 and I invited Corne to join us because he sent me an e-mail on facebook. So he joined us. I walked my two kilometers from Klein Windhoek to Eros watching out for a shared taxi, but found none. Once I got there with my Wild Dogs t-shirt and cap, the waiter saw directly from which group I was (I had booked under Wild Dogs). A waitress showed me the table, but before getting there, Vinzenz, the german guy from the previous tour found me and brought me to the bar where Gerold and the others from the current group were talking. Corne was there too this time and Marianne and Irka arrived a few minutes later. Vincent popped into Gerold and Vinzenz at Chameleons while getting out for Joe's so he invited them to join us. It was a great evening again. At one moment I showed my hot pepper to Vinzenz and we both bit into one. His was a smaller and spicier one and he was crying and looked all red and wiggled and jiggled. Mine was not that spicy fortunately. When time came to go home I said I would be walking my two kilometers back and they wouldn't let me. So they asked Jason who was here too to accompany me back saying his home was in the same direction. As it was in the opposite direction I told him I would manage to get home safe and I did.

7 days Safari: Etosha (part 2)

After lunch in Halali camp we spent some more time at the pool because driving too soon wouldn't prove to be a good shot to see game in the park. We left at three or four in the afternoon and drove in the general direction of Okaukuejo Camp passing. One moment I was looking to the front and so a lots of cars stopped on the road further ahead. I took out my camera because I couldn't see anything so I supposed it must be not too tall but very interesting. When we got near we saw that a lion cub was sitting on a small wall next to the road. The lions hide in a pipe under the road during the heat of the day. We stayed a long time and watched other lions come out of the hiding hole. The cubs played around a bit and the others lied down. Later we drove on to camp and had supper. After supper we went to the waterhole which was said to be the best waterhole in Etosha. We stayed there a long time watching the animals come and go like it were a television show. We saw some giraffes, then a jackal came by and later some rhinos. At one point there were seven of them drinking and wading in the water. Then an elephant herd came by and the remaining rhinos fled the waterhole. Two of them came back a while later but not too close to the elephants.

game driving
The next morning was an early start again and not ten minutes after leaving camps we saw the lions again. This time we even saw the big male with his crown from a distance. The lions were at the exact same spot as the previous evening. We could see some of them had blood around their “mouth” so we thought they had had their kill the previous night. At some point I got on top of the bus and one of the cubs watched me intently for a while. I think he wasn't too pleased with me standing up there and Cliffton wasn't either so I laid down again. We took a lots of pictures again and then drove on out of the park.

Thursday, 21 October 2010

7 days Safari: Etosha

This night i didn't feel very good and stood up to go to the toilets. Later on i had to go out again because i felt i might throw up, which i ended up doing behind the campsite building. I still do not know what caused it, because nobody else was sick and i just can't remember having eaten anything special. So the next day i felt pretty bad. I didn't have breakfast and barely ate anything at lunchtime. In the evening we had curry chicken which was very good but of which i didn't eat too much from fear of being sick again.

This day's highlight, after having set up camp in Namutoni in Etosha National Park, was the elephant herds coming in for a drink at a waterhole. We drove around a while starting at 4pm because earlier most of the wildlife is keeping low in the heat. We saw a lot of animals like springboks, kudu's, oryxes, and other antilopes, giraffes, and so on. As we came to a waterhole we saw a giraffe drinking and some other animals like pintadas around. Two other giraffes came to the waterhole some time later and watched around. Most of the time giraffes drink in group because of their vulnerable position while bending down. One giraffe drinks while two others look around for predators. Then we saw the first elephant herd arrive. Those were mostly female and baby elephants. The old bulls wander around single. We saw 4 herds arrive at the waterhole in the time we were there. It's a impression you never forget when you see an elephant herd coming out of the bush. After this event we went back to camp for supper. After supper we went to the waterhole where we saw two elephants drinking for a while.

The following day we started early with breakfast to be on our game drive as soon as possible. With Vincent we woke up almost an hour later than the others, but as things go, when all things were packed, we were ready to go too :). The general direction of the morning drive was Halali campsite (which means "end of the hunt" in Germany, says Cliffton our driver - then he adds: "what kind of German are you not to know that ?!", did i mention i'm Swiss ??). We were not driving directly to the campsite as this would have proven a quick uneventful thing. We drove crisscross in Etosha to many different waterholes. At one waterhole we saw a hyena approaching and trying to get near some springboks. Unfortunately the drive-in to the waterhole (that means the buses and cars) was between it and its preys.

At one moment during the game drive Irka (or i think i remember it was her) wondered if it was a cat she could see some distance away. It definitely was. What she saw was a cheetah (guépard) mother's head. We later discovered there were three little cheetahs with her. We spent a long time there watching her watch a springbok herd which didn't come any nearer. Some cars wondered what we saw but just drove on thinking we were watching the scenery as they didn't spot the cats. We saw the cheetah stretch, tend to her kids and keenly watch a springbok herd. It's very rare to see cheetahs in the wild so we were pretty excited about it.

The next animal we saw was a rhino grassing on the roadside. We considered ourselves extremely lucky and were thankful of Cliffton's knowledge and experience of Etosha. We drove to one last waterhole this morning where a lot of different animals were coming in for a drink.

Unfortunately i have to go now, but another time (in 8 days or so) i'll tell you about the lions we saw twice :D !!!!!!!! Here's an appetizer:

7 days Safari: AfriCat Foundation

This new adventure began with me sorting out pictures and posting the last blog article while waiting on my transfer to Wild Dog/Crazy Kudu's office. The driver arrived a little late so all the others were already settled in the bus. There i met Marianne and Vincent from the previous trip and the rest of the group. The others were the girls from another group who were on a 7 days trip to the south before. We met them at the last campsite. We were 2 men for 7 girls - happy us :) ! I wanted to buy a t-shirt so i just went into the office to buy one. I bought a cap to, because they look good and i'm fed up with my tourist's bob (i'll keep that one for home). After that the guide/driver explained our trip to us and we left for the north. We took the same road as for Swakopmund as far as Okahandja where the road west forks off. There we bought the necessary supplies: the driver the food, and we the drinks (lots of beer and some water). We drove on for a time to get north to Okonjima, the home of the AfriCat Foundation. Once there we set up camp and went straight to the pool because it was so very hot. We spent some time at the pool before heading back to camp.

At around 4 pm the people from the AfriCat foundation came to fetch us to show us their current cats. AfriCat Foundation is a foundation which helps save wild cats from being shot on farmland. They capture the cats or take in captured cats to release them later on either on the same land or a different land, depending on the farmer.

We drove in an open jeep, with enough seats to accommodate us all, to the gates of the enclosed area where the cats live. Our first stop was the enclosed area which is already enclosed in a wider area where the leopard lives. There the manager (who also was our driver) put out some meat on tree branches before letting us into a safe house from which we could watch the leopard eat.

After this we went for a drive to see if we could find the cheetahs which are wild animals. We crisscrossed the whole area without success for some time when suddenly, we saw one of them lying on the dirt track in front of us. We took a lot of pictures and waited a long time while the cheetah was calling his brothers. Later two other cheetahs joined the first one and began being friendly with each other. After this experience we headed back home to our camp. It was beginning
to get cold on the open vehicle and some of us needed a toilet quickly. We watched the beautiful sunset during the drive. Once back we saw that Cliffton our driver and Jason his assistant had already prepared dinner so we prepared ourselves to eat some steaks.

Friday, 15 October 2010

3 days tour to Sossusvlei

The day before the tour, i came to the Chameleon backpackers where i had booked a room. There one of the coworkers recognized me, and told me there was another person, a French man, who booked the 18 days safari with Wild Dogs. So she introduced us while i was consuming an hour of internet.

First meal on the road
The next morning, when the tour operator came to fetch us, we saw we actually were 3 people going on the  safari. What we didn't know at the time, was that only me and Vincent  (the French guy) were to go on the 18 days combo. There was one Norwegian girl, Marianne, who will be continuing the trip with us for the 7 days safari to Etosha NP. The rest only went with us to Sossusvlei. We were not the last to be fetched, so we made another stop or two, and the went to Wild Dog/Crazy Kudu's office. There the team unloaded our bags and we waited a while and introduced ourselves to each other. There we learned that Marianne was from Norway, Caroline from Ireland, Dirk from Germany, Gerold and his son Vinzenz from Germany, Roswitha from Holland and Corne from Windhoek. Later on we were briefed on our tour and then the team loaded our bags back on another truck which was quite similar to the first one. Marcus our guide and driver introduced himself and his assistant Alphus. Our next stop was the supermarket Pick'n'Pay where we bought lots of beers to put in the cooler.

View from up Dune 45
The first day was mostly a driving day. On the way i saw my first oryx and springboks. There are quite a lot of ostriches too, but i already saw some on previous occasions. At one pm we stopped and prepared our lunch. The team unpacked a whole set of tools, chairs and a table. They then cut some vegetables and cheese and opened some cold meat packs to make sandwiches with. We were not finished preparing when we heard a car nearing our spot with dogs barking from it. An Afrikaner stepped out of the pickup truck and began shouting something about this being a private property and we should not step on his property and he would write a complaint letter to the newspaper and to the tour operator and so on. Vincent was about 10 meters away in the bush without fence (almost everywhere there are fences right next to the road). So the big Afrikaner really was not happy about us and especially Vincent. He told Marcus he's been warned before. Marcus and Alphus took all this with big smiles and just said "ok please do so". This didn't prevent us from being hungry and eating our lunch. We then drove on to our day's campsite with a few stops on the way to watch scenery or pee. When we arrived at our first campsite, we unloaded all the luggage and the tents and built up our tents. We then went into Naukluft Park to the dunes to watch the sunset. We had to climb up the dune for quite a long time (longer than what Marcus told us). Most of the people did not come up to the top. We were just 4: Gerold and his son Vinzenz, Vincent and myself. When we thought we found the top or something not far from it, we stopped and watched the sunset with a beer in hand. We then took a lot of pictures and waited until the sun was not to be seen anymore. I then wanted to wait some more because the really beautiful colors come after the sunset. But it was already 18h45 and Marcus told us he would fetch us at 19h so Gerold and Vinzenz went back down and i stayed along with Vincent. The colors were nice but not as beautiful as expected. We then began our descent hurrying because it was already past 7. What we didn't know was that the gates close at 19h30 and if we didn't get out in time Marcus would have to pay a fine. So when we got nearer to the bottom we heard the truck's horn blowing and we understood we really were late. Arriving down there we saw an angry Marcus and were told they almost went out without us. We went back to camp to shower and eat dinner. Marianne bought some chocolate marshmallows to grill on the fire, but they really are not good. We went down early because we were to be woken up at 5h30 next morning.

First campsite
I didn't sleep well at all, and kind of waited until we were to stand up from some time on, half sleeping and half awake. At 5h30 we were woken up and we went to Dune 45 without breakfast for the sunrise. Unfortunately we got there during the sunrise and had not the time to climb up the dune before it. We managed to get some beautiful pictures anyway. We climbed up, ran down and went back to the truck for breakfast. After this we went a little farther to the deadvlei for a 6km hike through the dunes. On one dune Vinzenz challenged Vincent to a race down, so they did but almost at the bottom Vinzenz stumbled and fell so Vincent won. As usual i was barefoot. The sand was beginning to get hot on the last dune to climb. Vincent and Vinzenz raced each other down this last dune like they did on a previous dune and this time Vinzenz won. Roswitha wanted to draw the dunes so i stayed a while with her so she could draw the base colors and lines to her drawing book. Some time later we went down the dune and looked out for the rest of the group, but we couldn't see them. We decided Marcus meant the parking when he said he would be waiting "there", so we made our way to the parking. The day was getting really hot and we were exhausted even though we did not really walk far or hard. When we got there we didn't see the group either so we asked ourselves where they were. But they actually were behind us because they were waiting on us to come down and when Marcus saw us pass by they followed. Thus we were the first at the parking and not the last as expected. We then went back to the truck on a shuttle and then back to camp. Once there the team prepared our lunch and we packed the tents and our stuff. After lunch we drove to a canyon which we visited. Then we went to our next camp site.

Oryxes (dinner)
There was a pool at this new campsite and with Vinzenz we didn't take long to splash into the water. We then got out a few minutes later to help build the tents again. Then we went back to the pool but this time we put on our bermudas. There are two dogs at this campsite. One of them loved to run to fetch his toy and to drop it into the pool. The water was a bit murky so with didn't see through to the bottom where the toy sank. I fetched it a few times and then began hauling the dog into the water with his toy. He didn't let go so he splashed into the pool and went out again. The next time i even managed to make him jump into it. Once he couldn't find his toy because i dropped it in the middle of the pool, so he just swam around and around at the exact spot where he last saw it. I then had to recover it and the dog just followed me wherever i swam because i had his toy. We played along like this for a while. We then went for a shower. After the shower we went up to the lodge and its bar and its terrace with sunset view. After sunset we ate braai which is BBQ with potatoes and some vegetables. We then grilled some normal marshmallows and tried to make Marcus and Alphus sing and dance. They sang us a song from their village but did not dance. So Roswitha learned us a song, and in between we listened to Shakira's Wakka Wakka on Marianne's mobile phone.

Part of the group
The next day we woke up around 7 and ate breakfast and packed the tents before 8h30. We went to Solitaire, which is no more than 3 or 4 buildings with a restaurant, a lodge and a small store. There were some old rusty and broke down cars in front of which we tried to make a good group picture. But we finally saw that Corne wasn't there so there was always someone missing...

Everyone except Alphus and Corne came to Joe's Beerhouse last evening. I
ate a Namib Bushfire, which is Ostrich, Zebra and Oryx meat with fries and some vegetables and a schnapps. All were sad at leaving time and we hugged each other.

Monday, 11 October 2010

18 days combination Safari

Sea Lion
Hi folks, just to say goodbye. Yes, you never know when you will be eaten by a lioness. So i say goodbye to ya'll and hope you'll enjoy my last pictures taken while being eaten by the previously said lioness. All my goods i have bought while travelling should be sent back to Switzerland and evenly distributed among family and friends. All the goods and stuff i brought from Switzerland can be distributed among the local population (those in need).

Please don't try to call as my mobile phone is in my pocket and will have been eaten by the lioness as well.

All the rest i really don't care, as being digested by the lioness will be my main concern :)

But well, i think they won't like eating me anyway, so there's a pretty good chance i will be getting back alive to annoy you for some more time :D haha !!

Sunday, 10 October 2010

Swakopmund and Walvis Bay

The Namibian Coast is full of expensive activities. You can go sandboarding, horse-riding, seeing animals on land or in water, fly over the dunes and so on. But i only did two of those activities. If you travel for more than a few weeks, you have to see that your budget reaches until the end of your trip.

The first activity was a tour on a big catamaran in Walvis Bay. The day started out cold and gray. The Namibian coast around here with its arctic ocean currents never reaches above 25° C. Most of the time it's cloudy around here. In the afternoon there's some chances of seeing the sun for a while, until sunset. A driver came by at my hostel at 8 in the morning to bring me and others from other hostels from Swakop to the dock in Walvis Bay. There i registered and paid, and we embarked on a small boat which was to bring us out to the bigger catamaran. Unfortunately we didn't set sail for a long time, we drove out with the boat's motor. Lots of sea gulls and pelicans followed our boat, not surprising as we had lots of fishes to feed them. All we had to do was put the boat straight into the wind so the pelicans could arrive next to it like bombers and catch the fish either directly from the guides hand or from the sky (the guide threw it up to the birds). Then the seals or sea lions (those with outward ears are sea lions and those without are seals is what the guide told us) took our boat as an entertainment platform where there is free fish for everyone. They came on the boat and people could touch the tame ones and give them a fish. We then saw some bottlenose dolphins (like flipper) but they wouldn't come near and play with us, so we went farther out. Luckily there were other dolphins there and they wanted to play with us for a while. We then set sail for a little while and cut off the motor. We watched a seal colony from afar, and saw the waves break on the sandy beach. Later we drove back to port without having seen whales or turtles.

When i came back there was another person's luggage in my dorm room. I went out for a laundry and when i came back i met Joe the englishman. He's from northern England (near Newcastle) and travels around Africa since the worldcup (he was in South Africa during the WC) and will be travellin' for a year. I told him i would go sandboarding the next day and he decided to join me, so we booked for two lie-down sandboarding at the hostel.

Sandboarding is quite fun, but be prepared to eat a lot of sand. We were fetched by a driver at 9:30 in the morning and drove out to the dunes on the equipment truck. There was another person, a girl named Ines in the truck. She's from Portugal (around Lisbon) and is a doctor. She's travelling for a few weeks in Southern Africa. When we arrived at the dunes we were introduced to the other people doing the activity and to the equipment. We then walked up the dunes and began sliding down, which we did 7 or 8 times. Walking in the sand is as easy as walking in the snow, but less cold. On one slope i did a speed record (my record not the best speed ever) of 74km/h, but it doesn't seem that fast when you're at it. We then had free beers and sandwiches back at the cars, before going back to Swakopmund to pay our due. We then took a shower and brought our sandy clothes to the laundry. I even had sand in my underwear... Afterwards we picked up Ines at her hostel and went back to Alter Action's office (the guys who organize sandboarding) to watch the movie they made and the pictures they took. There we watched how Joe leaped from the jump and ate some sand, he litterally landed face down in the sand.

We then went out for a quick pizza and then for some beers, still with Ines and Joe. Later on we went to the only dancing/pool bar and played pool a while. But the guys here were kind of serious, not as funny as playing with other guys the other night.

Thursday, 7 October 2010

Windhoek, Namibia

Independence Ave Windhoek
Windhoek, the capital city of Namibia is a boring city. It reminds me a lot of Australian cities, but lacking any entertainement, activities or sights. All there is, are half-day city tours provided by multiple agencies. For any other activity you have to pay the price and go outside the city. I doubt if there even is a cinema. At least there is Wernhill Park, the mall. Within you find a big supermarket and many other shops and of course the banks. They even have the Nedbank at which you can withdraw money using your Maestro card. I discovered the whole city center with all it's points of interests (about 4 or 5 which aren't even really interesting) in about an hour's walking. I then drank a freezy drink and headed back to the hotel. On the way back i felt more and more depressed at the idea of having to stay one week here.

This being found out, i made my way to the Chameleon Backpackers (which should have been my home for the rest of the time before my camping safari) to ask how i could find people wanting to join forces for some activities. She told me i could put a notice out on the board. Next thing she tells me i better go to Swakopmund, which lies at Namibia's west coast. There i will find something to do, or just idle about in the dunes or at the beach.

Tafel Lager, a local beer
Afterwards i went back to the mall to buy a bit of food for midday (it lacks the good plain food like there was in Madagascar anyway) and a pack of beer. Then i took a shared taxi home and began reading at the pool, taking an occasional swim to cool off a bit. It's amazing how the beer can even gets hot while staying in the shade.

Met a guy named Thomas who lives here in Namibia in Damaraland. We drank some beers together and he told me about Joe's Beerhouse. Joe's Beerhouse is known throughout Windhoek and possibly even throughout Namibia. It's the best address in town to drink beer and eat meat. Anyway, if you don't eat meat, don't come to Namibia, as this is a cattle country. Once in Joe's Beerhouse be sure to try the local beer, the Camelthorn Weizen, which is a good Weizen beer like you would find in Germany. If you're not hungry, don't go near Joe's Beerhouse, because you will get a big plate with plenty of meat in it, at a very affordable price (129N$ or CHF 20.-) for at least 400g of Oryx steak, which is, by the way, what you should order. The zebra steak, although it's excellent, tastes too much like beef. Even zebu tastes more different than zebra.

Windhoek Draught, another local beer
Thomas lives at Huab Lodge in Damaraland which is a lodge where there is no mobile phone, actually no phone at all. They offer all inclusive prices (even drinks and tours) at currently 2100N$ per person per night. The next town is 90km away, and the tarred road is at 34km from the lodge. The lodge is located in a reserve where you have many chances to see wild animals.

Thomas told me to make a catamaran tour in Walvis Bay (which is near Swakopmund, where i go tomorrow). On this tour there is seal feeding and whale sighting. I will call them once i get there tomorrow.

My first day on the continent

My first step on the continent has been in the International Airport of Johannesburg. The contrast to the small airport in Antananarivo is great. The whole place is sparkling bright with shops, lights, neon signs and marble floor (or something fancy anyway). The place smells of luxury. I thought, well it's probably only the airport anyway. But once a got to Windhoek in Namibia, i couldn't even detect something like a village from the airplane. When you fly over Madagascar, it's rare you can't see any village (if you're not too high up). What i could see was estates and modern buildings once arrived and driving to the city which lies 40km from the airport. The roads look better than in Mada too, even the cars look a bit less dumpy. There's a big influence from white settlers (Afrikaaners) over here. There are still lots of them living here. Windhoek itself has absolutely nothing to compare with a Malagasy town: it's more an american city than an african town. There even is a KFC (Kentucky Fried Chicken, an american fastfood for the ignorants :P). I will have to wait to get to the back country to see how a Namibian village looks like.

The drivings a bit the same as in Mada. They don't follow the roadsigns until in the city where there's some police presence and red lights. There are no red lights in Madagascar.

On the road from the airport to the city of Windhoek (which is about 40km) i have seen two giraffes and some baboons !! This is a country i'm going to like a lot.

Namibian electrical plug
Once arrived in my hotel, i asked a few questions, took my room, took a shower, and went off to the town center. I took a cab without noticing it was a cab at first (a guy asked me if i needed a lift with a finger wink and i went in his car). It cost me 8N$ to get to the town center with this collective or shared taxi (a taxi which takes several people at the same time). This is quite cheaper than a normal taxi which would cost around 40N$. I went to the mall and first thing i bought myself a namibian phone card (MTC) with a 10N$ credit which i still couldn't load onto my number. Thus i can phone local agencies around without paying much. SMS and phone to other countries works too, but anyways, i only have a few important numbers with me. People who want to try my Swiss number won't get anywhere near catching me. The best way to talk to me is by e-mail or if you are lucky enough, you can catch me on FB or MSN while i'm connected (which will be possible this week, but far less from the 12th on because of my youpiiiiiiiiiiiie camping-safari). Other stuff i bought was some Cadbury chocolate, dried meat, cookies, water, beer and an electrical converter. The Namibian electrical plug consists of two large round plugs (or three with earth). It's approximatively 1.5 times the size of European plugs.

I went to eat at KFC and drove back by shared taxi to my hotel with my new belongings.

Madagascar: Antananarivo

Marché du Zoma
Antananarivo is the capital city of Republika Madagasikara. I visited and drove (never alone) a few times in this maze of a city. It's a terrible city with a lots of labyrinthine roads. Masy never wanted me alone in the city, he feared i would get mugged or worse. This was not very much reassuring, so his cousin Dodo would drive me around while Masy went to work. This way, i spent a lot of money when in the city: i paid Dodo his wage, took a small amount of fuel (which is the same price as in Europe, which makes it considerably more expensive to the standards there), and bought stuff too.

But walking in the Zoma (the market which initially only was fridays) is really something special: there you could buy all you would be buying in supermarkets in Europe and more. Just look at my pictures :)

We visited the Rova (the queen's palast), and the Haute Ville, we drove through the university campus and generally drove through a lots of roads.

There is not really much to visit in Tana.

Madagascar: part 4

Sur la route du nord de Nosy Be
After having slept in my bungalow on the beach in Ankify, i departed with a good breakfast in my belly for the port. There i took a motor boat for Nosy Be. The boat was chartered for me alone, but the "driver" asked me if there was any problem if he took two other persons, a girl and a child. I told him: tsis problem (no problem). The transfer to the island took us past Nosy Komba, and took approximatively 45 minutes to complete.

Once on the island, a driver got hold of me as i stepped ashore. He told me he was to bring me to my hotel, which was La Maison des Parfums, which i didn't remember at this time. The initial tour finished with my transfer to Nosy Be, this part i have organised later on. But always with the same travel agency (Evasion sans Frontières, if you ask for Asimbola you'll be sure to get quick answers). So i asked the driver how far the hotel was from Hell Ville, which is Nosy Be's primary town. He told me about 12km (or that's what i remember), which was approximatively right. So i asked him about renting a scooter or a small motorbike to get around freely and easily, because taxis would not be easy on some hours, and quite a pain if you wanted to be quickly somewhere. So there i went renting my small motorbike in Ambatoloaka. It was actually more of a scooter, but needed changing gear (without débrayer). So i followed my driver to the hotel on my scooter.

Once there i learned the manager was away, so i would have to wait until he arrived. I began reading, and some time later, the girl at the desk gave me my room anyway. When the manager, Mamy, arrived, i presented myself to him. He's a nice fellow who always smiles and always is ready to laugh. I asked him about diving and he told me he would ask the diving club Madaplouf, which is 50m left on the beach, to come by the same evening. As i had already planned to see another guy from Evasion sans Frontière, the same evening, this was fine. He then told me the beach at Madirokely always has something on on sunday afternoons, so i took a shower, and went on away on my scooter.

Boa dans le PN de Lokobe sur Nosy Be
I missed the turn to the village because there is no sign. So i arrived in the next town, which happens to be Ambatoloaka. There i thought, maybe i could eat something, and i drove slowly to get a look at a place where i could spot sakafe (food). I drove by a bar, and a guy named Gülüt or something like this, hailed me and wanted me to take him with me so he could show me the island. I told him i didn't want, but that i was hungry, so he showed me a little place where i ate a lot of rice and a bit of meat for 2000 Ariarys (~ chf 1.10). When i finished i went back to the bar, and we spent some time drinking THB and talking about stuff. A bit later we went to the beach at Madirokely and drank some THB there until it was time for me to get back to the hotel to prepare for my tours and divings.

The travel agent offered me to go visit Lokobe National Park, which is on the south eastern tip of Nosy Be. This is a one day trip for people who want it adventurous. It begins like always, a drive over a trail ;-). From there on, we had it a bit rougher and more sportive: we had to paddle a sea pirogue through really small waves to the entry point of the park, which is a small village on a beach. The pirogue trip took about 45 minutes in time and some skin on my hands. Once there, i was in a terrible condition, because i knew we would have to paddle the whole way back. In the park we saw lots of lemurs sitting, jumping, sleeping, eating and so on. We saw small snakes, the travellers tree (so called because he has water in its leafs, it's also the symbol of Madagascar which is used by Air Madagascar too) and two boas. We were really close (we even touched them) and my dad asked me later if it wasn't dangerous so close by a snake (he saw the picture and that it was taken with a 55mm angle). I could have taken it on my shoulders if i wanted to, because the guide asked me so. I didn't want to... We scrambled a bit more through the relatively thick forest and later got back to the village to eat. We had fish, crab, thuna fish, rice and more. It was excellent food like always.

Michele, the owner of Madaplouf came by the previous evening and offered me to begin with a Discover Scuba Diving program for one day, which wouldn't get me to anything useful, but would introduce me to diving. I hadn't scuba dived since i was in Australia (on the Great Barrier Reef). This is what i did the first day, but it's actually the first PADI step to certification. My first moment under water i got a little panicky as i thought i couldn't breathe enough air, so i quickly got back up. I calmed down and down again we went. We made some exercises like letting water into the mask or losing the breathing tube and put it on again. I did well and i decided to continue. In all we were under water for about 40 minutes exercising and watching the submarine life. The second day was pretty much the same with some other exercises too. I then got my first scuba diving certificate, which allows me to dive with an instructor no more than 12m deep. The next step will be to get the PADI Open Water Scuba Diver certificate, which actually is the first level.

The rest of the time i mostly drove around, drank beer, ate banana muf (beignets à la banane). We went to Mont Passot and took the northern road to drive around Nosy Be with Gülüt as guide.

I almost forgot: it was Donia time from 20th Sept. to 3rd Oct. Donia is a celebration for life on the island. On wednesday we went to see the carnival and on thursday evening it was the first festival day. Unfortunately the band was quite unknown and there was almost nobody there. Imagine Paleo with only a few hundred people and you will get the feeling.

On friday afternoon i took my last domestic flight back to Antananarivo.

Monday, 4 October 2010

Madagascar: part 3

Gecko à ventre plat
Back in Antananarivo i could only sleep and go back the to the airport the next morning. This time i left for the north. After having visited parts of the west and the south of Madagascar, i went to Antsiranana Diego Suarez at the northernmost tip. There i stayed at a new hotel in town center (away from the vazaha hotel district), the Terrasse des Voyageurs. It's next to the covered market which sells tissues, shoes, clothes and such (where i found a new pair of shorts for Ar. 10'000). The hotel owner, a french man, wants to integrate his hotel to the district life. He welcomes the local people to come and share some time there. He organizes story telling and other activities for local children and cinema evenings for all and so on. This afternoon i made a tour in the city market. This town seems full of life and colors. I would have loved staying there a few more days.

The next day we went to the Montagne d'Ambre which is a reserve with lemurs, chameleons and other animals. There we saw the smallest chameleon of the world (about 2cm in size), the glowing eyes of the smallest lemur (the microcebus) of the world, some flat-bellied geckos which you almost can't see, tons of chameleons and even a frog in a tree. The Montagne d'Ambre has a microclimate which is quite cold in comparison to the rest of the region. We slept in a gite in the park where two women cooked wondurful meals. The food is quite extraordinary in this country. I will have to post an article about it some time.

Tsingy's rouges
The following day we left for the red Tsingy's which are made of sand. One's not allowed to touch them, for fear of disintegration. The colours are absolutely marvelous. To reach those Tsingy's you have to take a trail off the road for about 20km where you have some nice views. Arriving there it's only some short walks to see all you can see.

 From there we went on westward on RN6 to the Ankarana Tsingy's which are grey Tsingy's. They're not quite unlike the Tsingy's de Bemaraha, but not quite the same either. We hiked there for the afternoon and visited a hole Perte d'eau where 4 rivers flow into in the rain season. The hike takes us past this at water level (but it's dry now) and goes on to the Grotte des chauves-souris. There are tombs in the cave and lots of bats. There are also some impressive stalagtites and stalagmites.

Taxi-brousse bien chargé
After this we left for Ambilobe where our guide left us to take on new customers. Life is not easy here and people have to take whatever job is offered to them. We continued on RN6 towards Ambanje and Ankify. In Ambanje i bought some vanilla to bring home as gifts (so you know i thought about it, if i fail bringing them back it's not because i forgot buying them). In Ankify i had a nice bungalow right on the beach. I went for a swim there before drinking a beer with Anas the driver. Later we went eating at the port. Anas wants me to collaborate with him to open his travel agency. At least to bring a small website online. I hope he will send me the informations so i can help him.

This ends the third part of the tour, as the next part will entirely be about my stay on Nosy Be.

Madagascar: part 2

crafted in Ambositra
The second part of my Madagascar tour started the next day with the same driver/guide which drove me to Miandrivazo the previous week. We went southward again to Antsirabe on RN7. As i was ill and had diarrhea for 3 days i did not visit anything this day. We arrived early in Ambositra where i took my hotel room and watched some TV shows and slept early.

The next day i was feeling slightly better and ate a bowl of rice as breakfast. We went to look at a craftsman working with wood. They make wood artifacts with different wood colors patching them together making intricate designs.

The next stop on the road was the town of Fianarantsoa with its Haute Ville like the one in Antananarivo. The buildings Haute Ville of Fianarantsoa, unlike most of other buildings everywhere have been renovated.

Lemur in Ranomafana drinking
After this we moved on to Ranomafana National Park where we slept. The next morning we visited the park and its lemurs. There are several types of lemurs in the park. After the visit we went to the town of Ranomafana a little further on the road, and i took a massage and swam in the hot pool. Ranomafana stands for "hot water" (ran => water, mafana => hot). There i had a real close encounter with one group of lemurs, and particularly with one lemur. It came down to a tree trunk with water to drink. I was less than a meter away from it and could take pictures and movies as long as i wanted. In the park there were lots of tourist groups with guides. There were two guides without tourists tracking the lemurs for all groups. When they spotted some, we all went crashing through the forest trying to follow the lemurs.

Then we went on to the town of Ambalavao, where twice a week there are 2000 to 2500 heads of zebus sold. They are then driven northward. In ambalavao we visited a local paper factory where they make paper from a tree bark. They first boil it, then mash it, then dry it on rasters. Next we visited the local vine and wine factory. Actually they just explained me when it started and what types of vines were used. The wine is not wine, it's awful.

Then we drove on south for about 7km to the natural reserve of Anja (Association de protection de la nature et pour le développement durable Anja Miray). There i had two guides, one in tongs and one in sandals, to hike to the summit of the mountain and through the small forest which shelters Catta lemurs.

Mont Tsaranoro in Andringitra
From there on we drove about 50km to the reserve of Andringitra. It's off the main road on a trail. There are a few camps which are in the wilderness. I lived there in Tsara Camp. There were 3 types of hikes proposed for the following day: an easy walk through the forest, a medium hike to Chameleon Mountain and a good hike to Tsaranoro Mountain. I hesitated between the two latter and asked if there were some more people who would come, as there was only a group of 20 or so elder germans. They surely would have accepted me, but i didn't want to go with as many people. A french couple from France arrived later, and i asked them if they wanted to go on the Tsaranoro with me. They accepted and so we shared the fee and the hike :). Hélène and Cédric are two fun loving people. They like motorbike riding and live near Dijon. Later we exchanged our addresses. We hiked in torrid heat to the top which was 900m higher. Hélène and me were exhausted, but Cédric continued hopping around to make a panoramic picture from a viewpoint a bit farther up.
Isalo burning
The next day we left and went southward to Isalo National Park. When we left Tsara Camp we learned that Isalo was burning for two days already. The locals had burned their cultures and the fire escaped to the touristic part of Isalo. Most of the park cannot be visited, only a real small part is visitable. We went to the hotel, the Satrana Logde which has a magnificent view on the Isalo. Hélène and Cédric were located at the Isalo Ranch Lodge where we ate supper.

Diving into the natural pool in Isalo
The next day we could go to the park as the fire was almost out. In the morning we visited the Rat Canyon and the Maki Canyon which are cool and wet places in comparison to the normal dry and hot climate from the south. In the afternoon we visited the natural pool which was a oasis in this moon-like landscape. It's in a whole, which again is wet and humid. The cool water is really refreshing after this hike in the sun.

After this we took the road again, but left Hélène and Cédric behind. We drove to Toliary (Tulear) where we ate and then drove to a fishing town called St. Augustin. A little later the driver/guide drove me to the airport where i took my plane back to Antananarivo. This ends the second part of my Malagasy tour.