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Beach, Sun and more

Mozambique, a popular travel destination with snow white beaches and turquoise water. Contrary to that a poor population that has to survive with extremely high prices.

The border crossing from Zimbabwe to Mozambique was done again quickly and without any troubles. Unfortunately we had to pay 80 USD per Person for a visa. We drove from Mutare to Inhassaro at the Indian ocean in one goal. One reason was that we wanted to warm up again quickly after the cold temperatures in Zimbabwe. The other reason was that we heard from various travelers, that Gorongoza Park (which is situated in between) had poaching problems and only few wild animals are left. It seems like not only Zimbabwe is suffering heavily from poaching but also Mozambique. On one hand the poor population should not be blamed. On the other hand however, poaching is generally not done to feed the people. It is done by greedy people that want to make easy money. The damages can never be made up for or it will at least take decades.

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Inhassaro is not worthwhile to travel. We did neither like the village nor the beaches. Therefore we continued driving to Pomene the next day and luckily we found a little paradise. The journey itself was already beautiful because we drove through the Pomene National Reserve and the last view kilometers to the campsite (GPS coordinates S22.92276 E35.58506) went along an isolated beach.  Yet a 4 x 4 is obligatory because of the challenging deep sandy roads. Our Campsite was located at the end of a promontory and because of low season we were almost the only guests. Like on all beaches in Mozambique local woman sold fresh bread, fruits and vegetables every morning and in the evening their husbands delivered fresh fish from the ocean. It felt like heaven. Looking back we should have stayed at Pomene beach because we liked it the most of all other beaches. But after five days we were ready for some more challenges. Before leaving the area we stopped on the other side of the bay to have a look at a hotel ruin at a fantastic location. The hotel was closed in 1975 and has never found a new buyer since. That was not understandable for us and we suspected that it might be either incredibly expensive or there must be property difficulties.

Following a recommendation we drove to Morrungulo. However as already mentioned the beach and the campsite (GPS coordinates S23 13.941 E35 29.506were far away from Pomene’s standard. Therefore we left the next day and went to Tofu and Barra. We selected again a wild deep sandy road passing by isolated little villages. However we suspected that this road must be very frequented by tourists during main season because the children’s behavior reminded us a bit of Ethiopia. Children were standing at the road begging and we got also hit by a stone (we just hoped that this happened unintentional). When our car was cruising slowly through deep sand, some brave kids were trying to hold onto our car and to do car surfing.  Their special fun looked really dangerous to us and we did not appreciate that at all. Tofu is known for its turquoise water and their spectacular diving and snorkeling possibilities. But we did not like the tourist hot-spot and continued driving to Barra to the Bayview Lodge  (GPS coordinates S23 47.092 E35 29.915).

Our next destination was Bilene in order to visit Anton, the brother of Viktoria’s friend. Anton and his wife Lee build up the very nice Bilene Lodge (GPS coordinates S25 15.258 E33 20.578) which is beautifully located directly at a lagoon. We really enjoyed staying there and discovered the area by food and by Kayak. As we had seen enough beaches after two weeks we did not drive further south. Luckily we got the very good hint from Anton to cross the border of the two countries Mozambique and South Africa in the connecting National Park Limpopo/Kruger. Thanks to that, it worked very well. However we were wondering why Limpopo Park is called “National Park” because the only animals we discovered were cows. And cows have nothing to do in a National Park. We suspected that all impalas (which are usually in every single park) were eaten up by the poor and hungry population. As we arrived too late at the Limpopo entrance gate a border crossing was not possible anymore on that day and therefore we had to stay one night at a campsite with a nice view at a lake.

We noticed everywhere in Mozambique that the people were not as warmhearted and open minded as in other African countries. It always took a little while until we managed to get a smile. However we really appreciated that the locals were very discreet and not pushy at all. We suspected that this might either be still the consequences of the previous civil war or because of the masses of tourists they have to deal with – and some of them are not that friendly to locals. We could not believe how expensive the groceries were in the streets and supermarkets and we are still curious how the population can afford this. Several travelers were telling us that they got robbed in Mozambique. Luckily we did not have any troubles. But we were also were extremely careful and did not leave our car unprotected for one second. We enjoyed the two weeks in Mozambique, however the main attractions of the country are the beaches and the ocean.

Our Highlights:

The paradise beach Pomene
Tofu‘s turquoise water and the diving and snorkeling paradise.
Bilene’s beautiful nature

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Autumn Feeling

Zimbabwe, once the economic African paradise that is now almost run down. A dream land of natural resources, fertile grounds, diverse beautiful national parks as well as service orientated and creative people. Zimbabwe, a political disaster without any future prospects for the population.

As expected the border crossing to Zimbabwe was done quickly and we drove to Victoria Falls village in order to see the 400 meter spray from a distance. Apparently the best spot offers Victoria Falls Hotel and we also agree with it. The view from the hotel terrace was spectacular. We enjoyed the spray shimmering in rainbow colors over the connection bridge of the two countries Zambia and Zimbabwe. Unfortunately one night in the traditional colonial hotel would have been way too expensive for us therefore we were happy with “high tea” in the afternoon. The village Victoria Falls has craft shops or markets at every corner with art collections from the entire country. The Zimbabwe people are big art masters in African stone and wood sculptures and they produce something creative out of every material or fabric.

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The next day we drove to Hwenge National Park and stayed at Sinamatella Camp (GPS coordinates S18 35.139 E26 19.101) on top of a hill with a fantastic view over the untouched wilderness. As the campsite was not surrounded with fences we had to be prepared again for some visitors at night. However we only heard the lions and elephants roaring from a distance. Hwenge National Park is known for its huge herds of elephants and we were lucky. When we woke up we saw already a big herd grazing further down the hill. And when we were cruising around many more Elephants were walking in front or next to our car every couple of meters. It must have been the elephant’s special walking day. The next day we were sitting on top of our Toyota for a “sundowner” watching lots of hippos and big crocodiles in a dam. We could not believe that locals were fishing in this dam the next morning, standing until their hips in deep water without any protection. They must have been either very desperate or totally crazy to risk their life. We stayed one more night at the Jambili Private Campsite (GPS coordinates S18 55.382 E26 53.221) and had a lovely evening with a couple from Dortmund.  Their Toyota is parked in Namibia and they travel in Africa every year for three months.

After four safari days we took a driving break at the campsite Worlds View Campsite (GPS coordinates S20 30.146 E28 25.575) at a Farm close to Bulawanyo. The view from there to Matobo National park was indeed stunning especially now during the cooler season. The colors were amazing because of the changing of the leaves (it felt almost like autumn at home). We were very surprised to be welcomed by a white farmer and asked him immediately how he managed to still keep his farm. Sadly, he is one of the very few white farmers left in Zimbabwe. Apparently one advantage is that his farm is located closely to the tourist spot Matobo National Park and the other one is that he does not grow anything. However he spoke secretly and he really hopes that he will not attract any attention. Approximately 200 farms have been expropriated only few years ago and in the meantime their land is almost deserted.  The farm ground is dried out and nothing grows anymore. We suspected that President Mugabe must have given these farms to friends or relatives that did not have any clue about agriculture.  As Zimbabwe is now producing very little basic food, everything has to be imported expensively from South Africa. The prices are incredibly high and not many people can afford this. A lot of people are unemployed and maybe this is one of the reason why poaching in National Parks is increasing enormously and the wild animals are getting less and less. The world view farm also has serious problems with poaches about once a month.

After two cold nights at the world view campsite we visited Matobo National Park. Matabo is known for their well-kept cave paintings which are approx. 60 000 years old. In addition Matobo is a very spiritual place, the old Bushmen visited regularly in the old days. Furthermore the park offers a lot of beautiful walking trails (but also with a lot of snakes). Only few tourists visit the park and it felt like we were the only visitors until we met surprisingly a German couple from Freiburg at a cave. Their Landcruiser is also based in South Africa and they travel with it several times a year through Africa. We could not stop exchanging stories and experiences and therefore decided to camp together at a lake with a spectacular view to the balancing rocks.

Our next destination point was the Great Zimbabwe Ruins from the 13th century because they were conveniently on our way to Mozambique. We were impressed by the well-kept stone walls and we enjoyed especially the view from the king’s balcony on top of the mountains. Surprisingly at the attached Great Zimbabwe campsite (GPS coordinates S20 16.290 E30 55.843) we met the Swiss family we had exchanged several emails before our Africa departure in October. The Swiss family had left in July and drove almost the same tour as we did (however they could still drive through Syria). They have two lovely kids with the age of four and six years and the entire family looked so relaxed and happy. They enjoyed like us every single day of their trip. This also confirms that a journey like that can easily be done also with children.  Of course their small converted travel lorry offers much more comfort than our Toyota.

We continued our way to the (at this time of the year) very cold Zimbabwe mountain area Vumba Botanical Reserve (very cold means for African countries 25 degrees during the day and 2 degrees at night – at least always sunny. However we slept in our roof tent and were freezing!). We drove through beautiful landscapes that almost looked like a jungle with huge African trees and wonderful flowery plants. This area must have been a posh tourist area for rich people during Zimbabwe’s former economic heights. We could only guess how wealthy the country was by looking at these incredible luxurious villas and hotels.  As we were craving for warmer temperatures we only stayed for one night at the Ndundu Lodge und Camping (GPS coordinates S19 07.089 E32 46.548) and were heading off to the Mozambique border the next day.

In the entire country the campsites and accommodations looked a bit run down. Because of the unstable political situation there was no tourism at all for years. In the meantime the number of tourists is increasing however it is still very low.  This might be because in some countries there are still travel warnings for Zimbabwe. Additionally we heard from many people that successful enterprises will be immediately expropriated and therefore everyone is trying to keep their property on low standard. Furthermore some nations do really have difficulties travelling through Zimbabwe. For example South Africans were telling us that they had to stop at each police check point in order to get checked at every single part in their car and afterwards they had to pay a lot of bribe money.  We did not even have to stop once at the check points. Another thing we also noticed immediately was that how well trained, clever and quick the people were. Zimbabwe was not only economically the most successful country but it had also one of the best education systems in Africa. We had many conversations with locals and we could tell how desperate and helpless the people are. Hopefully the political situation will change soon that the population will be able to get some future prospects.

Our highlights:

  • The fantastic spray view from Victoria Falls Hotel
  • „Hunting“ for elephants at Hwenge Nationalpark
  • The marvelous view from World View campsite
  • The relaxing Matobo National park
  • The great Zimbabwe mountain ruins
  • The spectacular mountain area at Vumba Botanical Reserve
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Rainy Season

Zambia, a huge country with warm hearted people.  An untouched African spot on the way to find access to international markets. A country in the dilemma between traditions and free market interests.

When we crossed the border to Zambia we also noticed here how friendly the people are. No helpers, no money change shouters, only efficient handling. We were immediately out of customs after we got a visa, the required stamps and paid the carbon emission tax for our Toyota. Firstly we went to the ATM and then to the filling station. How relaxing life can be if diesel is available again at all filling stations!

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From Chipata we drove north-west to the South Luangwa National Park.  There are no campsites in the park therefore we stayed directly at the National Park at the Luangwa River in the Croc Valley Camp (GPS coordinates S13 06.010 E31 47.644). At our arrival the campsite manager warned us immediately not to leave any fruits like mango’s, oranges etc. in the car. It happens very often that some elephant’s walk into the campsite and smash everything into pieces in order to get the delicious fruits. Luckily we put everything immediately into our fridge because at sunset one elephant swam across the river and came to our campsite.

Early next morning we entered the National Park. Unfortunately after the first hundred meters it started to rain and with that the probability dropped a lot to see wild animals. Apparently also during rainy season the park is known for a spectacular fauna. But we realized that all animals are hiding away during rainy days (of course apart from crocodiles and hippos). Nevertheless we did not want to give up and continued our way to the north on the well prepared main roads that were covered with red stones. The side roads were impassable because the black soil transformed the track into incredibly slippery mud only with few drops of rain. Apparently the street workers must have run out of red stones because without any warning the well prepared street turned suddenly into the feared slippery black mud soil. It felt like ice rain back home! Our Toyota skidded and ended up in an over flooded mud ditch. And here again; we were standing totally alone in the pouring rain. However this time the conditions were a bit more challenging than in Rwanda: there were no Rwandan helpers and there was a slight probability that a wild animal might get close to us. It is actually not permitted to get off the car in the National Park but we did not have any other choice. The car would not move anymore and there was no help from someone else to be expected for the next couple of days. We could not help but rolling up our sleeves again and started digging. Nasty biting ants and disgusting worms were crawling up our legs, but no matter what we had to continue. And in fact it was worthwhile: after almost two hours of working heavily we were ready to go and managed to get the Toyota out with a lot of power. What a relief!  As we still did not want to give up we drove towards south searching for some animals. However the street conditions were really bad. The roads were either flooded or covered with the feared black mud soil. Fortunately we made it without getting stuck again but that was only with big luck and some skills. At least at the end we saw some animals.

After one day break and cleaning we continued our journey. We wanted to take the road directly along South Luangwa National Park however a British guy stopped us after 15 km. He said that even though the landscape is very beautiful, we can only take this road during dry season in July or August and ideally with two cars.  Only few cars can make it alone in dry season but the road is impassable during rainy season as the rivers are flooded. The British guy and his wife live in the middle of the forest at South Luangwa National Park and founded a small NGO some years ago. The project is mainly about preservation of flora and fauna in the South Luangwa area. Poachers are harming the National Park sensitively and tree chopping for fire wood or charcoal outside the park makes the surrounded forests and its old trees more and more shrink. The British couple is creating awareness among the population and they educate young children already in school. The project is solidly sustainable and was awarded with the World Prize for Sustainable Energy of the European Parliament Science and Technology Options Assessment (STOA) Panel. Please have a look at their website for more information  http://chipembele.org/.

As we did not want to run the risk to get stuck on this road until July (in spite of the beautiful landscape), we turned and used the main road to Lusaka. In Lusaka we had to run some errands and noticed immediately that we were getting closer to South Africa because the variety of goods was almost like at home – however the prices were incredibly high. We haven’t found out yet how the locals can afford these products because their average income is really low. We drove 15 km outside of Lusaka to stay one night at the Pioneer Camp (GPS coordinates S15 23.732 E28 27.045) in the middle of the forest. It was really worthwhile to drive out of the city to this idyllic place.

Our next stop was the farm Moorings Campsite (GPS coordinates S16 11.624 E27 32.600), which is conveniently located between Lusaka and Livingstone (Victoria Falls). The core product of the farm is maize in addition to their pigs and cows. We met the Swiss couple Tatjana and Michael. They started travelling through Africa six years ago and settled down on the farm about three years ago. We heard interesting and exciting stories of their experiences.  The campsite is one part of the farm and is usually quiet and peaceful. However when we arrived there on Good Friday we were surrounded by drumming and happy singing. The local farm workers with families and relatives celebrated the Easter holidays with singing, dancing and drumming almost continuously from Good Friday to Easter Monday.  We walked on the farm several times and as we were curious we participated on a service at their farm church on Easter Sunday and took a video of their activities. The locals were happy to see us and integrated us immediately into their community. Luckily we did not need to sing.

After the Easter holidays we drove to Victoria Falls in Livingstone. Sambesi River has grown to a huge raging torrent during rainy season and we were very impressed to see the masses of water plunging 110 meters down the rocks over a width of 1708 meter. However we were not able to see to the ground because of the up to 400 meters high spay that looks like fog. The Spray is visible even from approx. 30 km distance. We were drenched immediately by the spray and it felt like a tropical rain shower. It was great fun to wander along the falls and to cross the bridge on top with the best view point. After we were dry again we drove immediately to the Zimbabwean border, which is right behind Victoria Falls. As the entire area around Vic Falls is very touristy we did not want to stay one night longer on the camp site. Besides the fact that we were fed up with the helicopters, that were continuously cruising around and making terrible noises. The helicopters offer tourists a beautiful Vic Falls view for 15 minutes.

We enjoyed Zambia a lot in spite of rainy season. The country has everything to compete with the international market. It has many mineral resources, a variety of great national parks in every part of the country and a beautiful landscape. Additionally the people are warmhearted and friendly. Nevertheless we very often felt like we were still in an untouched African country. We can only recommend Zambia as a travel destination.

Our Highlights:

  • The beautiful South Luangwa National Park
  • Different Easter vacation on the farm Moorings
  • The fascinating Victoria Falls
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Smiling Country

Greetings from the smiling country in Africa. Even though Malawi is one of the poorest countries in the world, the people seem to be quite happy. This might be because of the beautiful Lake Malawi, the wild untouched mountains or the fertile grounds. Or is there another reason?

We crossed the border from Tanzania to Malawi at Songwe and were done with the customs quickly.  After 15 minutes we were already driving on Malawian roads. The streets in Malawi were totally deserted – everyone walked or drove on bicycles. The reason for that was that there is no diesel at all and petrol only occasionally available at the filling stations. This disaster has been going on for six months because the president has misused development money. As a consequence the donating countries have cancelled the support for Malawi. Like anywhere else in many third world countries the population is suffering most and the president did not care. (Remark: The president died as soon as we reached Zambia. BBC reported that he passed away because of a heart attack. We would like to highlight that we were not involved in this incident!)

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People can only buy diesel on the black market for about 3 Euro per liter (the average salary per month is 80 US$). And as soon as the rumor is going on that a filling station will be delivered with some petrol the locals queue for hours in order to get some of the precious liquid. We very often saw petrol lorries standing at the road side and selling some liters to the locals unofficially. Petrol lorry driver in Malawi is probably the most popular and the most dangerous job right now.  Luckily we entered Malawi with 240 liters of diesel as we knew about the problem beforehand.

Our first place to go after the border was Chitimba Camp at the northern part of Lake Malawi.  The campsite is viewing the lake and is quite nice. We stayed there for two days and walked along the lake and to the villages. The locals waved at us happily. They were sitting at the lake chatting and laughing and their children were playing loudly. At night Julian worked at the computers in order to rescue our website. Some hacker misused our website and our server was blocked. The internet in Africa is very slow and only partly usable at night.

The next place we drove to was  Lukwe EcoCamp & Organic Gardens and we discovered a little paradise in the middle of the mountains. The lodge and the view over the untouched mountains as well as Lake Malawi are just spectacular. The Loge has been run by a Belgian for about twelve years. During that time he has built up a wonderful organic garden with vegies and fruits from all over the world. These ingredients taste so delicious in his restaurant. It was such a pleasure for us to enjoy these wonderful salads and vegies in his restaurant together with the most delicious filet steaks we had so far on this trip. Even the coffee grows in his organic garden. The owner also has a second hobby and this is furniture design. All furniture’s on his lodge and campsite are hand made by him from the wood of this property. Everything is kept very natural and the power comes from solar energy. As we loved the place so much Julian offered to renew his website. Here is the link to the website www.lukwe.com . We also wanted to help Lukwe because the owner told us that Mushroom farm which was established later and is only two kilometers away has copied all his ideas and is using them strongly for their marketing strategy. Mushroom farm does neither have organic food nor coffee in their gardens.  So hopefully it works to get some of the customers back to Lukwe. We stayed five nights at Lukwe and walked up the mountains, to Livingstonia and to the waterfalls apart from working hardly on the website. We did not bother to go to Nyika National Park close by because it was rainy season and all animals are hidden and spread out.

On the way to our next destination we bought some of the delicious filet at peoples in Mazuzu. Thanks to Auke from Lukwe for the fantastic recommendation.

We continued our trip to Makuzi Lodge, a bit further South of Lake Malawi. The campsite is peacefully placed at a beautiful sandy bay. Lake Malawi is about 500 km long with deep blue water and fantastic sandy beaches. However in the South of the lake breed these frightening bilharzias worms. Human beings can get them by swimming in the lake or washing with lake water. We were rest assured that Makuzi lodge is bilharzias free because it is located in the northern part of the lake and the whole campsite is anyway using lake water for their showers and tabs. So we enjoyed swimming several times per day and will do a worm test as soon as we reach home again. We also used relaxing Makuzi Lodge to fix everything on our car. After four days we drove firstly towards south along the lake and later towards west via Lilongwe in order to cross the border to Zambia.

As mentioned at the beginning, we enjoyed the beautiful landscape, Lake Malawi and especially the smiling and pleasant people in Malawi. Everyone we were talking to seemed to be happy and greeted us friendly. We were wondering very often why that is, because the whole country is suffering heavily from of their political situation. As the president is dead now, everyone is hoping that the next political leadership will finally support the population and not their own pocket. The education system is terrible in Malawi and so is the education level. Not to mention the economy and the tourism. We heard that the tourism budge for the entire country per year is something like 2000 USD. No wonder that Malawi is only known as a country to drive through as quickly as possible. We liked Malawi very much and found the most beautiful place. Therefore we can only recommend Malawi for enjoyable vacation.

Our Highlights:

  • The marvelous Lake Malawi.
  • The beautiful Mountain area
  • The fantastic Lukwe Eco-Camp & Organic Gardens
  • The happy and friendly Malawian’s
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Jambo (English)

Tanzania, is the country of snow covered mountain tops, snow-white beaches, turquoise oceans, wild animals, fertile grounds, blooming sisal plantations and the highest entrance fees.
We crossed the border from Ruanda to Tanzania at Rusumo. And again, we were done within a very short period of time. It was very funny to see that there was the same big confusion on which side of the road to drive between the two countries, because there is again left wheel drive in Tanzania.

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When we drove to our first destination to Biharamulo at Lake Victoria, we noticed immediately that compared to Rwanda less people live in Tanzania. We only saw few huts here and there in between a never ending savanna of bushes and little trees. In Biharamulo we stayed at a former German Fort that was built during the German Emperor Wilhelm aera (GPS coordinates S2 37.907 E31 18.291). The previous German colonial masters must have built this far outside station in good old German quality because the buildings are still in a relatively good shape and have been functioning as a guest house for a long time.  From Biharamulo we drove towards East along Lake Victoria to Mwanza. Mwanza is not really worth to see and we cannot recommend at all the campsite Yacht Club Mwanza directly at the Lake Victoria (GPS coordinates S2 31.745 E32 53.652).

On the following day we drove to Serengeti. We realized that Serengeti has become a total rip off and can almost be considered as a tourist-nap. The campsites in the national park are 30 USD per person and the standard of those is very basic – there is only parking, toilet and cold shower. Even the campsite outside of Serengeti cost still 15 USD per person and these are as well very basic. In order to give an idea of what to pay at Serengeti we listed the following:

You have to pay:
For one day Serengeti and one day Ngorongore Crater (including drive to the crater) for two people with a vehicle and foreign number plate: 820 USD

You get:

Really bad roads. On some parts even that bad that you can hardly drive on them in rain. Basic campsites with cold showers. However many exotic tourist from all over the world and they all come together at the special highlights.

Of course we will not hide at this point that we saw rich and diverse animal life and we drove through beautiful landscapes. Our special highlights were the huge herds of wildebeests and buffalos and they were all accompanied by a large number of zebras and antelopes. We even saw our first lions. However they were surrounded by about ten safari vehicles all packed with tourists and we had to queue with our car in order to get closer to the honey moon couple. Looking back we both agree that it was good to visit Serengeti National Park however we do not need to come again. Luckily we will visit many more parks further south of Africa with more wild animals as well as less tourists and they will only cost a fraction of Serengeti.

After Serengeti we continued driving to Arusha and stayed at a recommended campsite directly at a small idyllic lake. However we cannot recommend this campsite at all because it was very basic. We had to stay there for one night because we arrived late but we left really early in the morning.

As we were really fed up with the cold and rainy weather we decided spontaneously to drive all the way to the Indian Ocean in one goal. There was also heavy rain in the mountain area around Kilimanjaro and we would not have been able to hike there. Kilimanjaro was only sticking out of the clouds for a second when we passed by. We did not climb up Kilimanjaro either because it would have cost us between 1200 USD and 1800 USD per Person!  Luckily at the Indian Ocean we were rewarded with warm and sunny weather and the beautiful campsite Peponi (GPS coordinates S5 17.230 E39 03.936). Peponi is at the upper east coast of Tanzania and is a very pleasant location. It offered shady trees, the Indian Ocean at our feet and W-lan usage for free. We got the W-lan from the far more expensive however very beautiful neighbor resort (small hint: campsite K at Peponi has the best W-lan reception and is also the best spot).  We enjoyed staying at Peponi especially because we met a very nice couple from Austria, Vesela and Wolfgang. We laughed a lot and had very good conversations.

Our next destination to go was Zanzibar, the Island with the longest, widest, and whitest beaches – at least of Tanzania. As we had to leave our Toyota on the mainland we stayed for one night at Mikadi Campsite  (GPS coordinates S6 49.142 E39 19.252) and left our car there for four days. Early in the morning we went to the Zanzibar ferry terminal with a Tuck Tuck. However firstly we had to take the car and passenger ferry to get to Dar Eh Salaam city area as the day before. The city Dar Eh Salaam is divided because the ocean bay is ending in a wide river and there is no bridge only a shuttle ferry. The journey takes maximum five minutes but everyone needs to queue for about one hour. Before getting to the Zanzibar ferry terminal we had to pass by the very smelly fish market. No wonder, the temperatures are very high (approx. 40 degrees) and humid and the fish market is without aircon and ice cubes.  The journey to Zanzibar on the ferry was very pleasant because the ship was brand new.  At the arrival in Zanzibar we noticed immediately the Arabic and Indian influence. Historically Zanzibar was one of the main trading centers as well as the connection between Middle East and India. The mixture of people and the architecture are very unique and until today many exotic spices are growing on the island. For a price of 50 USD per person, guided tours introduce the spice gardens.

We followed a recommendation and stayed at the Paradise Beach bungalows at Paje Beach, east of Zanzibar. The owner is a Japanese woman, who has been there for twenty years. She serves home cooked traditional Japanese food in the restaurant. We found it totally crazy to enjoy fantastic Japanese dishes like Sushi, Sashimi, Teriyaki, Tempura, etc. in the middle of Africa. The Japanese women even collected every morning as a special ingredient seaweed from the ocean. The local people grow seaweed professionally in front of the resort as the beach offers perfect conditions. The beach is very flat and at low tide the ocean retrieves far out that the beach transforms to a wide white sandy area of a couple of hundred meters. We spent four relaxing days with reading and some work at the computer. We planned to stay longer however the adventure called us again and we wanted to go back to our car.

Luckily we found our car exactly in the same position as we left it behind. We camped one more night at the lovely Mikadi campsite and spent the next days with grocery shopping as we were going to Malawi soon. As we wanted to check out another campsite at the beach of Dar Eh Salaam, we drove to Kipepeo (GPS Koordinaten S6 51.102 E39 21.697). This place was suggested by several people so we thought it must be special. However we did not like it that much and we definitely prefer Mikadi campsite that is only five km away. The only advantage was that we met the very nice couple from Austria again at Kipepeo. We were very happy and therefore we stayed there for two days before we drove slowly south west towards Malawi.

We drove south-west through beautiful landscapes on the main road. We liked the Baobab-Tree valley the most. These very impressive trees can reach a diameter up to 10 meters. Another highlight on this road was the crossing through the Mikumi National Park. We were lucky because we saw wild animals just by passing by. Usually people cruise through the park for hours and pay high entrance fees to see what we saw. Directly next to the main road there was a huge herd of elephants, zebras, several giraffes and many impalas. Fantastic! Right outside the Mikumi National Park we camped at the Tan-Swiss Guesthouse (GPS coordinates S7 23.786 E37 00.111). The owner is Swiss and he welcomed us former country neighbors happily. His daily challenges are not easy to manage however he would never go back to Switzerland.

Our next destination was the well-known OLD Farm in  Kisolanza ( GPS coordinates S8 08.747 E35 24.737).  It is a beautiful place that offery everything to stay for a while. However the rain caught up with us again and therefore we left the next day. For generation the Old Farm has been owned by an English family. The female owner has established wonderful guest houses and a beautify campsite in addition to the farm. Mainly Tabaco and various vegies grow on the farm. We enjoyed buying really fresh vegies and some herbs directly from the ground.

The border to Malawi was still 300 km away from the old farm. As we did not want to enter Malawi in the afternoon we stayed one night at a locally run community campsite about 30 before the border. And the next morning we were crossing the Malawian border.

Even though Tanzania has many things to offer, we did not like the country too much. The wildlife, snowy white beaches, beautiful landscapes and the fascinating mountain area are simply too expensive and some people from Tanzania can even be considered as greedy. However not only the entrance fees alone put us off, it was more the bad standard as well as the crap service. Nevertheless we had a good time and were looking forward to Malawi.

Jambo means „hello“ in Kiswahili and everyone greeted us with „Jambo“. Kiswahili is spoken in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and party in Rwanda and Malawi.

Our Highlights:

  • The Serengeti Nationalpark und Ngorongoro Crater
  • Die beautiful beaches of Zanzibar
  • The Baobab valley
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Land of Thousand Hills

Greetings from the cleanest county in Africa which is also called “land of thousand hills”. Apart from the very well-known movie “Hotel Rwanda” people at home know very little about Rwanda. Although Rwanda such a wonderful country is and absolutely worth visiting. The border crossing from Uganda to Rwanda at Kartuna was once again hassle free and quick. There was some kind of Babylonian confusion at the border strip between the two countries because there is left-hand traffic in Uganda and right-hand traffic in Rwanda. We got our passports and the Carnet de Passage stamped (all for free for Germans) at the Rwandan border and were already done. No annoying helpers, no waiting queues just friendly helpful people. The journey to Kigali went also very fast on new roads.

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After driving the first few kilometers in Rwanda we noticed immediately that the traffic became less and less. In addition we saw no more white faces. From all sites the children shouted happily “hey Mazungu” (like in Uganda). Apparently they do not see so many white people. Some of the streets are even better than in Germany and the entire country is super clean – even Switzerland cannot keep up with it. Some of the reasons might be that it is prohibited to import, sell or even use plastic bags. Further more people get sensitively punished for littering. On Saturdays are the anyway almost empty streets deserted because every single citizen has to do “community work”. Everyone, even the president, has to clean streets as well as to repair or tidy up the environment.

We reached Kigali, Rwanda’s capital, already at lunchtime. Like to rest of Uganda, Kigali is also placed on thousand hills. Kigali is small, clean and efficient and motor bikers have to wear helmets (that is very unusual in Africa). We stayed at “One Love and Camping” (GPS coordinates S1 56.904 E30 04.501) which is according to our information the only campsite in Kigali. Unfortunately it is not suitable for overlanders because the campground is not reachable for cars. Therefore we had to camp at the parking and that was not very pleasant. At least we got free internet after weeks again and we were finally able to do our online updates.

In order to get the gorilla tracking permit (to really expensive costs of 500 US Dollar per person – and from June onwards it will be 750 USD!) we were looking for the ORTPN office in Kigali. However the office moved (the website has not been updated) to the Rwanda Development Board (RDB) Building (GPS coordinates S1 57.148 E30 06.175). Unfortunately we only got one permit applicable in five days. Everything was fully booked for the next few weeks. We run the risk because we expected getting the second permit at the Volcanoes headquarters – and we were lucky.

As soon as we got the permit we drove to Lake Kivu in the West. The beautiful scenery and the well-kept tarmac roads made up for the troubles in Kigali.  We found a nice place to stay at Hotel Holiday in Kibuye (GPS coordinates S2 03.260 E29 20.835). The place is not very cheap (like everything else in Rwanda) however we were able to place our car directly at the lake in the hotel garden and the bathrooms were clean. Unfortunately the first rain caught us there since Italy. After two relaxing days we drove under pouring rain to Gisenyi in the North of Lake Kivu directly at the border to the democratic republic of Congo (DRC).  We drove along the lake on an adventurous off-road track: on overcast mountains, through deep valleys, over wild rivers. It took us more than four hours to get to Gisenyi which is only 100 km away. We found again a brilliant place to stay at the Paradise Malahide Cottages and Campsite (GPS coordinates S1 44.028 E29 16.391). The only disadvantage was that we had to park our car again at the parking, but this one was placed a bit more pleasant. The hotel is situated directly at the lake and has a very nice atmosphere. The next day we drove from Gisenyi to Kinigi at the Volcanoes National Park. We spent three nights at the Kinigi Guest House (GPS coordinates S1 25.956 E29 35.906) which is only 300 meters away from Volcanoes Park Headquarters (GPS coordinates S1 25.941 E29 35.687). The gorilla tours start from there every morning. As we only got one gorilla permit we went there on two consecutive days and we were lucky as we got another ticket. The mountain tour to the gorillas was stunning. However standing face to face with a silverback (gorilla family head) and being surrounded by the playing mountain gorilla family is an unforgettable experience.

On the following day we were planning to drive back to Kigali. As the distance is very short we decided to make a little detour over the northern lakes Bulera and Ruhondo and further to Bururea. At the beginning everything was just perfect: a fantastic drive on relatively good roads. Unfortunately the streets got gradually narrower until they ended in one way roads. And in the middle of a beautiful landscape, between banana trees, stunning mountains and valleys it started raining. It poured down and transformed the narrow earthy roads to greasy slides. We could hardly believe but our GPS still confirmed that we were on the right track. In this moment we were very happy about our BF Goodrich MT tires. The path went further on slimmer getting bridges. These were anyway only made out of slippery tree trunks. Unluckily at one point we missed a turnoff without noticing and were standing in front of a narrow, damaged bridge. Our car could have never gone over that. We decided spontaneously and bravely to go directly through the little flat looking river. However we did not get very far – suddenly our Toyota got stuck in deep mud (over one meter) in the middle of the river. We could not even move one millimeter – neither forwards nor backwards. And here we go – we were standing in the middle of the river, totally alone, not a single body to be seen, only surrounded by nature. Yet luckily you are never alone for a long time in Africa. Mystically people appeared just from nowhere – one by one. In our case firstly about 50 people arrived and started immediately digging out the car as well as dragging some stones. Unfortunately our Toyota stuck really unluckily and deeply in the mud. After three hours of intensive digging and high-lifting we were still not successful. There was only one solution: We needed another vehicle to pull us out of the dirt. The next village with motor vehicles was about 15 km away, therefore Viktoria left on the back seat of a bicycle to get help. She could only reach the village at 16:30 because the streets were very bad and the mountains quite high. Once she was there she had to react quickly because she needed to be back with the helpers before sunset. However nothing can be done quickly in Africa. No one wanted to drive the virtually impassable roads.  An approaching nun had the idea to ask the Chinese street workers as they have the perfect vehicles and equipment. As always the Chinese smiled nicely and promised to help. However nothing happened after waiting for over one hour. It was already pitch dark. Finally Viktoria found a helpful Rwander, who was willing to drive the impassable road and to pull out the car.

In the meantime Julian and the volunteers kept on digging. As they found out after a while not only the wheels got stuck but the Toyota sat especially in the middle heavily on rocks and mud. After a couple of hours the number of the volunteers increased gradually to about 200 people. Of course this was the village happening of the year for them. But some of them were working very hard for hours with the high-lift, ropes and shovels. And then after five hours intensive preparations the Toyota was ready for the final – Julian stepped heavily on the gas and the Toyota was out. Yeah!!!  As it started getting dark Julian drove as fast as possible in order to find Viktoria. Unfortunately after a couple of hundred meters it stopped again. The roads were so narrow that the Landcruiser did not fit. On the left side it went steep up the hill and on the right side deep slopes of about 1.5 meters. The Landcruiser almost slid down the slopes. We as Europeans would just turn and try another solution, but our Rwandan volunteers. Without hesitating they started cutting down the eucalyptus trees in order to build a temporary bridge. And what a surprise, after half an hour the construction was ready. Even more surprisingly was that it was strong enough for driving over it with the heavy Toyota. After that Julian needed to drive through a cornfield over a little river and, over a steep hill in order to reach the other side of the valley. Luckily it went very well without any problems with four wheel drive diff-lock. Julian went all the way to Burera, in order to pick up Viktoria. Viktoria saw Julian coincidentally standing in the street because she was supposed to be on the way to rescue him.

After this real adventure we continued driving to Kigali, even though it was already pitch dark. We were planning not to drive in darkness in Africa, however we made an exception in Rwanda because the country is very safe and the streets to the capital are good. We reached the Discover Rwanda Youth Hostel (GPS coordinates: S 1° 57.044 | E 30° 05.592) totally exhausted but very relieved at 21:00 h. In the meantime we found out that there is a second campsite in Kigali. The next morning we cleaned our car from the mud. The dirt was everywhere in thick layers inside and outside and of course also on our clothes. In the afternoon we visited the Genocide Memorial Center. We saw horrifying pictures and reports. Even though we knew Rwanda’s history, we were very depressed when we got out of the center. As we got to know the people now a bit, it is even more difficult for us to understand that such a massacre took place in this country. But we do understand now better why the people seem to really stick together and live in a close community. They want to do everything in order to avoid that such a disaster can ever happen again in Rwanda.

The next morning we drove to the border of Tanzania.

We really enjoyed travelling in Rwanda. The rich green flowering nature in the middle of thousand hills is really an eye candy. The people are working hard nevertheless they seem to be happy and satisfied. The Rwandan people treated us very friendly with respect and were especially helpful. As we felt safe everywhere we can highly recommend traveling to Rwanda.

Our Highlights:

  • The beautiful Lake Kivu at the villages Kibuye and Gisenyi
  • Being close to the mountain gorillas
  • The nice hike at the Park des Volcanoes
  • The marvelous rich green flowering nature
  • The happy, very friendly und especially helpful people
  • The impressive tidiness
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Hey Mazungu (English)

From Jinja at the Nile River to Kampala with the worst chaotic traffic, continuing over the highlands of Fort Portal with charming crater lakes and further South via Lake Bunyonyi to the Rwandan border. After the last really hot days at Lake Bogoria in Kenia we passed the boarder to Uganda at Malaba on the 23rd of January. We were welcomed by friendly people, rich vegetation and pleasant temperatures. If someone thinks of Africa, he probably imagines a country like Uganda: stunning nature with colorful tropical plants as well as smiling people on the roadside. These were the first impressions we got from Uganda.

Our first stop was Jinja. Jinja is situated directly where the Nile drains off Lake Victoria. And right at the Nile river few kilometres down the stream is one of the most beautiful campsites in Africa “The Haven” (GPS Coordinates N0 32.564 E33 05.387). The Haven overlooks the Nile rapids and is run purely by solar energy.  We rather felt like somewhere in Switzerland and not in Africa because it was so clean and tidy there. We spent the next day’s with writing, checking out the area and just relaxing. We had to recover from the exhausting journey.  The peaceful days were only interrupted by a rafting tour. One full day we were speeding down the Nile rapids and at the end we flipped over. That was great fun.

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We also used the time to remove the damaged steering damper of our Toyota and to look for replacement. On the third day Dee, James together with their friend Collin, who lives in Jinja, came unexpectedly to “the Haven” for dinner. That was a big surprise and we were very happy to see each other again. What a coincidence that Collin has a workshop for Landcruisers. That was really lucky because the next day Julian together with Collin removed the suspension for the steering damper, straightened and welded it. That saved us a visit at the car repair shop, hence a lot of money. We only had to buy the heavy duty steering damper spare part in Kampala and inserted it by ourselves. At this stage we would like to highlight that our Toyota did not have any problems so far. The car is just perfect and drives and drives and drives, no matter if there is deep sand, lava rocks, 4000 meters altitude or 44 C boiling heat in the desert. We are very happy about that.

In Kampala we stayed at the Red Chili Hideway Camp (GPS coordinates N0 19.208 E32 37.800). Red Cili is a overlander hotspot with a lot of overland trucks, loud music and very good pizza. There we saw also Ali again; we met him the first time in Nairobi. He came with his girlfriend Mariska, who works for the NGO Foodstep. Mariska told us about the many unsolved problems in Uganda as well as her work at the children’s prison Kampiringisa. That caught our interest for our next project visit. As we were only allowed to visit the prison on Thursday we had to stay the next days in Kampala. Even though Kampala is a smelly, totally polluted and overcrowded city and it has the worst chaotic traffic we were quite happy that we stayed longer. We saw a different site of Uganda we normally would not get to know as tourists.

In the children’s prison Kampiringisa are approx. 300 kids from three years to seventeen years. These are mainly street kids and they are unfairly and unjustly imprisoned. The conditions in the buildings are awful and unbearable. The children do not get any school education, training or medical treatment. Further details and the background of the project will be published under FOCUS AFRICA shortly.

From Kampala we went further via the highland of Uganda to Fort Portal. There we stayed at Kluges Guest Farm (GPS coordinates N00.594857 E30.247947). It is really a nice spot.When we arrived there we were immediately invited to Stephan’s belated 60. Birthday party. We celebrated a great party at a big campfire until late night. At this place we would like to say thank you to Stefan for his invitation! Unfortunately Viktoria did not feel well the next days. She had a headache, fewer, was vomiting and had diarrhea. Initially we thought about an upset stomach, therefore we only went to the hospital on the third day. However the fewer that went in the meantime up to over 40 C was obvious and the blood test confirmed the result – Malaria! Viktoria had to take a vast amount of tablets and hat to stay in bed for two days. Luckily she felt much better after two days and the fewer was gone. What did we learn out of this: Next time we will go immediately to the hospital and don’t wait!

For a change and to fully recover we moved in between to the Nkuruba Nature Reserve community campsite (GPS coordinates N0 31.119 E30 18.133) directly at the crater lake Nkuruba. The campsite is beautifully situated and is viewing the lake. Apparently the lake is bilharzia free therefore Julian swam several times in it. The area is covered with these crater lakes which offers a beautiful natural spectacle. As Viktoria felt strong enough after four days, we continued our trip towards Lake Bunyoni. In between we stayed one more night at the Nyanzeebiri Community Campsite (GPS coordinates S0 15.653 E30 07.365) again directly at one of the crater lakes.

Like on the trip from Kampala to Fort Portal we also drove on this trip from Fort Portal to Lake unyoni through a lot of forest fires. The locals burn not only the rest of the harvest, but also the last beautiful forests. There was thick smoke everywhere.Even Elisabeth Nationalpark was burned down half and totally black.

Not only the guide book writes, that Lake Bunyonyi is the most beautiful lake Uganda’s, we also can confirm that. This might also be because we found a wonderful Campsite, called Lake Bunyoni Overland Campsite (GPS coordinates S1 16.341 E29 56.243). Our car was parked directly at the shore overviewing the lake from both sites.

Nonetheless we drove to the Rwandan border after two days. The border crossing was very easy for us Germans, as we did not need any visa. After 45 minutes everything was done and we were already on the Rwandan site.

Altogether we can say that we really enjoyed travelling in Uganda. Uganda has not only a beautiful landscape but also the people are very friendly and helpful and we always felt safe. The kids were always waving at us excitedly and calling us happily “Mazungu” (white person).

Our Highlights:

  • The beautiful Campsite „The Haven“ in Jinja
  • The exciting rafting tour on the Nile rapits
  • The charming crater lakes around Fort Portal
  • The most beautiful lake Uganda’s – Lake Bunyonyi
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Hakuna Matata – English

Welcome to the wild East Africa! Breathtaking Landscapes, stunning sunsets and our first elephants. From the rough North along lake Turkana, the Samburu National Park and Mount Kenya to Nairobi. Continuing to Lake Naivasha, Lake Bogoria National Reserve all the way to Uganda.
At the beginning of the New Year we entered Kenya driving from Tumi,  Omo Valley to the east side of Lake Turkana. We drove on small sandy roads, deep washed-out river beds, passed by little villages and crossed the border from Ethiopia to Kenya at lunch time.  As expected there were no customs, not even a police station – just nothing, except beautiful landscapes. Few kilometers before Ileret we set up our camp right next to the road. Locals walked peacefully along the street und greeted friendly. No one stared at us or begged for something. Wonderful! Shortly before going to bed some local guys stopped by and chatted nicely with us. What a difference to Ethiopia!

The next morning James and Dee as well as Igor and Johannes met us again. They only camped 500 meters away from our car without noticing. For the biker guys the tour was very exhausting as the roads consisted of deep sand alternately to rough lava rocks. The two of them fell off their bikes several times and even hurt themselves. But they were tough and went through. In Ileret we got registered at the Police Post and went further towards Sibiloi National Park. As we did not want to visit the Sibiloi National Park nor paying the fees we just drove on the roads outside the park. Right before Derate we bush camped once more. And this time there was not only one single person, just us and some foxes stoped by at night.  In Derate we filled up our water tanks at a well (GPS coordinates: N3 51.118 E36 31.147).  Unfortunately there were no signs and we drove straight to the main gate of Sibiloi National Park. What a shame. The rangers at the main gate wanted to charge us 45 USD even though we only drove the last 6 km through the park. As we were still not willing to pay and we did not want to drive all the way back with a big detour we decided to go off-road for about 10 km to get out of the park. And this was the wildest off-road we have done so far. Our track went right through the bushes, through a hilly rocky forest and then (that was the most challenging adventure) through an out-washed riverbed that consisted of deep sand alternately to awfully big steep rocks. We must say, our Landcruiser did very well without any complaints. On that evening we rewarded ourselves with a fantastic bush shower under a beautiful acacia and a delicious dinner. From there we drove along lake Turkana to Liyongalani. We bush camped once more directly at the lake. This time, some local tribe people stopped and chatted with us friendly. The lake Turkana route had a stunning scenery however the rough roads (if we can talk about roads) made it really difficult to drive. We could mainly go in walking speed on the sandy tracks that took turns with rocks and deep potholes. In addition it was incredibly hot. The temperatures reached up to 44 degrees during the day however 28 degrees during the night. At least it was the perfect temperature to sleep. In order to avoid biggest heat we started at 06:30 h in the morning and were totally exhausted in bed latest by 20:00 h.
In Liyongalani we went straight to the Palm Shade campsite (with beautiful grass on the ground, clean toilets and cold beer!) (GPS coordinates: N2 45.385 E36 43.258) We really enjoyed some kind of civilization after for four days of wilderness. In the Palm Shade we met the photographer Neil Thomas and his girlfriend (www.neilthomas.com). He is currently working on a photo collection book of the lake Turkana tribes and he did many photo shootings. He was kind enough to take us with on the second day and we really enjoyed ourselves directly at the shore of lake Turkana. We also got some beautiful pictures. Thanks again Neil!

After a two days break we continued our journey to Maralal. We visited the children’s home “Springs of Hope” on our second day and reported about it. Please find the detailed story as well as pictures and video attached. Taking this project as an example, we realized that development aid should preferably be initiated locally in order to guarantee efficiency and sustainability. At least it increases the success of the project. We placed the project on „betterplace.org“. It is about to take on more kids from the street. Ten children are already on waiting list and many more need a home. At this stage we would like to ask you to have a look at  „betterplace.org“. You can become a supporter by writing a positive message (that does not cost anything) or better, you could donate some money. If everyone donates just a bit we can really make an effort for the kids. www.betterplace.org/de/projects/8641
On the following day we continued our journey from Maralal through beautiful mountain sceneries to Samburo National Park. We visited the park the next day and were quite shocked about the entrance fees (they charged 70 USD per day and Person + 15 USD for the car). As least we saw a lot of giraffes, antelopes, zebras and wild pigs.  However watching several big herds of elephants taking a bath and cooling themselves down during lunchtime was our highlight for the day. Unfortunately the lions were hiding successfully the entire day.
We spent the following two days at Mount Kenya with fantastic food and we had a lot of time for reading and writing at cool temperatures. We saw the snow covered Mont Kenya only from far away because a guided tour would have been 250 USD per person and that was definitely too expensive for us. The following four days we were handing out in Nairobi. Nairobi was packed with updating of the blogs, shopping (Nairobi has beautiful shopping malls, they are all packed with European food we are used to), stamping our passports and beautiful food. We stayed at Jungle Junction Campsite (GPS coordinates: S1 17.327 E36 45.636) and as a nice surprise we met Susi, Mark und Tom, as well as Igor und Johannes again. Even though we liked Nairobi very much we had to go on tour again after four days.

After Nairobi we were heading directly to Fisherman’s camp (GPS coordinates: S0 49.548 E36 20.095) at lake Naivasha. A beautiful campsite under big trees directly at the lake welcomed us. In the afternoon we discovered the lake by boat together with three South Africans (we had already met them at Jungle Junction). Only few meters from our campsite we saw the first hippos and right next to them were some water buffalos grazing on a little island. The next morning we drove to Hells Gate at 06:30 h in the morning this time on mountain bikes together with the South Africans.  It was a special experience watching wild animals (there were only zebras, giraffes, buffalos, wild pigs and antelopes) from very close and racing against each other. We especially enjoyed the bike ride after so many kilometers just sitting in the car. When we woke up the next morning our tent was surrounded by a lot of marabous all looking for food. The big birds have a wingspan of approx. two meters.

After lake Naivasha we drove to Lake Bogoria National Reserve and (what a surprise!) we had to pay again 50 USD entrance fees. Kenya got incredibly expensive the last years. Even the smallest lake or mountain was turned into a National Park or National Reserve in order to sell the ticket expensively to international tourists. Lokals only have to pay a fractional amount. As we will be able to see many more wild animals on our journey we decided to cut down on the minimum in Kenya.
Nevertheless lake Bogoria was an amazing natural spectacle. We stayed at the Fig  Campsite (GPS coordinates: N0 11.545 E36 07.371) which consisted only of big fig trees (directly at the lake), many monkeys and a fireplace. We were totally alone again. The next morning we did a nice walk through the bushes along the lake to the hot springs. It was bubbling and steaming everywhere. On the west side of the lake there were thousands of flamingos. They felt a bit disturbed when we got closer, but luckily through that we got some great shots from colorful flying birds.
Outside of Lake Bogoria National Reserve we camped at a Bogoria Spa Hotel with swimming pool (GPS coordinates: N0 21.268 E36 03.114). Also on this campsite there were many Marabous, Ostriches and monkeys. It was a pleasure watching them during breakfast. However the monkeys were a pain in the as! Firstly a monkey stole a banana from a box in our car (but that was just funny). Secondly a group of monkeys took apart the garbage and distributed the smelly stuff on and next to our car. However the absolute highlight was, that we woke up at 05:00 in the morning from a splashing noise on our roof tent. In the first moment we thought that it started raining. But no way: A monkey was sitting comfortably on a tree and was peeing and then shitting right on our tent. How lucky we were that we just put up the rain protection one day earlier. Not imaginable what otherwise would have happened. Since then we are not friends with monkeys anymore and we keep them far away.
After we cleaned up we continued our journey over beautiful mountains towards the border to Uganda. We had to stay one more night at a backyard of a guest house. There were no campsites around and bush camping was not possible because there were too many people living in this area.
Altogether we can say that Kenya has beautiful landscapes and additionally we also liked the Kenyan’s very much. The people were very friendly, funny and respectful and everyone spoke very well English. The school system in Kenya is well developed. It is for free for all the kids until the ninth grade. Only books, school uniforms and exercise books need to be financed individually. We saw a lot of school signs all over Kenya and we were deeply impressed.

Our Highlights:

  • The rough but beautiful Lake Turkana route
  • The photo shooting at Lake Turkana
  • The Flora and Faua of Samburu National Park
  • The shopping paradise Nirobi
  • The wild beauty of Lake Naivasha
  • Mountainbiking at Hells Gate National Park
  • The natural spectacle at Lake Bogoria National Reserve
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Hello Money – English

All the way through Ethiopia. From the beautiful hilly North, over Addis Ababa to the Kenyan border.  Over high mountains, fascinating monasteries as well as magnificent landscapes. And the question: Is begging in Ethiopia a national sport?
After the last night in Sudan the Ethiopian border welcomed us like a slap in our face. Everyone without any exception was holding out their hands. The customs officers only wanted to do their job for additional money. The helpers, the kids and all the others were asking for money, pens, food, cloths, exercise books, etc. Only few kilometers from the border some kids were throwing the first stones at our car. Just a general explanation: Throwing stones at each other seems to be part of the Ethiopian culture in some areas and is not only meant for tourists who don’t want to donate something.  We saw locals throwing stones at each other when they were angry. Even their animals got the stone punishment when they did something wrong. We were accompanied with the stone throwing almost on all roads until the Omo Valley in the South of Ethiopia. We in our car were pretty safe compared to motor bikers and especially cyclists.

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Initially we were planning to drive all the way through to Lake Tana. However the procedure at the customs took quite long and we decided spontaneously to bush camp together with our biker friends Igor and Johannes in a beautiful hilly area about 30 km before Lake Tana. As soon as we parked our Toyota and the motorbikes more and more children eyes were staring at us silently and curiously. Even though it got darker and darker the children wouldn’t leave.  However the later it got the more begging went on. At one point we were so desperate that we gave them bread, fruits and pens. We knew that this was the worst mistake tourists can make in a developing country. Successful begging will educate them to ask even harder next time. In our case it only rescued the evening because we got rid of them one by one. However the next morning at sunrise at 5:00 am the kids were back and asked more of the gifts we gave them the night before. In addition their hands were everywhere. We could not help but pack our stuff and leave without even having a cup of coffee. For the goodbye we got again stones thrown on our car. This was the first and last time we did bush camping in Ethiopia. We must add that the people in this area do not starve. There is efficient farming and enough to eat. Apparently begging became a habit.
Via Gonder we drove to the Simien Montains on that day. We reached our camp at 2800 m altitude after a very wild off-road tour. At the ticket office we had to hire a scout, because this is the national park rule.  We were quite disappointed when we found out that the scout did not speak one word of English. He did not even react to our question “what’s your name”. Additionally he has not seen a shower for a long long time. In spite of freezing temperatures we were only able to continue our way with open windows. Nonetheless he was fully armed in order to protect us from wild animals or gangsters (we have seen neither the one nor the other). We also could not convince him to go inside a hut instead of sitting next to our car for the entire night at minus temperatures. The Simien Mountains were very beautiful with a magnificent landscape. We spent the next day’s surrounded by a wild, exotic, natural mountain beauty.  Between capricorn’s, baboon’s, fern forests and palm trees we climbed up to 4430 meters.
Via Debark at the bottom of the Simien Mountains, we continued our way to Axum. We drove over adventurous but breathtaking passes, however terribly bad roads. In Ethiopia all streets are packed with people who are walking (everybody seems to be always on their feed and walking all the time). In addition little children were playing adventurously at the streets and waving wildly and excitedly at us while shouting “youyouyouyou” or “birr birr birr birr” (local currency) or “hello money”, etc. We were not even able to stop for one minute without being hassled by them. Little by little the streets in the North will be constructed (mainly by Chinese). We saw many women and kids working on the construction sites.
We managed to reach Axum in one day. Axum was the original capital of the eponymous Aksum Kingdom. Axum was a naval and trading power and ruled the region from 400 BC to the 10th century. Axum is up until today one of the most important and holiest places of the Orthodox Christians in Ethiopia. However we both did not find the city and the sights very exciting. After one day sightseeing of the up to 33 meters high stelae’s (their weight is more than 500 tons), the museum, few churches and the bath of the queen of Shaba’s we drove to the monastery Debre Damo. This monastery is situated on a rock plateau and can only be reached by climbing up the 30 meter upright rock wall. Only a leather rope holds the visitors. Unfortunately only men have access to this monastery and Viktoria had to wait at the bottom. Up there the time seems to stand still.  It seems that not much has changed since the 6th century. Die small huts and the monastery however are nor very spectacular. However the view over the mountains all the way to Eritrea is breathtaking.
One day later we reached Lalibela. The rough drive went again on bad roads, over beautiful passes and magnificent landscapes (200 km took us 8 hours). Lalibela (also called New-Jerusalem) is known for their rock churches and is one of the holiest cities in Ethiopia as well as the center of pilgrimage for much of the country. The massive churches are very impressive. The few story high churches were built in the 12th and 13th century and were literally carved out of the rocks. Today the churches belong to the UNESCO world heritage sites. Lalibela was the first place in Ethiopia where we could relax a bit. A tourist development and education program thought the locals how to treat tourists – hence not to hassle them and not beg for money etc. That was a pleasure for us.
We drove from Lalibela to Bahir Dar at Laka Tana after two days. Bahir Dar is a very green, nice and exotic village situated at the South of the lake. Lake Tana is known for the island monasteries of the Christian Orthodox Church from the 14th Century. We visited three of these beautiful monasteries. The colorful pictures demonstrate the religious story. According to our tour guide the majority population was illiterate in the 14th century and the picture facilitated the communication of the religious story. Apart from the monasteries we especially enjoyed the soft boat ride. We even saw a hippopotamus on the way.
We were able to drive in one day from Bahir Dar to Addis Ababa on a relatively well kept tarmac road. At Wims New Holland House in Addis (GPS coordinates N9 00.589 E38 45.318) we were very happy to meet our friends from England, Dee and James and our biker friends Igor and Johannes again and celebrated Christmas together. Wims the owner is Dutch and has a solution or answer for any problem or question. In addition Wims New Holland House is an overlander camp were all people meet who are on the way to North or South. We also met further interesting people, on their way to South Africa.
Addis Ababa was packed with running errands. We got the visa at the Kenyan Embassy (GPS coordinates: N9 01.945 E38 46.994), the Commessa Insurance for our car (GPS coordinates N15 35.851 E32 31.624), the stamps for our Carnet de Passage at the Customs and Road Authority (GPS coordinates N9 00.874 E38 47.969. That was the only chance to get the administrational work done as we drove the Turkana Lake route and there are no customs hence no proper border. In addition we filled up our food stock and we could not believe to find Italian specialties in almost all shops we went, e.g. Panetone, pasta, mortadella, parmesan, etc. Good for us, that the Italians left their colonial tracks thoroughly and substantially. We were anyway surprised to get fresh vegies and fruits all over Ethiopia, sometimes also in small villages. We might have been lucky to be in Ethiopia at the right time for fruits and vegies. At an altitude of 3000 meters farmers even sold us their carrots at the window of our car. These were the best carrots we ever had.
One day before our departure we did a short interview with two employees of the Institute for Sustainable Development. The development project has the goal to spread and implement “best practice” technics among farmers. Because of the climate change farmers have to change their methods in order to produce more effectively and in order not to starve. This is especially important as more than 85% of the Ethiopians are working in farming. Farming goods are also one of the most important export goods.
After three days Addis Abeba we were heading off to Omo Valley. We drove via Butajira and Sodo. The streets were very good for a change. In Konso we were very lucky with our accommodation. We stayed at a fantastic lodge close to Konso in the middle of the countryside (GPS coordinates N9 00.874 E38 47.969). The owner is half Swiss and furnished the lodge with an interior design from Yemen and local fabrics and materials. In the evening we had a fantastic dinner at his restaurant.
We continued our way to Tumi the next day because we wanted to celebrate New Year’s Eve with all the overlander’s we have met at Wims in Addis. And it was a good idea because we had a lot of fun with a group of twelve people. Unfortunately Michael and Jeldau from Holland were a bit late because they had two flat tires about 40 km away from Tumi. When we heard about that at about 20:00 h two people of our group organized replacements and “rescued” them immediately.
Omo Valley has not only magnificent landscapes, but there are also some of the most fascinating and colorful ethnic tribes in Africa. However the tribe villages are very touristy and it rather feels like a visit in a zoo. Beside that tourists can only go there with a scout and a tour guide for a hell of a lot of money. They charge additionally to the scout and tour guide fees, entrance- and photo fees. We decided not to go to these villages as we are on the way towards South and we will see many more different ethnic tribes for free. So we only stopped by at one “Hammer-Tribe” village spontaneously and saw some more people of different tribes on the road on our way to Kenia.
The border crossing to Kenia went very smooth and was done within ten minutes as we already did all the formalities in Addis Ababa.
In summary we can say that we really enjoyed the beautiful, fascinating, hilly landscapes of Ethiopia in spite of terribly rough roads. However the Ethiopians were really a hassle. As already mentioned the locals even greeted us with “Hello Money” or with “You have to give me money!” It seems like that the people got really used to help from outside and this might be the reason why they are begging everyone that does not look like an Ethiopian. No doubt the country is very poor. Many people live and conduct their farms like 3000 years ago. We have not even seen one tractor on our way from the North to the South. The farmers were all working with wooden pitchforks and animals like bulls or donkeys. There seems to be something wrong with the development aid in Ethiopia. It seems like that Ethiopia gets more development aid support than all the other African countries. We saw in every single village (even the smallest village’s) minimum one sign of a development aid project. You can definitely find every possible development aid organization in Ethiopia. In Addis Ababa one of the best and most expensive hotels Africa’s is located. We have heard that employees of development aid organizations stay there. In addition these employees cruise around with the latest models and the most expensive four wheel drive vehicles. It is difficult for us to understand why in the east side of the country one of the worst starvation catastrophe is  going on right now in spite of successful harvests and a sufficient rainy season. We did not travel to the east side of the country because of the very bad roads as well as we did not want to get too close to the Somalian border for security reasons.

Our Highlights:

  • The fascinating landspaces of Ethiopia
  • The magnificent beauty of the Simien Mountains
  • The impressive rock churches of Lalibela
  • The lovely and exotic village Bahir Dar
  • The beautiful island monasteries on Lake Tana
  • The various colourful ethnic tribes at Omo Valley
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The Patience Test

We will never forget the ferry crossing experience of the Nasser Lake from Egypt to Sudan, even though we would like to. After we were already waiting for one week, there was just a big mess short time before our departure: The pontoon full of holes was repaired temporarily with wet cement only in the morning of our departure. In addition, all off of a sudden the captain of the pontoon had a week off, except the amount of “bakshish” (tip) could convince him to work. We couldn’t help but collecting some money from our tour members from England, Germany, Italy and Australia and at the end we were successful in convincing him to postpone his vacation.

Finally on Monday, 29th of November we drove our Toyota on the Pontoon, hoping that the fresh wet cement will hold. We left our Toyota with a last wave and went on the passenger ferry. The passenger ferry was not really equivalent to a luxury boat, but was rather a rusty old barge endangered to sink shortly. The next twenty hours we had to share the “luxury barge” squeezed in with a countless number of people from Egypt, Sudan, Libya as well as hundreds of bag’s, suitcase’s, TV’s, washmachine’s and all kinds of other strange stuff. This was really a long border crossing from Assuan (Egypt) to Wadi Halfa (Sudan).
We received some compensation at the moment we touched Sudanese ground. The Sudanese people were just lovely and welcomed us warmhearted. Our initial distrust was totally wrong because the Sudanese people did not want to sell something or cheating on us like their Egyptian neighbors. They were just friendly and even the prices in the shops were absolutely correct. This was just a pleasure after four weeks Egypt.
However one day after the other we got more and more desperate because the pontoon did not arrive on the second day as promised nor on the third or on the fourth day. We were not even able to get in touch with the captain. The worst case scenario was already in our head – our Toyota on the bottom of the Nasser Lake. We were so relieved when our “bush taxi” finally arrived at the harbor of Wadi Halfa on the fifth day. The reason for the delay was the badly repaired hole as well as the fact that the pontoon was dreadfully overloaded. The pontoon was lying very deeply in the water and drove slowly like a snail. In addition a lot of water went into the pontoon. The only way we could get distracted during that waiting period was just with eating tons of falafels, drinking a lot of tea and coffee as well as having exciting conversations with our travel companions. These were Mick from Dragoman Overlanders from Australia, Dee and James from England as well as Igor and Johannes from Germany www.zweidurchafrika.de. They are on the road with a lorry, a land cruiser and motorbikes . We shared a lot of information and experiences and laughed a lot while we were waiting patiently for the pontoon to arrive.
During that time we also met Barbara and Franz (www.stoerch-besel.de.tl). The couple drove all the way from Cape Town to Wadi Halfa with their mountain bikes and have already managed 9000 km. They want to go further to Egypt. Needless to say they looked incredibly fit and shared their exciting experiences with us. They were kind enough to give us their Sudanese SIM Card. In Sudan it is possible to surf in the internet for only 0,18 Euro for the entire day. This is possible with mobile reception.
Unfortunately we were only able to pick up our car on the next day because all of a sudden the computers at the customs did not work anymore. And we were waiting again patiently. On Sunday, the 5th of December, the sixth day after our arrival, we were able to drive our car out of the harbor. The first thing we did was getting water and buying groceries at the farmers market (yes, it is possible to buy strawberries in the middle of the dessert) and then we went immediately into deep sand. We drove about 300 km South along a deserted railway road through the Nubian dessert. Beautiful off road-driving, taking showers with 360 degree panorama view as well as campfire and sleeping under thousands of stars made our days.

On the third day we reached Abu Hamed, the first city at the Nile, where we filled our tanks thirstily. We went further towards South along the Nile between Atbara and the pyramids of Meroe. In a small valley off the road we did bush camping. The next morning we visited the beautiful pyramids of Meroe and met coincidentally our friends from England Dee and James. We decided spontaneously to drive the temple trail around Musawwarat together. In the evening again relaxing campfire and this time intercultural exchange with “excellent British Earl Grey Tea”. The Temple trail contains well-kept temples and we drove through stunning landscapes, passed by small villages, wells as well as wild camels. In the afternoon we reached Khartum.
Firstly we went to the German Embassy to get an entrance letter for our car to Ethiopia. However we learned that the letter is not necessary anymore and it was like that at the Ethiopian border. Afterwards we drove directly to the National Camp Ground. The camp ground manager helped us to get rid of the dust of our car. We cleaned the car directly in front the mosque. We were very happy to coincidentally meet our biker friends Johannes and Igor there. The following two days passed by with running errands, e.g. washing, cleaning, servicing of our car, etc. One highlight in Khartum were the dancing Derwishes. Every Friday afternoon, the Derwishes meet in front of a big mosque at the cemetery Hamid El-Nile Tomb (GPS Koordinaten N15 37.588 E32 27.773) for singing, drumming, dancing, laughing and talking. It did not take long until we were also captivated by them. It was nice to experience one part authentic Africa.
The next morning we left Khartum together with Igor and Johannes and our English friends Dee and James towards Ethiopian border. The first night, we did bush camping directly at a river on a field with tons of dried cowpats. We realized that the cowpats are just perfect for campfires if there is no wood available. The next morning we continued our way to the border. We had to bush camp again 30 km before the boarder because the customs were already closed for the day. This time we stayed next to a well. As we noticed the next morning the well serves water for the surrounded inhabitants and their animals. When we woke up, we were surrounded by herds of sheep’s, goats and camels as well as some people. They all wanted to quench thirst for the day. The people were watching us respectfully from a distance and were waving at us shyly.
We got to know the North Sudan only with lovely, helpful and honest people. For us it is difficult to understand, that only view kilometers away there is still a terrible war going on – more or less between their own people. For security reasons it is not possible for tourist to travel from North Sudan to South Sudan. Therefore we might try at a later stage to travel to South Sudan via Uganda or Kenya.

Highlights

  • The beauty of the Nubian Dessert
  • The lovely pyramids of Meroe
  • The impressive temple trail with stunning landscapes
  • Bush camping at a well just before the Ethiopian border
  • The honest and lovely Sudanese people