Veröffentlicht am

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.

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

Veröffentlicht am

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!

[satellite post_id=4619]

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
Veröffentlicht am 3 Kommentare

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.

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
Veröffentlicht am 2 Kommentare

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
Veröffentlicht am 2 Kommentare

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.

[satellite]

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
Veröffentlicht am

At home in Egypt

Luxor was like diving into another world. The city and the surroundings offer stunning sights. Our favorite sights were the very well preserved temples (e.g. Karnak, etc.) as well as the tombs with beautiful wall paintings (Tutankhamun) in the Valley of the Kings. The absolute highlight was a hot-air balloon flight at sunrise over the Valley of the Kings and Hatschepsud temple for reasonable 350 LE (approx. 40 Euro).

However Luxor is a place full of contrasts. The locals try to surround their beautiful sights with as much noise as possible. Not only the muezzins warble the entire day from oversized loud speakers but also local oriental music entertains the entire city. You cannot escape. Since the tourism declined, an endless number of Nile cruisers are just waiting deserted on the river side. And the little numbers of tourists who are still in Luxor are chased by the locals.

[satellite]

Luckily we met the tour guide Tony from Dragoman Overlanders in our Rezeiky camp. The Overlanders are a group of 20 travelers and drive the route Cairo – Cape Town in their small lorry. Tony was kind enough to submit our passports and Sudan visa forms at the Sudan consulate in Assuan. This gave us extra time in Luxor and especially facilitated our visa application process enormously. It usually takes a minimum of seven days.

After four days Luxor we drove to Aswan to get the ferry ticket and our Sudan visa. On the way we visited the temple “Horus” which is the best preserved temple in Egypt. In Aswan we stayed at the Isis hotel directly at the Nile river. That was peaceful and quiet. The next morning we coincidently met our motor bike friends, Susi, Mark and Tom again at the Nile Valley Cooperation. We saw them the last time in Little Petra in Jordan. Small World! We were very happy to see them and had to share a lot of experiences and stories. In order to get the ferry ticket we needed a police statement from the traffic court first. That confirms that we did not cause any accident and followed all traffic rules (which rules?) in Egypt. However when we got back to the Nile Valley Cooperation Mr. Salah told us that the “Pontoon” (our car has to go on that to Sudan) is still in Wadi Haifa (Sudan) and we shall come back tomorrow because “Inshallah” he might find a solution for our problem. Of course when we got there the next morning there was “Inshallah” still no solution and we had to come back on Saturday one week later! At least we finally got the Sudan Visa on that day after waiting at the Sudan consulate for five hours.

Up until today there is only a ferry connection between Egypt and Sudan at a very high price (online or pre-bookings are not possible). Even though a connecting street is almost finished (only 10 km have been missing for a while!), the two countries cannot find an agreement. However a street connection would also mean that the ferry company would not make any money anymore!

In order not to waste our time in Aswan we spontaneously drove to Marsa Alam at the Red Sea for snorkeling and diving. We spent our time at the diving spot Beach Safari Camp (GPS coordinates N25 11.767 E34 49.009).  It was beautiful but windy and chilly. On Friday the 25th of November we drove back to Aswan and booked ourselves a very nice hotel room at the Philae Hotel (GPS coordinates N24 05.357 E32 53.668). The hotel is lovely, has a beautiful view and is very clean and neat. In the afternoon the hotel owner invited us to a barbeque at his property directly at the Nile river. It was great for us to see a different site from Egypt.

And the next morning on the 26th of November – same game! We went to the Nile Valley Cooperation and Mr. Salah told us immediately that this time the pantoon crashed on the way to Aswan and can only be repaired in three days because there are public holidays in Egypt (again!). However we shall come back tomorrow and “inshallah” he will find a solution. The overlander lorry including Tom, the driver, also got stuck in Aswan (their 20 travelers took a ferry one week earlier). It was possible for Tom to put a lot of pressure on the ferry company because they are doing this tour all the time and make a lot of business with them. And what a surprise, all of a sudden the next morning (on the 27th of November) there was a slight change in the situation. Mr. Salah all of a sudden told us (after he sent us back again for a few hours) that there is a third pontoon, that is smaller and can take our cars tomorrow. What a nightmare!

We will tell you more about the ferry ride in our next blog….”Inshallah”…

Our impressions about Egypt

After four weeks of driving through Egypt we are slowly feeling like being at home. Suddenly we do not measure the locals with European expectations anymore. We do not want to improve everything because we know how it works. No, we only want to flow with this huge mass of people, odours and noises. We are even able to continue sleeping next to the noisy “chanting” of the muezzins at 04.30 h in the morning. Additionally we are well aware that we always play at least the double of the price compared to the locals and we just tolerate it with a smile.

The 80 million Egyptians have to go through a hard time at the moment. Since the revolution the tourism (which is a main source of income for the economy) has dropped enormously. At the same time the cost of living went up a lot. In addition the political and the legal environment became very unclear and insecure. On one hand we are lucky that we do not need to share the beautiful country with a lot of other tourists, however on the other hand we realize that the people are desperately looking for visitors to sell their services – to be honest, most of them just got on our nerves.

Interesting is the development of the two major groups in Egypt. There are the Muslims on the one hand. Since September 11th they have been able in general to strengthen their power and since the revolution in particular. On the other hand there are the Christian Coptic’s. For them life is getting more and more difficult. We talked to a few of them and they are really scared of the future.  For most of them they don’t see any Future in Egypt.

We travelled through a country that used to live under a dictatorship for decades and is now going through a big change. No one knows what the future is going to be.

Our Highlights:

  • The beautiful temples of Luxor (Karnak, etc.) and the Valley of the Kings
  • A hot air balloon flight  over Luxor’s sights
  • The very well preserved Horus temple
  • The challenging Sudan ferry booking and long waiting period
  • Snorkeling in Marsa Alam, Red Sea

Who wants to win a personal post card from Sudan?

Please write a funny comment under these blog.  The most hilarious answer will win and will get a personal post card (as funny as the email is) from us. We will inform the winner via email and we then just need the postal address.