Thursday, 1 December 2011

Back to the real world?

It was very sad to end the journey so suddenly but the others needed to get a move on and it was just too depressing to sit around not continuing so 2 days later we took a flight to South Africa.
What a shock - no one carrying large guns, everywhere clean and organised. A week later we are just about acclimatised to a non travelling way of life again but we do have the prospect of a further few months next year when we return to Uganda to collect the vehicle.
At least it will give us the opportunity to return to some of the organisations we visited now.
Peter and Mandy

Parting of the Ways

A couple of days without driving gave us time to reflect on what next. Very reluctantly we decided that not all of us could continue. Mandy had suffered quite badly from altitude problems whilst in the Ugandan Highlands. Going on into Ethiopia would exacerbate the problem. We had been only 60 hours at about 2400m and going into Ethiopia would mean coping with even higher altitudes for a much longer period. Decided a heart attack or whatever was just not worth it. Imagine the consequences. The film where grandmother dies and spends the rest of the journey across the states in a chair on top of the car came to mind!

After much agonising we decided to part. Sarah and Chris and the children to continue north and we would leave the truck in Uganda and fly to Franschhoek for a couple of weeks then home to UK for Christmas. We would then return next year to rescue said vehicle, turn around and drive south.

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Back to Kampala

Leaving Bwindi Impenetrable Forest we made slow progress towards Kampala. First obstacle was the most appalling roads you can imagine. After crawling at snails pace for hours we changed route and headed towards Ishasha, home of tree climbing lions. Someone had told us this was a good road! After a night in the park guarded by 2 fully armed Ugandan soldiers(we are on the border with Congo) we set off to look for the lions. This time no luck so we continued on towards Kampala.

Better road? A most definite NO! After a few hours we came across road works building a new bridge across the river. Three lorries were stuck on the opposite bank. Great despair as not getting across meant back tracking 2 days on the appalling roads. However, luck was on our side and it was decided that we would be allowed to try getting across. Main work stopped whilst everyone threw large stones onto the bank to try to shore it up. Pete Eventually managed to drive across with a host of workers all shouting different directions - go left, straight on, go right etc. With about an inch to spare he managed to get across. Huge relief!
After this we had a few uneventful hours until the final disaster of the day when Peter misjudged the height of an entrance gate and and managed to end up with an additional roof on the lorry!

Not one of our most successful days!

Anyway Kampala was reached the next day and the awaited shock absorbers delivered. Whoopee.

Friday, 25 November 2011

And Rattie came too

Having more or less recovered from our stomach bugs Mandy and I set off for a few peaceful days travelling through Uganda. As everyone says an amazing place very unlike most of Africa, beautiful scenery and everything so lush. We camped at the side of 2 different lakes and then set off for Bwindi to meet up with Sarah and Chris. Against the advice of the guys at the camp we took the scenic route. They turned out to be right - the road was very narrow but I only once hit a rock cliff and once lost a back wheel off the edge of the road.
Back in Kampala we had realised that we had a fellow traveller (droppings, half eaten bananas etc) and after various attempts with mouse traps and sticky stuff we thought we had got rid of him. However when we got back to Kampala after Bwindi we started to get a dreadful smell. Sarah eventually found him underneath our mattress,we must have been sleeping on him for days. Ugh!!! The story of the princess and the pea comes to mind. Mandy is most obviously NOT a princess!
It took several days of washing bedding, cleaning cushions etc etc. Even now the smell still lingers slightly. Moral be careful you do not camp in rat infested camp sites.

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Charity Update - Sanyu Babies Home, Kampala

We spent a few days at Sanyu Babies Home helping to look after the children. There are currently 49 babies resident in the home varying in age from 1 day old to 4 years old. When we arrived the children were playing outside and ran to see us with big smiling faces. Our first impression was that the children were happy, clean and cared for. We had a chat with Barbara the administrator who gave us a background to the home and the present children. She gave us our shopping list of things they required - nappies, toilet tissue, washing powder, baby milk, cooking oil, margarine and Milton. Not an extravagant list just essentials. Following this she said we were very welcome to have a look around, stay and help etc. Florence, Tilly, Nia and myself stayed and arranged to be picked up later. Barbara had said evening meal was always busy and as many volunteers were needed as possible. We spent an hour holding various babies, playing with them and calming them. Florence walked around with various babies whilst Nia rocked them in their only pushchair and Tilly played with those in their cots.
Dinner time came around and we were told to take the babies through to the dining area. I have never seen so many high chairs, low chairs and benches in one place! The staff knew exactly where the children sat and we were instructed where to put each baby dependent upon age. The older age group sat on low high chairs and were given their meal of potato and g nut to eat by hand. The younger ones were then placed in higher benches after which we were given a bowl of potato and g nut and a spoon and told to feed 4 babies each. Florence and I set to work feeding four babies each giving a spoonful to one at a time. Once this was finished bottles of milk came and again we were given two bottles to feed 2 babies and then start on another two etc.
After evening meal those that could walked into the changing room, took off their clothes and then went into the bathroom and sat on a potty. It was quite a sight! The younger babies we were given to strip, clean with wet wipes and then dress for bed. We used disposable nappies on some and others had just a piece of cloth which we tied at the front and then some waterprof pants over the top. Big piles of clothes were brought out for us to dress the babies. Nia Florence and I set to work stripping , cleaning and dressing the babies. Once dressed we had to ask the name of the baby and then locate the cot and place them in pull over their mosquito net and start again. Once we had finished with the smaller babies we then had those who were on the potties to deal with. They had a shower then came running in wet ready to be dried and dressed. The older of these children stayed up a little longer.
In the middle of all this Thomas and Chris came to collect us but we were still knee deep in babies and toddlers all needing dressing etc. Consequently both Thomas and Chris set to work.
I was really conscious of wanting to interact with each child and treat treat them like a part on a conveyor belt. They were all really happy, wanted cuddles and very responsive which was lovely to see, just heart breaking listening to their horror stories, and not being able to give them all attention when they wanted it.
We eventually left the home when all were either in bed or ready for bed with our own children desperate to go back to help at breakfast the next morning which of course we did.
Breakfast ran very similarly to evening meal after which the potty / bath / dress scenario was repeated. Instead of going to bed at this point we started the trips to the 3 classrooms at the back of the building. It took quite a few trips to deliver all the children! Whilst I walked back and forth Thomas and Florence stayed in the youngest classroom to play with the children.
The home relies heavily on volunteers, in the evening there were only 4 or so of their staff to feed bath etc 49 babies.
We helped for another meal or two and delivered their wish list of nappies, milk, oil etc. in two parts for which Barbara and the staff were incredibly appreciative and grateful. We have been given a card of thanks for all those who have donated money. The reasons for the children ending up in this home are truly awful but the home does provide a safe and happy community for them. Hope all well? Just to let you know spent very wet night up in mountains, actually second wet night in a row! They try to reunite the babies with their families if at all possible but otherwise are managing to find adoptive or foster homes for the others both nationally and internationally. the home is run in a very organised manner where all the children are looked after. It is just very sad that these little babies don't get the attention they need in terms of affection and personal interaction. The home provides as much as it can but relies on volunteers to help out and to donate goods and clothes, all of which we did thank you very much to all of you who so generously donated before we left UK.
Sent from my iPhone

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Visit to Aquinoe Learning Centre

Aquinoe Learning Centre in Kigale, Northern Kenya, has been established for several years and has  support from the Aquinoe Trust in UK. There are about 220 pupils from 3 years to about 19 years within which there are about 40 children with disabilities.  The philosophy of the school is that handicapped children are to be integrated within a normal school environment – a seeming rarity in Africa where the view is still very much that any handicap is to be hidden away.
From memory there were about 100 boarders including all the children with a disability.  Of the 100 a number were orphans and so lived at the school permanently. 
Aquinoe had recently provided the school with a new building for the special needs children including a physiotherapy room. The only equipment though was a large “roll on” ball and a small bed.
Many of the children with disabilities had mobility problems and moving around in the thick mud was a challenge for even able bodied.
We had been asked to donate some food – maize and beans. The cost of living in Kenya has increased dramatically in the last year and so the school was finding it difficult to feed the children.  Only the boarders ate at lunchtime. Children who lived nearby went home but others just had to do without as there was no money to pay for their lunch.
When we arrived the school had been disconnected from electricity because of non payment of bills so we agreed to donate an amount to get this reconnected as well as a sum towards the water account.
In all, on behalf of all our contributors, we passed on the following:
20 bags maize
5 bags beans
Ksh 37,000 towards water and electricity accounts
Footballs, skipping ropes, hoops
Assorted small “noise” toys for the younger children with a disability
Two trikes that could be used for leg strengthening excercise
Misc educational items, toilet rolls
We also personally sponsored 2 of the children. A 14 year old and a 19 year old. The older girl was an orphan with no other home than the school. She has severe problems and apparently came into the school following rape and being left for dead.

Dormitory - not all the children have their own bed 

Admiring the Library

The  kitchen

Struggling in the mud

Happy faces

More Pictures

Florence, Nia and Travelling Ted at the Equator

Birds in Masai Mara

Cheetahs in the Masai Mara

Children at Aquinoe Centre

Diani Beach

Mount Kilimanjaro

The Jungle Junction mudbath in Nairobi

Giraffes fighting in the Masai Mara

Flamingoes in Kenya

Lioness with kill and cub in the Masai Mara

Struggling in the mud at the Aquinoe Centre

Traffic chaos at the Kenyan border

Falls at the mouth of the White Nile Jinja
Being holed up in the Kampala Sheraton has at least given me time to sort out some more pictures.

Saturday, 12 November 2011

5 Days in Uganda

Finally getting through the border we drove towards Jinja to be beaten by nightfall. We ended up in "The Executive Hotel". Pete and I and 2 children to spend the night in the truck in the hotel car park   "guarding" vehicles. The others took 2 en suite rooms. Problem was no water and no electricity. Sarah declined the option of walking off with bucket on head to collect water! For this privelege we paid US$46 each room!
At least it was a relatively secure place and an early getaway meant we were in Jinja by mid morning although due to a good deal of local misinformation it took us a further 3 hours to find a campsite. A beautiful area by the waterfall at one of the sources of the Nile.
We met up with Rhys from Soft Power, another charity we had made contact with and donated the last of the footballs and a few other items. Quite an impressive organisation. Again more detail to follow.

We then moved onto Kampala. Camp sites in major cities are definitely to be avoided! The advantage was that the camp site we were in was very near to Sanyuu, the babies home we were to visit.
Several visits to the home were made and quantities of milk powder, nappies, wipes, toilet rolls donated. Sarah and the children spent several meal and bed times helping out. It was apparently a production line, even Nia(age 4) at one point was bottle feeding 2 babies. Imagine social services reaction in UK but with only 4 staff on duty reliance has to be placed on whatever volunteers are available.

We have seen so much poverty and deprivation but the babies home was well run, clean and the 49 babies happy and cared for although rescources were obviously stretched. We had several bags of clothes donated back in the UK which we passed on mainly to the babies home. A full report of the visit and photographs willl be posted shortly.

We still await the shock absorbers from the UK. TNT held onto them for 6 days before deciding they couldn't deliver to Uganda so FEDEX has now been enlisted. Thanks to Andy from Autofast for sorting. A very useful and efficient source of spares if anyone is in need. Hopefully next week they will arrive and we can continue north. In the meantime Sarah and co are at Lake Victoria and Pete and I (both suffering from some bug) are ensconsed in a hotel in Kampala.

We are finding Uganda very strange compared to everywhere else we have been. Every other international visitor seems to be involved in some form of charity or aid work. In Malawi and Zambia where we saw appalling poverty we  met only the occassional one.

Friday, 4 November 2011

Ugandan / Kenyan border

At the Ugandan / Kenyan Border

As I write we have been at the border for nearly 3 hours. The first sign of problems was the 9 km stretch trucks waiting along the approach. We had been warned earlier in the day to use a "Mr Fixer" and given a contact. A good suggestion. We were inundated by would be Helpers but could at least use a recommended! Apparently all we need now is a receipt for the hundreds dollars just paid but the electricity doesn't last long enough to print!

Some good photos of the road chaos to be posted later.
A high spot for once has not being mobbed. Just 4 boys asking if we had a book for them. We managed to persuade Thomas and Florence to oblige and they are now sat on a wall avidly reading. At least something useful we have done and cheers the heart.

However to return to the beginning from the last blog.
We all spent a few days at the beach in Diane, near Mombassa and then made our way back again to Nairobi. After much screaming on my part we managed to finally take delivery of the replacement shock absorber.

Great excitement to be replaced soon afterwards with gloom. With purchase, courier fees and duties we had paid nearly £300 and the shock absorber was broken. Not much option but to try again. In the meantime we decide to risk the broken part and plough onto Aquinoe Learning Centre via Lake Baggoria.
What amazing scenery in northern Kenya. Again photos posted later although heavy rain dampened the views.

Yesterday we visited Aquinoe School. I will write a full report of our visit separately in the next charity update but we as in the past all felt totally inadequate. On behalf of all our donors we paid for some food, an outstanding electric bill, which meant that the school could be reconnected and a few items for the school, mainly items for the special needs children.

And so today we were aiming to reach Jinga in Uganda. However, more time has passed and we still await the necessary receipt to drive on! Patience!
Sent from my iPad

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Now we can move on or maybe not!

Passports collected we plan the next part of the journey - back to Tanzania and the Serengeti, onto Rwanda and Uganda and into Northern Kenya. Now all starts to unravel again. A routine check of the truck and broken shock absorber is discovered. Are any available locally - you guessed NO so again a courier job from UK. Decision is now made to go to the coast for a few days. Pete and I, having no truck to travel or bed to sleep decide to fly to Mombassa and join Emma and family in the villa they hired after the |Masai Mara. The others brave the road again and drive down.
Must say a few days at the beach will be very much appreciated by the younger ones and as for uswe cant wait for all trhat seafood. Heard Emma was sitting on the beach today eating crab. tomorrow its us and meantime a night in a hotel in Nairobi.
The only other blitch on the horizon is the heightened tension because of the terrorist threats here.

Passports Arrive!!

Our passports were stolen back in August. The temporary replacements got us as far as Kenya but now miracle of miracle we finally pick up our "proper" passports complete with Ethiopian visa. Route to get this far goes as follows:
Application for replacement passport sent from Windhoek, Namibia to Pretoria (only place that issues full passports if you are in Southern Africa)
Passports returned 3 weeks later to Namibia FEDEX office. We had arranged that they would then be couriered to UK where our son would get replacement Ethiopian visas.
 No joy -now in Zambia we are told they could only be sent onto a British High Commission. OK Dar es Salaam then it is so more courier fees.
Pick up passports in Dar es Salaam. Ethiopian Embassy will not issue the visa so decide only option is to courier from Nairobi to UK.
Courier from Nairobi to Ethiopian Embassy in UK with prepaid return, turn around service promised. Visa side worked well, DHL did not!
However finally after several phone calls to UK they finally arrive so 2 months after the loss we are now back in posession of passport and visa!!!
Moral - Do not lose your passport!!

Family Excursion to Masai Mara

Now the part where we expand to 13, the original 8 plus Emma, husband Chris and children William (9) Grace (6) and Alfie (3). The excitement (and argument) who would sit where! The boys "bagged" the 2 spare seats in the truck. Again a journey that should have taken 4 to 5 hours took us 7+. Bad roads, the truck missing a turn, drink and "loo" stops all contributed but we did find a camp site before nightfall and had an amazing time. We had planned to spend 3 nights and then move onto Lake Nakaru. A lovely camp site, just outside Talek Gate - Crocodile Camp, masses of game and lethargy persauded us all that we really didn't want to see lake Nakaru. Although we knew we were late to see the migrations we went in pursuit anyway and amazingly nearly managed to see one group of wildebeest and zebra go over the river. We had followed them down to the rivers edge then they decided to amble on. After a few  hours sitting, driving etc we came upon another group which actually did start to go over the river bank. Again not to be - the animals suddenly decided to come back and started running away. You can imagine the childrens reactions. William and Thomas really disappointed that they didnt actually manage to see the crossing. The girls - Florence and Grace, age 6,  upset at the thought of any of the animals being killed by the huge crocodiles waiting, cheered up. Well you can't please them all! I had been a bit sceptical about the Masai Mara - too many tourists etc but was proved wrong. Yes, there were a couple of occassions when there were so many white mini buses viewing some spectacle that it looked as if we were at a bus station, but it was possible to get away from the main tourist groups and we saw so much -
Mating lions (or copulation as the boys describe)
Large prides of lions
Lioness with cubs and kill
Lions with giraffe kill
Cheethas and cubs
Large herds of wildebeest and zebras
Enormous crocodiles
Large numbers of hyenas and hyena kills
etc etc

We have been on safari many times in South Africa, Namibia, Botswana etc but as I read in one guide book  "if you can only have one day of doing a safari in your life time then spend it in the Masai Mara".

Monday, 24 October 2011

And so to Nairobi

Due to meet Emma (daughter) and family we pushed onto Nairobi. We were all ecstatic at the new, deserted road from Amboseli, optimism rose we would be in Nairobi by late lunchtime. We hadn't taken account of driving standards in Kenya! After the initial 100 km or so we joined the main Mombassa - Nairobi highway. Full of trucks on their way to or from Mombassa, the road deteriorating to rough hole filled tracks in places, contractors "mending" the road and worst of all the apparent rules of the road meant that progress slowed to about 30km an hour. A 2 lane road became 5 or even more lanes. What a nightmare. It was more like the dodgems than a road. We eventually made it to a camp site in Nairobi hours later. I (Mandy) was instantly for going into a hotel - it was pouring rain, a muddy small camp site etc. I couldnt find support for this as noone wanted to venture back into the traffic so there we stayed. It didnt improve! The tent and truck leaked. Thomas lay in a pool of water and my side of the bed in the truck was soaked. At least the sun shone later so we could dry everything and effect repairs. Apart from the traffic we found Nairobi amazingly civilized. Lots of shopping malls with all the food we wanted. lots of restaurants  and time to get the washing done, leaks repaired etc. as well as meeting up with Emma and friends. The children were in heaven, cousins to play with and lots of toys at Emma's friends house. All very relaxing.

Sunday, 16 October 2011

Visit to a Masai Village

More Masai village
Masai village
Full marks to one of the Masai villages in the Amboseli! Try to "capture" the tourists on game drives and lure them in! It worked! In actual fact we all found the visit fascinating. We were welcomed with a traditional dance and prayer. This was followed by a fire lighting demonstration - much to Ray Mears delight - alias Chris! The houses were almost loaf shaped, all identical and made of wood and cow dung. They all had 2 rooms - just big enough for a cow hide bed in each. One room for children and one for adults. Between the rooms was a tiny space just big enough for a small fire to cook on. With only one hole about 10 cm long for ventilation the whole house was in virtually total darkness.
The village we visited had 152 members of an extended family and was the main village in a group of 42 others in the area. The chief lived in this village.
There was a small primary school for the group of villages and a pre school. The pre school had 65 children and one teacher but there was no sign of any teaching materials at all, even paper or pencils.

I think we are coming to the conclusion that what is needed in the schools is a supply of the basics - exercise books, pencils and chalk.


Hyena Amboseli
After Ruhana and North and South Luangwe Amboseli was small but easy game viewing. Many, many elephants and even saw several hyenas.

Saturday, 15 October 2011

At last a sight of Kilimanjaro

Kilimanjaro by moonlight
Ten at night and camped just outside Ambroseli finally the clouds lift and we see the mountain. Quite spectacular.

Kilamanjaro it is!

Village near Marangu
We finally left Dar es Salaam by mid afternoon on the saturday - land rover steering fixed. Two days of travelling later we made it to Marangu, the Tanzanian town where the treks up the mountain commence. The scenery definitely had the wow factor although we had our first rain since leaving on August 10th which meant Kilamanjaro was in the clouds. The vegetation was so lush and fertile. It reminded us of the road into the Cameron Highlands in Malaysia. Such a change from heat and dust.
In the hope that the clouds would retreat we decided to follow the road around Kilimanjaro and cross the border to Amboseli in Kenya which we had read had superb views. Time will tell whether we are lucky.

Friday, 7 October 2011


Reluctantly, despite the flies, we dragged ourselves away from Lake Malawi and headed north into Tanzania. After a couple of overnight stops we made it to Ruhaha, one of Tanzanias southern reserves and then finally to Dar es Salaam on tarred roads! Traffic was as bad coming into the city as we had read but with no camp sites easily available we headed to a hotel. Initially we had planned just a couple of days here but yet again the poor old landy had problems. Driving into the hotel car park the steering box collapsed. Ooops! On a positive note at least it happened in a town and not miles away from anywhere.  As eve,r nothing is simple. The parts needed were initially pronounced unavailable in the country or anywhere else nearby so Chris drew the short straw and plans were made for him to fly into UK and make an immediate return with said part. (Leaving the garage to sort was estimated to be 10 days). However, after 3 days a part was sourced and the vehicle is, as I write, hopefully being repaired. At least the enforced stay has given us an opportunity to get laundry done in bulk ( our usual way is a bucket on the roof as we travel) A regular bath is also a treat. Pete and I have welcomed the rest!.We are due to meet up with our daughter, Emma and family in a weeks time in Nairobi, we now have to make the decision which part to miss - the northern coast of Tanzania or Kilamanjaro. Decision still to be made but departure hopefully tomorrow!

Pictures at last

More Hippos

Campsite visitor

Getting trailer onto pontoon

Landy stuck again
Fly catching near Lake Malawi

Elephants in Ruaha

Fly catcher Lake Malawi

Hippo and friends

Village children

Wooden canoe
Baobab Valley Tanzania

Breakfast in the bush


Canoeing in Lake Malawi

Roadside stall

Pictures from various charities

Children at the school in Mpika
Gifts to children at Special Unit in Mpika

Girls Dormitory at Specila Unit Mpika

Classroom Special Unit Mpika

Kitchen at Special Unit Mpika
Chipembele Field Centre

Gifts for Chipembele

Classroom at school in Makuzi

Gifts to Headmaster at school in Makuzi

Classroom for older children Makuzi
108 children in class 1 with one teacher