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

Charities Update

Special Unit for Hearing Impaired in Mpika, Zambia.
> > Fr Muba and 3 staff from the school welcomed us on the outskirts of town and then took us to the school.

> > The headmaster of the 1400 pupil school to which the unit is attached welcomed us and explained that the school operates a "shift system" to accommodate all the pupils. The first thing that caught our attention was a list on his notice board detailing the number of orphans and disadvantaged children. From memory I think around a quarter of the school came into the orphan category.
> > There were 42 children aged 8 to 14 in the unit. They were taught totally separately from the other children although they could mix outside in the grounds. None of the children had a hearing aid and all teaching and communication was by signing. All the staff in the Unit, including the Head Master, had learnt to communicate through this medium. We just wondered how the c hildren survived during the holidays etc. in an aural environment. Apparently the general referral method was through the churches in the region. How we wished we could employ an ENT consultant and audiologist to properly assess these children's needs.
> > The children in the unit come from considerable distances and board at the school for 13 weeks at a time. Unlike the other children in the school, who only attend school for about 3 hours a day on the shift system, the children in the unit have lessons until 5pm each school day.
> > Out of school hours and at weekends 1 house mother is responsible for all 42 children. The children sleep in 2 dormitories, a girls and a boys. Possessions are few and accommodation is very basic. The housemother cooked on an open fire in a shed.
> > We took along some exercise books, pencils, colours, chalk etc etc. We also gave footballs, skipping ropes and frisbies for all the children. As far as we could see these would be their only play things.
> > The staff had decided that they would like to use any money we could donate to rebuild their kitchen. In the state it was in - see photo- in the rainy season cooking was virtually impossible and also they had nowhere to store their wood so it kept getting stolen. On everyone's behalf we made a donation of 8 million kwatcha which equates to about £1000 and then went into the town with Fr Muba and the Headteacher to commence the purchase of the wood, roofing sheets and cement which would be needed.
> > Water was also a huge issue. The school had a bore hole but the pump was broken and trapped at the bottom of the well. This meant that in the dry season when the town water became unavailable the children had to go out into town to collect water from other sources. Apparently they were waiting for a quote to repair the bore hole.
> > We came away wishing we could do so much more, such as provide more staff to look after and occupy the children outside school hours and a new bore hole to provide water. The school was so welcoming towards us and are obviously doing a a fantastic job within the circumstances and finance available.
> Chipembele South Luangwe Zambia
> This was a totally different experience. Set up several years ago by Steve and Anna, retired police officers from the UK, Chipembele educates local children in aspects of conservation and educates the children who visit on a global scale, with the introduction of both local and overseas flora and fauna in an educational, well thought out and resourced setting.
> Steve and Anna are also involved in anti poaching work and also with local schools.
> On behalf of everyone we donated some of the items Anna had requested.
> Franschhoek, Rundu and Lake Malawi
> In addition to the above we donated to three unlisted charities. We had so many kindly donated children's clothes we couldn't carry them all and so gave some to the children's home and local schools in Franschhoek and Paarl. The second was an organisation operated from a camp site in Rundu, Namibia which is working with local schools. Here we handed over exercise books, pencils and children's clothing. The third was a local primary school on the edge of Lake Malawi. We arrived to find the Head Master cutting pencils in half and then sharpening pencils which would be sufficient for just one class. The children were expected to come to school with their own exercise book and pencils but the majority were too poor to do this. How we wished we could have found a shop to buy such basic supplies but the nearest town was Lilongue, a day and half drive away. The class sizes were unreal - 108 six year old children to one teacher and not enough tables and chairs to accommodate them all. The register was a total of boys and girls present for the day written on the board. Again we found a man collating the numbers of orphans in each 'shift'. We gave them all the exercise books, pencils, crayons, rubbers, sharpeners, teaching resources etc. that we had left and every last kwacha (Zambian currency) that we had.

In addition to this we have been handing out pens and pencils in the villages as we have gone along, everywhere we went in Zambia and Malawi the cry was "give me pencil".
> Our next charity visit is not scheduled for a few weeks and we will update in due course.

Sunday, 2 October 2011

Flies in Malawi!

OFSTED over, we departed South Luangwe and headed off into Malawi. After a night in Lilongue we stocked up on necessities and headed off to the lake. As ever we did not make the distance we needed to and so had to camp at the only place we could find - a totally derelict camp site in a howling gale. The gale force winds from the lake were so strong that they lifted the duvet off Mandy and Pete's bed in the truck. The next day we continued up the coast until we stumbled on Makhuzi Lodge. Could have been a Caribbean beach but for the LAKE FLIES! We had heard about these from a television programme but had hoped not to encounter. However the entire four days at this idyllic lodge did mean we had flurries of flies throughout our time. So much so we could literally see clouds of them on the lake coming towards the shore. The locals thought this was great as they spent their time collecting the flies to eat! Whilst here we visited the local village and school. Although we expected conditions in the school to be basic it was really sad to see that they were worse than anyone's expectation. The headmaster proudly showed us around his school including the computer room and library. The computer room had six donated computers but no electricity. The library was in a new building paid for by a Swedish charity, had tables and stools and lots of books, many of which were totally irrelevant, whilst in the classrooms, the numbers exceeded 100 in some classes and only those children whose parents could afford it had an exercise book and a pencil. The majority had nothing. The head master was cutting pencils in half and sharpening them to enable at least one class to have pencils. We have encountered much poverty in Zambia and Malawi but we have been welcomed wherever we have been. They are beautiful countries but quite heartbreaking to travel through and created anguish amongst all of us. We gave all the books and pencils we were carrying but wished we could have bought more had there been a shop with supplies within a few hours drive. In case you are wondering why we are not publishing photographs, Internet access has been very limited but we will try to get some onto the blog shortly.

Great news OFSTED is coming!

Having spent 4 days and too many KM's off road on difficult terrains we suddenly arrived at a tarmac road to great delight and bemusement at the strange lack of noise we headed into Mafue. We spent our first night back in civilisation surrounded by overlanders and a rather confident elephant who made itself a welcome pain preventing us setting up the camp as it grazed in our spot, necessitating a quick (and most welcome) cold beer!
After a rather noisy morning wake up call by the overlanders we decided to move to the campsite next door which was a complete contrast with acres of space, helpful staff and a well organised and comfortable lodge alongside the river! What is more the kids were totally made up with the raised platform swimming pool overlooking the river full of hippos and crocs! To add to this our camp had tree houses where Thomas and after the first night Nia slept safely above the roaming hippos and elephants that disturbed every nights sleep.
Trips into the park included sightings of the BIG beasts at close quarters and plenty of rough roads. We even after some intense tracking managed to find a small pride of lions resting after a morning buffalo kill!
It was soon after we settled in that Sarah recieved a text message from Hooke announcing that the School and Nursery were to be inspected by OFSTED in 2 days time! Thank goodness for phone/computer communications; since it was impossible to get Sarah to an airport to be back before the inspectors left, she had many conversations and late nights checking documentation before the whole process was over! Sadly we are unable to reveal any results but needless to say both Sarah and I were most grateful to the staff for all their long hours of hard work and the results justify all their efforts!
In amongst all of this we also made our visit to the Chipenbele charity. We drove out 45 minutes into the bush along dirt roads and were met by Steve who showed us around the centre and spent a long time explaining their ethos and what they wanted to achieve when they initially set up the centre. It was wonderfully well organised and thought out in the most wonderful location. We used the opportunity to Skype the UK whilst the OFSTED inspectors were there and allow the children to listen to listen to Steve at first hand. It was really extraordinary to see and hear the children in school when we were so far away from home!
The next challenge was to make it out of Zambia and into Malawi!