A Travellerspoint blog

Finally Dragons???

Done the lions and lemurs and now at last I am planning on Indonesia

semi-overcast 6 °C

My Congo trip has been cancelled, so in its place I decided for my 50th birthday I would head out to Indonesia where I planned to go 2 years ago but could not wrench myself away from Africa.

My initial intention was to visit Kalimantan and Komodo followed by a trip to the Maluku Islands, but with only 5 weeks to do this in and having now read a lot about the Malukus I have decided to head straight there. The lure of deserted white sand beaches, some of the best snorkling in the world, untouched rainforests and the possibility of not seeing another white person whilst there, was too much to resist. Only down side is that it is (very) rainy season. But if it all gets a bit too soggy, I know I can fly down to Bali or Flores and go and see those pesky dragons!

Posted by baluba 11:41 Archived in Indonesia Tagged preparation Comments (0)

South Africa

Klipkop and Swaziland before heading home

sunny 30 °C
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Well, for my final weekend I had all intentions of hanging around by the pool topping up my tan as the weather has now improved considerably in Jo'burg. But, I was talked into a weekend in Swaziland. There is a new group here at Klipkop and they are just brilliant.
So we set off Friday night, Lisa bless her, just off the plane from Canada, no sleep in two days, told not to unpack as we are off to Swazi, a country she had not even heard of!
We just made the border crossing after driving at breakneck speed to get there. Finally arrived at Mlilwane, where I stayed before, at about 2330.
Mlilwane is just fabulous, this is where you have to push past herds of Impala, Nyalis, several Warthogs and a couple of Ostriches, just to get to the loo. This time there were a troop of Vervet monkeys that liked to play chase on the roof all night, every night along with using our cars as target practice in crapping competitions.
Our first day, after a leisurely breakfast overlooking the lake watching the birds terrorise a small crocodile we went for a walk in the park. The weather was glorious, stinking hot with a mild breeze. We walked past several impala, zebra, wildebeast etc. Stopped to cool our feet in a waterfall, then headed to the hippo pool.
This is where I came a cropper. Steep embankment, I started sliding and the only way was to try running down the hill. Next thing I know, I am thump on my arse, my spine doing a very good impression of an accordian, complete with sound effects as the wind rushed from my lungs.
Fingers and toes checked still working, I am hoiked up. I am wearing pale stone coloured shorts, the earth is bright red. Yup, looked very similar to a baboon on heat and making noises to match.
Managed to hobble around the rest of the park helped by a couple of paracetamol and a quick (glorious) massage from Llois, guy from Barcelona who is absolutely gorgeous but fortunately gay.
Didnt see the hippos but did find a dead hyena and a dead dog in the lake! We summised that the hyena must have been chasing the dog (bit marks to its rear) and they both fell the 30' or so into the lake, the hyena probably hitting its head on the large log it was sprawled accross with its tongue lolling out. Gruesome yes, but somehow they looked peaceful plus it was a little ironic. We then went up to Executioners rock to watch the sun go down with a couple of beers. Spent the evening around a camp fire with probably a few too many Drambuies.
The next day we learned that the King was to choose a new wife, so we hotfooted it down to the Palace where we were treated to the most amazing spectacle I have ever witnessed. Literally thousands and thousands of young girls in traditional costumes which, by the way, covered just the bits you would not normally bother covering and there were tits and bums all over the place. All of them held a reed some 20' long. A huge sea of reeds with dazzling colours below. Several cows had obviously been slaughtered and young men were carrying the heads and feet home, on their heads. I have no idea what the relevance of this was.
It took several hours for all the girls to line up, ready to enter the palace grounds and entertain the King with their dancing and unfortunately we had to leave before the real celebrations begun, but we did learn that the actual choosing didnt happen until today. It was still a marvel to see. The whole population of Swaziland must have been there.
We stopped at the craft market to the delight of the stallholders, they had not seen a customer all day, so we got a few bargains. Then headed back to Klipkop. Still in mortal agony and having had no sleep the previous night, I slept all the way.
I didnt sleep last night either and now on a diet of ibroprufen. Hopefull I shall sleep on the plane tonight.
This time tomorrow, I shall be on British soil.
Now I have to go, just been informed that a porcupine is to be released in the reserve today. This I just have to see.

Posted by baluba 12:10 Archived in Swaziland Tagged volunteer Comments (0)

Madagascar - Morondava

Hanging around in Morondava

sunny 35 °C
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Sorry you have not heard from me for a while, not really been much to report apart from My new friend Kate and I drinking too many rum punches and falling out of a taxi. We have also found the most incredible beach. Sat in the restaurant eating half a dozen crabs then wandered off to this huge palm fringed white sand beach with not a soul on it.
Days are spent either on the beach, generally lounging around and evenings in the bar with more and more frequent jamming sessions. The injured guard is recovering and the wayward waitress has returned. Jean never getting enough sleep so have started helping out with the shopping in the morning.

So anyway, after we had our long chat at the bar last night, being serenaded (unintentially) by one of the local musicians, I headed off to bed while he locked up.
Next thing I know, he barges in, lights ablazing 'you have to get up and come with me' huh?
'My brothers wifes brother is died' Holy shit, so 2am we are scouring the dark streets for a taxi, musician in tow. Luckily a local came past in his pick up and gave us a lift. We attend his brothers house and there on the bed is the died chap. I am warmly greeted as I try to contain a fit of the giggles,and shown to a chair. The body is then covered up to the neck in a crisp white cotton tablecloth with pretty embroidered lemurs on it (?). The head is wrapped as though he died of toothache.Then the women and children enter, wailing and crying. 10 mins of this and it almost like ' oh bored with this, lets have a cup of tea' and they all just sit round chatting. Someone else enters so they all have a good wail again then resume their chatting.
By now it is 0430, I think I may have dropped off, I know Jean did! So I am taken to a room and put to bed with three children. At 0720, Jean wakes me. 'You have to take the keys to the hotel'. Huh? I am bundled off with his sister in law, and we go off in search of a taxi. Much frivolity and chatting with the other occupants!?? We arrive and a member of staff is there waiting for me. Sister has a laugh and joke with the staff then leaves.
I find the cook and tell him we may have to shop... but dont know. Try to get hold of Jean but phone off. Kate arrives, we are supposed to be going with the french guy to a fab beach south of here. She is loaded up with bananas and cakes. I have one cake and immediately back on the loo again. Franck the frog oversleeps, I am not sure if I should go or stay. Decide to remain near a loo so Kate goes off on her own. Cooks turns up at 1030. We have no oil, no vineger and no onions. Fuck, phone Jean, get him this time and pass him to Simone the cook. He hangs up, 'we go shopping'. I am given a list to which I have to add the prices and off we trot with the wicker shopping basket.
Suprised that everyone in the market addressing me in Malagasy rather than the usual french. We get all we need after me protesting loudly at having to pay £1.50 for 1.5l olive oil and a bottle of vinegar. A big pile of fish was only 30p.
We get back and I am introduced to the kitchen. Immediately realise why I have been sick! The fridge has no door on it and, I doubt, a plug. Chickens are hiding behind the freezer pretending to be off the menu, a collection of flies are having a feeding frenzy on the table and a gecko is asleep in the veg basket. One of the staff has burnt his arm, so I dig out my medical kit. Another chap has made up a song about the possibility of Anglo/Malagasy children running around called Jean and is singing loudly while smoking a joint. I try to get changed and the maid is trying to clean my room and give me a massage at the same time. A pig is squeeling somewhere behind us. Decide I need to go to the beach for some peace and quiet. Get as far as the end of the road, loud honking..not unusual.. urgent honking, I turn around and Jean has returned in a taxi with several other chaps and is clutching a large bunch of spring onions as though they were flowers. I tell him I got the shopping. 'Did you get beers?' Huh? No one mentioned beers! Its ok he says but has to leave again. Should I stay? No, its ok. So I go. I spend an hour on the beach and guilt sets in. He will now be running round like a blue arsed fly and I am wallowing in white sand. So I come back. All is calm. A girl has arrived carrying a duck. Mental note to stick to prawns as I never get to meet them. Jean returns and is complaining about something, so I make a quick exit and come to the internet. I know that later he will be big smiles and will thank me. He always does.
So, what did you do today?
Oh God I love this country!

Posted by baluba 11:50 Archived in Madagascar Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

Madagascar - Ranomafana

A very brief tale of Ranamafana

sunny 33 °C
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Bloody long hard slog through the rainforest, thankfully didnt rain but damned hot. Camped in the forest, fed the resident ring tail mongoose cheese (that is one beautiful creature.. chestnut brown with four black rings on its tail), practicing my Malagasy. Didnt see the bloody black and white lemurs which was the purpose of my visit. Heard them once and went hacking off through the jungle but they fell silent and the forest closed around us, refusing entry.
Suprised that the forest was so silent. Maybe as it was so hot and humid, the animals just couldnt be bothered, there would be the occasional twitter of a bird which would end in a note like ... oh fuck it... and it would go back to sleep. At night though a million frogs would wake up, the birds would party, but the lemurs remained elusive.
Even harder slog the next day. We did see some brown lemurs who grunted at us angrily. The primary forest is their sanctuary from the prying tourists in the lower, secondary forest. They wagged their tails like angry cats. it was wonderful to actually see lemurs totally wild and unhabituated to humans.
The route we took going down had just been cut and not finished, we ended up sliding down banks, crossing slippery waterfalls, paddling up streams and the forest continued to sheild the black and white lemurs.
We finally arrived in the village, exhausted and drenched with sweat. My guide was profoundly apologetic that we did not see the black and whites but I told him it was Ok and just turned to the forest and said 'You won'.
I then returned to Tana by stinkobus, and was due to get the bus out to Tamatave the next day to make the connection with the boat I had booked to go to Isle St Marie to see the whales.

But I didnt go to Tamatave, or Isle St Marie. The idea of pissing rain somehow just wasnt appealing anymore so.. I returned to Morondava to see my now good friend Jean le Rasta.

Posted by baluba 11:45 Archived in Madagascar Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

Madagascar - Morondava - Belo sur Mer

Fosa Fosa Fosa!! Back in Morondava!!!!

sunny 32 °C
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Yes, not one but three!!!
Bit of a story to tell first though!
Yes, I set off with the crazy french canadian couple, although goodness knows how they got me on the boat, I had so many rums the night before!
We left around 0300 and set sail, I woke at 0830 cuddling a bottle of water and my jumper aware of curious eyes staring at me from the rest of the passengers, the majority of whom were locals. Desperately needed the loo but that would entail squatting over the side of the boat or utilising a bucket. With so many people on board I decided to retain my dignity and suffer. Thankfully we arrived at Belo sur Mer around lunchtime, dignity lost as I scrabbled down the anchor chain, plopped into waist deep water and walked the mile of beach to the nearest hotel where we hung around for most of the day, me nursing a mammoth hangover, Xavier and Marie Ann having a great time on a kayak. Hotel people thought they were my children. Oh God. Xavier knocked up a lovely meal on board with some fresh fish we bought then we bedded down for the night. Not easy sleeping on the deck of a boat that is leaning at a 45 degree angle due to the tide going out, but I did relish in going to the loo 4 times whilst everyone else asleep!
We set sail again at 0600 and returned at 1230. The wind had changed direction and we were going nowhere. No guarantees that we could continue south in the morning, so I made the decision to abandon all hopes of sailing to Tuliara as it was just going to take too long. Somehow I managed to negotiate a boat heading north the next day back to Morondava. Spent the night in a tent....but with big squidgy mattress and pillows!
We were supposed to leave at 0300, but no boatman. He eventually arrived 0430, sea too rough, will try again at 0600. 0630 we finally get going. Thankfully the wind is still heading north although the other boat was also intending to leave at 0600 to head south???? I last saw the canadians disembarking with all their stuff.... did you guys ever make it????
Much smaller boat this time with the captain, a steersman or whatever you call it who spoke about three words of english, couple of giggling Malagasy females and an absolutely gorgeous taxi driver from Morondava who only spoke french. Unfortunately he had really rotten teeth and was only about 25 which is pushing it even for me!!!
The next 7 hours were spent on the hard deck, freezing cold being plied with biscuits and sweets from the girls who simply would not take no for an answer and giggled at every word I uttered either in english, french or malagasy. I was given lunch of rice and dried baby fish which was cooked on deck in a over a fire in a turtle shell. Yes a fire. On a wooden boat. Nooo, not concerned, I am sure turtle shells are totally inflammable!
Dee Dee the taxi driver was a total gentleman, giving me his bag to lean on, and half his fish. Bugger. The fish was disgusting, just salty bones. Yeuch! I did my best though and joined them in spitting bones overboard, great fun although I am not much of a spitter and most of it ended up back on my plate. Refrained from drinking anything in case I needed the loo!
Delighted to be back in Morandava which I love but unsure where to go from here. Bumped into the owner of the rum place, L'Oasis who insisted I come to watch the live music again. Resolved to stay off the rum, but met an english couple and ended up drinking too much beer!
They had just returned from Kirindy. A place that was on my list to go and see the Fosa but my last guide said there was only 30% chance of seeing one, so abandoned that idea in favour of going on a jolly up and down the coast in a leaky boat.
Tonia and Paul raved about the place saying there was a Fosa in the grounds and showed photos to prove it!
So, after spending a day nursing yet another hangover I set off at 0700 next morning in a taxi brousse to Kirindy. Less of a bus and more of a pick up truck. I get the seat next to the driver who chain smokes the whole way, driving like a lunatic sending billows of dust into the cab. The road is dire. I could have taken a private taxi but that would cost 25 quid and this was only 3. Ok so I have to walk the 5km to the park, but its a nice day and I have left the bulk of my luggage back at Morondava.
The walk is a lot easier with Mp3 player on and singing to Linkin Park. Probably scared even the Fosa away!
I have a luxurious bungalow with a bed, mossie net and a candle. Toilet usual long drop and bucket showers. After lunch I set off with my English guide who does actually speak English which is a first, but he has only been in the job for 2 weeks. Actually very good though and we are followed by a troop of adorable red fronted brown lemurs. Saw verrauxs Sifaka, a red tailed sportive lemur and an owl. On return to camp, the lemurs have come for a drink and are taking turns dipping their heads into an orange bucket trying to dodge the twat of a frenchman who is trying to feed them bananas. Poor things have never seen a banana!
The Fosa I am told, stole a duck from the kitchen the night before so dont hold out any hope of seeing it this evening. However, just as we are departing for the night walk, the wee beastie is coming out from near my bungalow! A female closely followed by a male who looks like he has been in a fight with a cheese grater.
They look just as sinister as they do in the movie, smaller though. Odd looking creatures, size of a large otter with big ears, long tail and teeth you would not like to come into contact with.
They forage around and devour the remains of some rice they found. I am just bursting with excitement and am dragged off by my guide who I have instructed to find me the nocturnal Fork Marked Lemur. To even his own suprise, he succeeded. Not hard though, these tiny little critters make a noise more deafning than an Iron Maiden concert!
The next morning I see another Fosa who is terrorising a poor chap trying to pack away his camping gear. He had cooked up a spag bol for his party to eat on their next trip and this Fosa was determined that he was not going to have to wash up!
On return to my bungalow, cheese grater was sitting outside and then spent the rest of the afternoon asleep, Molly style, in the forest next to me. Molly for those of you that dont know is my dog back home who likes to sleep, legs akimbo, on her back in the most unladylike fashion.
I still cannot believe it, Fosa, the scariest and most elusive creature in Madagascar, snoozing just 5 yards from me. The other two are all over the place all evening. The lemurs dont return, they would rather go thirsty than have another close encounter with a frenchman brandishing a banana. Much more dangerous than a Fosa!
This morning I set off for the 5km walk back to the road. Only waited 15 mins and I am hoiked aboard another pick up where, among others, a Malagasy paratrooper, with rifle, is agast that I should even endeavour to walk 5km. Goodness, you can do at least that on a trip to Tesco's (British supermarket)!
My presence amuses everyone and, even though open air, it still stinks. Not helped by the puddle of puke I am trying to keep a now very clean William out of. I have noticed that apart from the 3 germans I met in my first week here, I have never seen another tourist on the taxi brousse. Either they have more sense or too much money. I also now know why Malagasy's have big bottoms. Its padding for the taxi brousse. If you see a Malagasy with a small bottom, bet your arse they have their own car!
Taxi Brousse only goes as far as the junction of the road to Morandava. Another 14km. Experience tells me that being betwixt two major towns I am going to have a problem getting on another bus, let alone a seat.
14km. 5k's took me about an hour. Three hours... I'll be there in time for lunch, so I set off. Bewildered looks from everyone!
As expected, 3 buses pass me and after about an hour I am squeezed into a delapidated yellow minibus with no windows and the door held on by a piece of string. The 'conductor' hangs onto the side until he sees the police check, then he sits on my lap!
Strange these things, dont know if anyone really knows where to get off. Bus stops, one gets off. Then, after a little thought, another decides to disembark too. Then another thinks, Oh well, I may as well get off too. We are in the middle of nowhere and these people are always at the back, furthest from the door, have 16 children and a duck.
When I arrive in town, desperately need a shower and a beer, together! Find some beer but realise I have lost my penknife, so no bottle opener. You try miming a bottle opener! Eventually I am informed that it is called a decapitator or something and I am now the proud owner of a blue thing with a lovely picture of a famous football star. I dont know who he is, but he does not own his own car.
I am refreshed, hot shower, clean clothes and a belly full of beer. Now, do I go to L'Oasis tonight?
Maybe for just one medicinal rum or two. I am going down with a cold. The hotel man has told me to let him know in the morning if I am staying 2 nights or leaving for Antananarivo in the morning.
Will I ever leave Morondava????

Posted by baluba 11:37 Archived in Madagascar Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

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