A Travellerspoint blog

Who can spot a chameleon?

We spent three days hiking in the Usambara Mountains in North-East Tanzania. We had a local guide, called Chande, who not only gave us lots of interesting information about the local area, discussed African politics with Dave, but would also treat us to the occasional song or rap in Swahili. We spent the days hiking through farmland, villages and forests. Some of the pine forests felt like we could be hiking back home in England, it was even reminiscent to the forest where Mumma Silve fell in the river and had to be saved by her beloved dog, Loki.

This area is famous for the two-horn chameleon, our guide was excellent at spotting them despite their natural camouflage. Dave and I, however, were not so good, and spent ages trying to find them even in designated areas. Like most things this became a competition between the two of us. This ended in a pathetic draw of 1 - 1, but I am very happy to say that I spotted the first one... WINNER WINNER!

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We were also able to see black and white colobus monkeys. Unfortunately, unlike many of the animals we have seen on our trip, these monkeys were camera shy... so you may have to have a quick google! We were able to watch them as they leaped from tree to tree with their white mane flowing behind them.

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As we walked through the farmland we could hear children, who we couldn't even spot in the distance, shouting 'mzungo, mzungo, take my picture', and then as we came into the villages the shouts just got louder and more excited. They would follow us for ages just chatting with us, before they got bored and turned around to trek home. We even bought a clay giraffe from one of the boys, but unfortunately it did not survive the journey.
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Over the three days we stayed in some varied accommodations. The first guesthouse we stayed in had no door to the ensuite, a curtain would suffice. Whereas we have finally got used to cold water showers, this shower was scolding hot with no cold water in sight. The bathroom was also lit with a red bulb so we looked like we were housing Amsterdam's red light district in our hotel room. The second night we were taken in by the nuns of the local convent. As it was Easter Weekend we were encouraged to go to Mass, the singing was fantastic but we couldn't understand much as the sermon was in Swahili. The final night was spent in Mambo View Inn, we slept in a little hut balancing on the edge of a cliff.
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The view was incredible, as we were positioned over a plateau surrounded on all sides by mountains. As we were so high up, you could watch the rain cloud moving over the land below. It was definitely a great location to end our hike!

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Posted by silve_lining 09:22 Comments (0)

It's a lions world

Warning: this post is not for the faint hearted!

When booking our trip to Serengeti and Ngorongoro crater we hoped to see the 'Big 5' African animals, but we never dreamed we would see as much action as we did!
Day one, about an hour and a half into our first game drive we happen upon a pride of female lions and cubs lazing under a tree. We were amazed to see so many lions so early on in our safari.

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After watching them for a bit, our guide decided we should move on if we wanted to see as much as possible. We drove around seeing giraffes and elephants, these creatures are truly bizarre and unique.

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As we drove back past the lions, our guide spotted a lioness on the prowl. We positioned ourselves on a bridge over a river with the lions to our left and a herd of unsuspecting zebra to our right.

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Soon we realised the rest of the pack were following the lead lioness, but were still some way behind. She crossed the river and crouched low on the bridge about 4 metres in front of the 4x4. Her tactics were coming into play now as she had a great vantage point to watch and study her prey, while the rest of her family positioned themselves, camouflaged, in the long grass behind the car.

It was lucky people was not on the menu, as our 4x4 was completely surrounded, but the lions did not even acknowledge our presence.

Now they were ready, and the next events happened so quickly even our guide was amazed. The first lioness leaped from her high position on the bridge straight at the group of zebras and tactfully herded them to the right to meet the rest of her family. The zebras ran erratically to try and save themselves, but one unfortunate zebra got caught in a rocky area and this is when the lions attacked.

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Two lions caught the zebra round the neck, the kill was quick, as the animal was suffocated. This is nature in it's rawest form, but it felt cruel to watch... what was worse, the rest of the zebra herd were watching too from relative safety. These giant cats proceeded to eat every last bit of the once beautiful zebra... and we (some would say unfortunately) had front row seats. This is something that I will never forgot!

Posted by silve_lining 08:48 Archived in Tanzania Comments (0)

Rwanda: Africa for beginners

When you tell people that you are starting your travels in Rwanda, some can be apprehensive. We'd read only positive things about Rwanda and heard that it was very safe so we weren't worried. After arriving in Kigali and settling in with only a few hiccups we felt very safe and welcome. The people were friendly and always smiling (even if we did get a few stares), the hostels were informative and comfortable (mostly), the showers were hot (usually) and the buses got you to your destinations (relatively) on time.

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However it was on our journey to Tanzania when things started to run a bit less smoothly. At 6am on the minibus to the Rwanda/Tanzania border we realised we were short on money and that ATMs may soon be few and far between. As we were sitting on the back row of the bus with 20 people and various forms of luggage between us and the door, Dave thought the best solution would be to jump out the window and sprint to the closest ATM at every bus stop. This was great entertainment for everyone watching and was met with cheers and applause, but we still had no money. We managed to scrounge together some money to change, but not enough to get us all the way to Mwanza, our final destination.

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Compared to the nice, new border office that we left in Rwanda, the Tanzanian police greeted us from a tin shack. Then we had to jump in the back of a shared taxi to get to the nearest town. In Tanzania, you can fit not only 4 people in the back but also 4 people in the front... this meant 2 people sitting in the drivers seat! Noone apart from us and Lucy, our new English friend, thought this was strange or at all illegal. The roads are of a different quality in Tanzania too, we bounced down dirt tracks whilst overtaking cows and cars and drove over potholes that my Micra would never get out of.

We found out we couldn't make it to Mwanza in one day so had to find a hotel: there was no shower, no lights and barely a toilet. But it cost us $6 for 3 people... silve lining.
Since then, everything has gone a lot more smoothly despite: Dave fearing to go to sleep as he was sitting next to two chickens on the bus, having to help a taxi driver jump start his car (whilst looking for ATMs), regular power cuts and cold showers!

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Posted by silve_lining 08:06 Comments (0)

Gorillas in the nettles

This year my birthday guests were a little different, I left family and friends at home to celebrate turning the ripe age of 26 with the mountain gorillas of Rwanda. We traveled to Volcano National Park in the North West of the country to visit the Titus family. This family consisted 14 members including a 3 month baby and the star of our visit, a 3 year old! We were told that Titus are actually quite famous in the monkey world as they are the group that Dianne Fossey studied.

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We hiked through farmland half way up a dormant volcano to the edge of the national park, which is marked by a stone wall. Here we were joined by armed guards sporting very large AK-47s, they were here to protect us from buffalo, the same task that the wall did for the farmers' crops. I had also learnt to be weary of elephant tracks... something that I had not known the day before when I sunk shin deep into an elephant footprint and had to be gracefully pulled out. My boots and trousers were no longer squeaky clean when visiting the park's golden monkeys, who were particularly entertaining as they propelled themselves from tree to tree.

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Unfortunately for us, this day the gorillas had to decided to take their lunch amongst the nettles. Our guides attempted to hack us a nettle free path with their machetes, but our legs were not always safe. As soon as we saw our first sighting of the gorillas noone seemed to care about the nettles. Overall we saw about 7 or 8 gorillas, and they were all amazing. They could not care less about us, but we were fascinated by them... especially their movements and how similar to humans they were. The way they lay around in the nettles, resting after their breakfast, could have been my family lounging about after a particularly big roast.

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Our favourite family member was definitely the 3 year old, he loved to show off. He was constantly rolling around like a clumsy gymnast, trying to get into fights with his older siblings and generally trying to show off in front of us. The best moment was when he completed several rolly pollys down a hill and at the bottom stood up and beat his chest repeatedly.

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After an hour of watching the mountain gorillas we had to leave, but not before they gave me a birthday present. Apparently I was in one of the females way and she came striding straight towards me, I did not feel particularly brave at this point. As I stood perfectly still, at the last minute she turned and swung on a branch, which very kindly smacked me on the top of the head. I did not mind, this was an amazing experience, and we all left the nettles with massive grins on a face. Plus I have not found a bump on the top of my head yet.... silve lining!

Posted by silve_lining 09:09 Comments (1)

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