Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Breanna

First things first,
Happy Birthday AMMON!! Sorry we took off before your amazing birthday. We wish we could have been there to experience your embarrassing cake and song episode. Ha-ha! Hope mom took lots of photos!
I really liked Nkhata Bay and Lake Malawi. I don’t know how many times I swam across the 500m stretch across the bay, how many hours I spent laying in the sun, how many nice people I met or how many milk shakes I drank, in any case it was great and I could easily have stayed longer too. I really enjoyed Malawi and it’s definitely up there in my favourite places list.
Right after leaving the family we went on a chase to find Kees before he headed off to Dar Es Salaam but it appears that the yellow tortoise has picked up speed and we missed him by half a day in Livingstonia. We decided early on to take the western route up through Tanzania and what an awesome ride it turned out to be! But I’m glad to hear Kees and the gang have met up and are happy so that’s good but I definitely can feel for you guys on that 13 ½ hour bus nightmare. Eeek.
Ben and I have been keeping really busy, doing lots of fun stuff. We went to Katavi National park where I saw the most hippo and crocodiles I’ve seen at once. There was an ‘exciting’ moment when Ben’s truck (Colonel Mustard) missed a beat and wouldn’t accelerate just as we were passing through a herd of elephants and one young male decided to mock charge us!! Ben had a heart attack while I laughed and took pictures. Got the heart bumping though! We survived the incident, drove on and in the whole day that we spent in the park didn’t see another vehicle or tourist, then camped just outside of the park. A real African wildlife experience for sure. At around 10pm that night just as we were sitting outside watching a movie on Ben's laptop, 20m away in the dark we saw a large shadow moving around, followed by a big roar. Yikes! “Bre get in the truck quick”, Ben says with a shove and we jumped in. Never actually saw what it was but it sure sounded like a lion to me. What a great day but I must admit that I’m kicking myself in the butt for not going into Zambia(losing out on my country count) with the others and seeing that damn leopard. Dang it. Hey, wait a second, I get to go to Burundi and possibly other countries the family doesn’t get too. Aww, poor Ammon missing out. Heehee. This is starting to sound more like a competition isn’t it?
Since then we moved north from the park to Kigoma on the shores of Lake Tanganyika, which was beautiful and stayed at Jacobsen Beach Campsite where we had the entire place to ourselves. Sandy beach, thatched parasols and crystal clear water coupled with rich colourful sunsets made our stay there stunning. While in Kigoma we visited the Burundi embassy and got our transit visas for $20 US Dollars. Stocked up on some fresh fruit in the market and headed off in the morning, leaving after only a few days in Tanzania. I did learn something funny from one of the custom officials, how to say I love you in Kiswahili which is “Mimi kupenda wewe”. Pretty funny eh? You just can’t say that seriously, it always makes me laugh.
Burundi is a country which only 4 years ago was embroiled in a bitter civil war but you can’t tell from the happiness of the people or the cleanliness and organization of the little towns and villages, the only clear sign is the constant chain of UNHCR trucks supplying the refugees in the outlying areas. The landscape is extremely hilly and to make the most of their environment the local farmers terrace the slopes giving them level fields to grow their crops on. I really like the look of all the many colours and layers of terraces. Really reminds me of China and how every inch of land is put to good use! As one of us would say “Maximum utilization of available resources”. Saw lots of tea, coffee and banana plantations too. I love all the green, simply beautiful. The local means of transport in Burundi is the bike as it is throughout Africa. Burundi’s mountainous terrain makes riding a bike a tiring proposition. On a number of occasions we witnessed 5 cyclist hanging on to the guard rails on the back of a big truck as they crawled their way up the steep slopes, making it a lot easier for the guys hanging on the back to get to the top. I was a bit surprised at the sheer number of military and police posted at every kilometre or so along the major roads. Wow! Speaking of roads they drive on the right side just like home, Cool! Oh, and back to French. It's really funny how everyone and their pet dog stares with dropped jaws and pointed fingers at Baccus the Buffalo skull mounted on the front of Ben's truck as we drive by. Then again Baccus always gets a lot of attention from bewildered locals no matter where we go. Anyways, it took about 6 hours to drive through the country south to north.
We had a nice lunch break in no man's land before crossing into Rwanda . Once we were in, the scenery exploded into equatorial lushness and beauty. Now I thought Burundi was beautiful but Rwanda just blew Burundi right out of the water. Ben and I were dumbstruck and our vocabulary was reduced down to one word. Wow! Ok, Rwanda is one of my favourite countries! Just so beautiful and amazing! Again, more hills with plantations and terraces like you wouldn’t believe. When our heads were in the clouds above the 2000m mark, farming stopped and the cool air felt like being at home with all the pine trees and their unforgettable fresh smell.
We ventured west from Butare, our overnight stop, to the rain forests of Nyungwe forest reserve; an unfarmed natural paradise and home to the rare Angolan Columbus monkey which we were lucky enough to see and photograph. Ben chose the park to do another one of his training runs in, so he kitted up, gave me the keys to the Colonel and ran off straight into a rainstorm. Yeah, it’s been raining lots unfortunately. After 10k winding through the jungle a Toyota Hilux loaded with military, police and a park official pulled us over and wanted to know what we were doing and why he was running through the park without a letter of authority?? Ben had asked one of the park officials at the entrance gate if it would be ok and they said no problem. He explained that to the guys who then radioed the entrance to check. Even with the story backed up, the little wanker insisted that Ben stop, get changed and drive out of the park with them escorting us the final 10k. Of course we drove as slow as we could, taking photos every 30sec just to wind them up. It’s not often that we’d challenge a group of African military with AK47s but it just felt fun to get back at them and I even managed to sneak a photo. Plus, I was having fun driving the Colonel… I’ve been learning standard on it and doing quite well I might add.
From Butare we went to Kibuye and stayed at Bethany lodge where we visited a memorial for the Rwanda genocide in which 11400 people were buried in a mass grave following the murders that took place on April 14th 1994 in the local area. That’s insane. The memorial displays some human skulls behind the glass at the foot of the grave. We even took a peek in the small church behind the grave where a few locals had gathered for their service. All of that was a very moving.
We left the lake and headed east to the capital of Rwanda, Kigali. To use up the last of Ben's Rwanda Franks we went to a crafts market and haggled with all the shop owners for 3 masks and 2 sets of salad servers as gifts until we got the right price. So we were happy! I love negotiating that kind of stuff. I’ve got a lot of good experience with bargaining along the way, that’s for sure.
Crossed into Uganda and stayed in Kabale at the Bunyanyi Overland Resort on another lake where we took an African style canoe, dug out of one tree trunk out for a few hours. Boy, was that ever fun. I was in the back steering and Ben was the man power in the front. We paddled around a small island and stopped at one of the little docks to get out and swim for a bit before heading back. The lake really made me miss home and want to go to the cottage at Loon Lake back home. Fun canoeing in the morning and lots of repairs and cleaning for the truck in the afternoon, including a shoe polish shine up on Baccus’s horns to stop the rot and keep him looking in tip top condition!
I wonder how everyone else is doing? One of the many questions asked by other travellers and people along the way is “How can you spend 24/7 with your family?” Well, it is nice to be off on a little adventure without them for a while but I do miss the group.
Oh Grandma, Guess what! As we were driving through Kampala, the capital of Uganda, I saw in the distance two guys with white shirts, ties, black pants, shoulder bag, instantly I knew it was a pair of Elders!!! It was confirmed when we drove past and I saw the name tags. Haha!! I love the missionaries!! I had a huge smile on my face!! I didn’t know they had an LDS church in that area so that was quite exciting! Just thought I’d add that in for you! Hope everything is good back home!
Onward to Jinja where we are going to hook our selves up some white water rafting with grade 5 rapids at the source of the Nile! Oh My Gosh!! It's going to be insane, I hope we make it back alive and in one piece! Wish us luck! I’ll keep you posted.
Hope you all are safe and having fun!
Lots of love
Bre.

1 Comments:

At 11:01 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Bre,
Amazing blog, it sounded very much like a great side trip off just the two of you. Sometimes ya need the quality time... right?

Laughed at your 'Park" experience, it is usually not a good idea when in the middle of now where, alone, unarmed, to piss off the guy with the gun.... just a usual rule. But then when did that matter, you guys amaze me constantly.
Thank you for such a good blog, Africa has had lots of pauses, and I missed gearing from you guys.

Love and Bear Hugs to the whole expanded group
The Bear

 

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