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Nairobi to Cape Town Overland

Author: Alan (More Trip Reviews by Alan)
Date of Trip: April 2006

Also to see is the island of Zanzibar. The beaches here are idyllic white sand surrounded by palm trees. The sea is a beautiful azure and warm, but not always easy to swim in because of rocks. The people are colorful and friendly and the food is good and cheap. I was introduced to smoking Sheesha pipes, which is very popular in this part of the world (scented tobacco, smoked through a big pipe with a bowl of water at the base).

In the capital, Stone Town, there are a lot of Arabic influences, and it is full of twisting alleyways and grubby Moorish buildings. If you decide to try eating out at the fish market in the evening, be sure to negotiate the price for each item beforehand. I managed to get lost going back to the Hotel as the alleys twist about more than in Venice. A man with a beard and a white galibayah, carrying a shepherd's crook came up to me. He had a little boy trotting along behind him. He asked if he could help me, then took me back to my hotel and refused to take a tip.

Malawi has plenty of beaches along the Lake, and is a good place to catch up on your suntan. There is also horse riding here if you are interested.

The country has its own Carlsberg brewery, and that is pretty much the only beer available. But at only 100 Kwacha (70 cents) for a 200ml bottle, it's good value for money. (Beer is cheap throughout Africa).

The people of Malawi are so friendly, they invite you into their homes to show you their way of life as you are walking past. People are happy for you to take their photos, and they do not expect anything in return. Little kids wave and say hello wherever you go, they continue saying hello and you eventually realise that it's the only English they know. We gave some kids drinks and snacks as we walked along, and before we could stop them, they threw the litter in the river...

There are street vendors here who fry Kasava at the road side (a root vegetable that tastes like a cross between potato and parsnip). You dunk it in salt and eat it like chips. I was told that it is Malawi's McDonald's.

You need 2 passport photos for your Mozambique Visa, and although it is possible to do that in Malawi, it is probably cheaper and more convenient to do it at home before you travel.

We spent just one day in Mozambique, as we needed to pass through it to reach Zimbabwe.

Because of the country's current economic and financial problems, I changed $80 into local currency and became a multi-millionaire. $10 = $2,000,000 ZIM. It wouldn't be so bad, but the biggest notes are $50,000, and most are $20,000, and it is a very slow and painful business when you join the queues to pay for anything. Six of us went to have pizzas, and the first 3 had eaten theirs, while the fifth person was still being served.

I was very excited about visiting the ruins of Great Zimbabwe. They are the biggest stone ruins in Africa after Egypt. The main sites are the Hill Complex and the Great Enclosure below it. It was awe-inspiring wandering around inside it. I felt I did not need a guide, the ruins speak for themselves.

When you camp at Antelope park, you can go on safari on horse back, and also walk with lion cubs when they are let out of their enclosure twice a day. They are as playful as domestic cats, climbing trees, jumping on each other and rolling about. I walked away from the group to take photos and one of the lions decided to jump up and grab me, so I can say they are about four feet standing on their hind legs (at ten months old). They are part of a programme to release lions into the wild.

In Matobo National Park you get to see Rhinos and bushman rock paintings.

Victoria Falls
Victoria Falls is very wide and falls in both Zambia and Zimbabwe. The entrance fee is $20 in Zimbabwe, or you can cross over the border into Zambia ($10 visa) and the entrance fee is $10. It is a spectacular sight, and it's quite tricky taking photos as there is always a thick mist of water which comes and goes like a fog, and icy cold localised showers every five or ten minutes directly over the Falls. My favourite side is in Zambia, as you get to stand on top of the Falls.

There are plenty of extreme sports available. Unfortunately, white water rafting was closed (in May the river is too high and the currents too strong). You can bungee jump here (104 meters, the 3rd highest in the world) and there is also the Gorge Swing.

I did the Adrenalin Day -- Abseiling, Rap Jumping, High Wire, and the Gorge Swing. I couldn't understand why some people thought the Gorge Swing was scarier than the Bungee Jump. I pictured it as holding onto a rope and swinging across like Tarzan. I was wrong! Your feet are tied together, and you shuffle to the edge of a cliff in a half crouched position, and when the assistant lets go, you plummet 54 meters free fall down the face of a cliff. Then the slack rope becomes taut and you are swung across the gorge at 140km per hour. Those 3 seconds of free fall are probably the scariest 3 seconds of my life.

Good buys at Victoria Falls are copper bracelets which you can get very cheaply. Admittedly they do eventually turn green and leave black marks on your wrists, but they do look nice.

Going on a river cruise in the Chobe National Park is highly recommended. It is probably the best place to see game in Botswana, particularly elephants.

The Okovango Delta is a must see in Botswana. Each dug out canoe (mokoro) made of sausage tree wood is flat bottomed, and when filled with 2 passengers, their baggage (sleeping bags, etc.) and a poler it sits very close to the water. You find yourself moving very carefully, as any sudden movement could swamp the mokoro. The poler has to occasionally bale out water as they all have slow leaks. You are taken along twisting waterways among the reeds surrounded by dragonflies.

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