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Friday, September 9, 2011

Africa (Intrepid tour - Kruger, Coast & Cape)


Sawubona! Welcome to South Africa.

Africa was an amazing trip, we first met our tour leader Darren, a tall guy with dreads and it was his birthday the day of the tour starting.We started in Johannesburg and the first night we went for a group dinner at an authentic African restaurant, they had live jazz/blues musicians there and the waitresses would come around and paint your faces with a tribal design, the servings were huge and the food delicious! We got to know a few people but it was an early night cause we had to be up by 4am for the long drive to Kruger national park.

It was a long drive and you soon work out which are the best seats on the truck to sit. At the front was very hot and at the back was extremly windy. We drove through the Mpumalanga Province and made a few stops at some breathtaking spots. First was Blyde river canyon, it was so beautiful it almost didnt seem real. We were very high up on a cliff face and had the most incredible views as far as the eye could see. We hopped back on the bus after loads of photos and headed to Gods Window, another incredile viewpoint. After lunch we checked out Bourkes Luck Potholes. We cant even begin to describe how amazing these places are I guess you can see from the photo's or you will just have to go there yourself. Luke had his first attempt at trying to speak Zulu to one of the ladies behind the counter but it didnt pan out too well, she just looked at him like he was kinda weired. At least he tried though haha. After a long day of sightseeing we finally arrive in Kruger national park and began our game drive straight away. At first everyone was super excited to see Impala's but after an hour of game driving it wore off quickly cause they were everywhere. The drives were so cool, and to see these animals in the wild, how they should be just made it that extra special. We saw The big 5 all except for the leopard, well a few people on bus managed to get a good photo of it but it was very shy and didnt want to hang around. We set up camp and I think someone cooked up bolognaise that night It took a bit getting used to the hard grounds camping, the early starts and packing up tents every morning but I would have to say that the Africa tour we did has been the best so far. Everyone got to know each other really well and it was cool to bond over a couple beers by the campfire, cook dinner with new friends and play what turned out to be some fierce card games. Game of spoons anyone??




 We enjoyed Kruger and spotting all the amazing animals, it was quite intense at times focusing on the bush to spot animals you start to hallucinate seeing them but instead finding them to be rocks. After our adventure with the wild animals and camping the night we headed  south east to the Kingdom of Swaziland. We visited a traditional Swazi cultural village and watched them sing and dance for us at the end a few of the people from the group were picked out of the crowd to go up on stage and do a dance off with the main character of the show, and what a character he was, very funny and entertaining with a lot of gay manerisms. I tried not to make eye contact while he was scanning the crowd. At the end everyone got up on stage and had a dance with them it was alot of fun and believe it or not it was a tad emotional for some reason, in a good way. Tonight we camped at Hlane Royal National Park, when we arrived there was a rouge Ostrich running around the camp. You dont really realise how big they are till you get right up close to them. The locals from the area put on a traditional dance for us by the camp fire and we all danced along again. Africans love to sing and dance and they are bloody good at it too. That wasnt the end of the excitement, when we were all heading to bed someone spotted a Mozambique Spitting Cobra, highly venomous, if you got bit and didnt reach the hospital within 10mins you would be a gonna. The guys who were running the camp were all trying to kill it unsucessfully and I think they just pissed it off even more. It got away and they couldnt find it after that so we were extremly cautious after that.













Born dia! Today we discover Mozambique.
Arriving at the border into Mozambique we had to change vehicles cause our truck wouldnt make it through the sandy dunes to our campsite. We all loaded our camping gear into the trailor which was attached to this cage carriage, I guess thats the best way to explain it. All 13 of us all piled into the cage and Darren opted to ride ontop of the trailor with all our camping gear as there was not enough room in the cage. The ride to our campsite was hilarious, everyone was being thrown about cause it was so bumpy  and Darren was being covered in dust from riding on the trailor. By the time we made it to our campsite Darren was almost black. Driving into our campsite was stunning I never realised how beautiful the landscape could be. We quickly set up camp then we went to book our dive for the following morning. For lunch a group of us went and found a local cafe/ hut to eat at, we arrived an hour early from when we actually wanted to eat as Darren said thats how long it will take for the food to come out. Luke ordered the pregga sandwich (kinda like beef stroganoff in a bun), we had some laughs and drank some beer. That night our driver Collin got really drunk and told us lots of stories about Lions and how many wives he supposibly had, when he decided it was time to go to bed he started walking in the opposite direction to his tent, he had no idea where it was it was a crack up to watch. 





The next morning we got up early to go for our dive, we went to have some breakfast to find that a troop of monkeys were going through it all and one ran off with the box of cereal into the trees, little shits. We headed off on our dive to a site called "cloudbreak", we thought this was funny as that is the name of the minesite we used to work on. The dive wasnt as great as we were hoping as the current was really strong and visibility not too great either but we saw lots of cool fish but not much else. Oh well least we can say we have dived in Mozambique now. We just chilled all day on the beach swimming and getting knocked about, it was so rough and exhausting in the waves but really fun at the same time. That night we went to a local guy named Paulo's bar to try his special blend named RnR (Rum & Rasberry). Was really sweet and delicious so you didnt really notice all the alcohol that was in it, before you know it we were having a blast singing and dancing and somehow we saw Jesus on Bec's leg. Was such a great night but all good things come to an end. Luke carried on with Darren and in the morning the inside of our tent was covered in sand from Luke telling and acting out his stories for Darren down at the beach. We woke up early to pack up all the gear as we were off again for our next adventure. I was so sick during the ride back to the border in our cage I actually vomited in my mouth and had to hold it in till they could stop the truck and let me out of the cage. I rode the rest of the way with Darren.  Today we make our way to Zululand and Lake Snt Lucia. When we arrived we had the option to go on a boat cruise in the estuary to spot some crocodiles, hippos and birdlife which inhabbits it. We got to see hippo's up close, there were so many of them it was awesome to see them interact with their distinctive calls or chuckles to each other. We saw Nile crocodiles, got to hold some hippo teeth (huge!) and a large eagle which was all pretty impressive. That night a local group performed for us by campfire singing, dancing and stomping. This night I couldnt avoid eye contact cause one of the guys had grabbed me by the arm before I knew it and I was crouched down in front of everyone with a few of the others from our group who had been chosen. All the locals took it in turns of doing an impressive solo dance for everyone then looked at us to show it was now our turn. Shit, shit, shit I was thinking hmmm what can I do, I think in the end I busted out a really retarded river dance which I couldnt quite co-ordinate cause I was so nervous. It was alot of fun though. I really loved all the singing and dancing and spirit of the African people.















The next morning we left for the Valley of a Thousand Hills and to our traditional Zulu homestay. The drive there was breathtaking.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Cambodia

After arriving in Phnom Penh we got a tuk tuk by this lovely man who loved kiwi's. He took us to our hostel "Me mates place". The staff were great especially one guy who called himself Tony Montana, and the room was really nice except we found it a bit expensive compared to Laos and Vietnam, when you think of it though it was still relativly cheap compared to back home. We arranged to visit the Cheoung Ek killing fields and Tuoel Slung prison (s-21) the next day. For dinner we wanted to try a local dish so we ordered the traditional Amok curry with fish and rice, was nice. It has these tiny eggplants in it that looked like peas. Luke asked if it was spicy, oh no not spicy she said, woah was it spicy!!. The next day we took our tuk tuk out to the killing fields. The first image we are confronted with is a 18m high stupa full of 8000 human skulls and other assorted bones on 17 levels. It was very confronting to see and all the victims clothes were on the bottom tier. There were many signs across the site explaining what each area was used for or the mass graves that had been found and excavated. It was hard not to get emotional while visiting this place were such horror and brutal killings of innocent men, women and children had taken place. It's hard to believe it was only 30yrs ago!








I asked if they would mind if I took photo's and they were very encouraging as they want to show people/the world what happened to the Cambodian people and make sure that such things may not / will not happen again.

From there we went to S-21 prison which used to be a school and had been converted into the prison you see today. This was the prison where they held, so called prisoners, before they took them to the killing fields, that is if they lived that long. This was for some reason a lot more evil than the killing fields. The classrooms were transformed into cells with cells within them. And there was other rooms used for torture, blood stains still stained the floors, the childrens playground equipmet had been used as torture devices. Photos of the victims lined the wall. Next to the killing fields this is the most evil, sad and heartbreaking place we had ever been to.






Siem Reap was next, we got another bus ride there and we stayed for 6 nights in total, our longest stay in the one place yet. Really nice and friendly people. Got on the piss the first night there as it was Sashies birthday. Got on it at a place called The Temple Club. Played some pool then wayched a traditional Apsara dance upstairs in the restaurant. We made friends with a young man named Penh Pen that we took a shine too and he to us. He is a lovely person and we will keep in contact with him, we arranged to meet him for lunch the following day. We tried some frog that a Intrepid group from another table offered us, tastes very much like chicken. Went and checked out the Temples on the 3rd and 4th days with a guy we met from Canada named Robin. Hi Robin if you read this, thanks for the fun times! The Temples were absolutely amazing. The next day we were walking down pub street and who do we see... our English mates from Vang Vieng Jordan and Kathy. Decided to go for a swim with them at a 5 star hotel then got cleaned up and met them for dinner and drinks. Messy night again but had lots and lots of shits and giggles.Chilled out the next couple of days before going back to Bangkok. When we got back there we basically just tried to rest and recouperate and get all our washing and stuff done before we started on our next adventure of Africa!!