October 2003 Archives

Zambia and Zimbabwe !!

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OK I have some time to myself now, thought I would write some of my last couple of days down. Zambia was nice, the campground was absolutely beautiful - overlooked the zambizi river and had a really nice outdoor bar with a pool, etc... The grounds had tons of monkeys running everywhere, and in the mornings you could hear Hippos snorting out in the water. The first night there we did a "booze cruise" which was $25 US for dinner and all you could drink for 3-4 hours. It was just the ten of us on the boat and two other older people. It started off slowly but of course by the end it was completely out of control. I am absolutely amazed at our little team, considering 3 are over 50, one doesnt drink we sounded like an army coming onto shore. The four guys working the boat really helped as well - by the end of the ride they had everyone dancing and singing at the top of our lungs - while we banged on the metal sides of the boat. Most african singing is like a mantra - it usually started with someone singing Umkulu-kulu at the top if their lungs and then everyone would chant it back, then ooooo-ca-chasa - oooo ca-chasa at a differnet rythem all while everyone pounded on the boat. It was really a good time to just get everything out on one of our last nights. Then they played drums and we all danced our way back to the bar and continued dancing for most of the night. We did lose one of our gand though, young Anna (who is 19) leearned a valuable lesson about drinking on an empty stomach so of course one of the german girls and I got to play babysitter for her for about 45 minutes - we finally just put up and empty tent for her so she wouldnt throw up on everything - of course I the next morning Anna got up at 8AM and did the Gorge swing which is like a crazier version of bunji jumping - oh to be 19 again.

Today I made it safe and sound into Zimbabwe and once again after 21 days on the road I am alone again. It is actually sort of nice, The town here (vic falls) is nice - but there are a few too many touts here which means you are constantly saying no to someone, from selling you drinks, food, currency, hash, etc... The currency is a really big thing, the official rate for Zim - US$ is 800 to 1 meaning if you use an ATM to pull out 4000 Zim dollars you will be charged $5US. However if you know someone who can change money for you the "real" rate is between 4500 and 5500 to 1 US. meaning 4000 Zim dollars is really about 80 cents. So this also means I have very little money right now since I did not really bring alot of US dollars with me on this trip for fear of being robbed. So today and tomorrow I have to go back to Zambia, pull out Kwacha from the ATM (which is offically about 4700 to 1 US) trade it for US dollars and then trade the US dollars for Zim dollars. This of course means there are about 4 people that touch my money and it means everyone wants a little piece. But of course things are extremely cheap here, and for most of my trinkets I will be bartering, I plan to bring any extra clothes to the market and just trade them for crafts, I have already been offered a chess board and hand carved pieces for my shorts, and I could probably get a small fortune for my Shoes.

Ok so I just had a total travel moment - I am sitting here typing this up and in walks Diana a girl I had been talking to via email for a month beofore my trip, she is from VA beach and we were going to be in Cape Town at the same time looking for an overland trip. She decided not to use Umkulu (my company) and went with Nomad (I ran into her briefly at Robben island in Cape Town) - she just arrived here tonight, she is staying at the same hostel as me and we are both whitewater rafting tomorrow as well. So it looks like once again I wont be alone - I am going out with her and her overland group tonight.

So anwyay I am out for the rest of my trip most likely - I will post again when I am back in the USA....

Quick update

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Just wanted to let everyone know I am still alive... I am at a beautiful campsite along the Zambezi waterfront. Going to Victoria Falls tomorrow and then whitewater rafting on Friday on the largest river in the world for rafting - can't wait. see you soon

Ngepi Moremi and Maun

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OK, not sure where I left off, but my most recent memory is of Moremi and Maun... oh wait I had an excellent time in Ngepi as well.... well anyway too much to type about for the time I have, but I will do my best.

Ngepi - a beautiful campsite - surrounded by water with a very friendly (for the most part) Hippo that comes ashore every so often. I actually had to spend an extra hour at the bar one night because the Hippo was outside my tent, when you see something that weighs close to a ton and could snap you in half with his jaw I guess you just turn around and have another and wait for him to leave. Did a short canoe ride up the river as well and saw more Hippos as we rode up the shore... also did some late night swimming, of course in a cage, since there are crocodiles all along the shore and it is not safe to swim in the actual river. However, this did not stop my guide from having his own adventure along the river, we spent most of the morning looking for our guide and the bartender...

Moremi - Moremi is a game reserve in Botswana (oh yeah I am in Botswana now) it was quite a trip. We spent two days and two nights in the reserve camping in the bush - at night we could hear lions growling in the darkness and the next day we went and found them about 1/4 mile away. We were in an open range rover and drove about 6 feet away from a mating pair of lions. Quite an amazing thing to do - there are no fences, you are completely in the wild but you are safe as long as you stay in the truck, however when we moved too much the Lion would start to growl slightly - then our guide would tell us to be still or he might charge the truck. Its quite an interesting experience. At night we also heard things rustle about, scorpions (poisonous too) and huge ass spiders were quite common so you had to look over your shoulder all night while sitting at the fire otherwise you dont notice until they are on you. The night was the best, I woke up a couple of times and you could hear Lions Growl and a honey badger came into our campsite foraging around all night. At about 4:30 one night I woke up and looked outside (our tents have screened windows) I could hear something walking through our campsite, and it went to each tent slowly finally I could hear it heading for ours, I seriously thought I might have to close my eyes because if I saw a Lion about 6 inches from me with only a tent screen between us I think I might have shit myself. It turned out to be a honey badger, and he sniffed and walked by, but they can be quite nasty as well.

Maun- Maun sucks and I have nothing else to say.. they have an internet cafe so I guess that is OK.... anyway one more week and I am home.... see you all soon.

Wish you were here...

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What a great day - went Quad biking on the sand dunes here which was amazing. We rode probably about 10-20 miles around the dunes, all you could see was sand and sky. Then at one point we hit the ocean which was strange to see after riding through the desert and the image was amazing. Now we are just lounging around the hostel (no camping for 2 days) had my first warm shower in about 8 days which was quite a luxury. Tonight we are going to all go out for dinner and then probably another nice night on the town. Swakopmund is a very intersting place, Namibia itself is very African, but this city is pretty much a German colony so it looks like a small northern Wisconsin town (with African people of course) but there are tons of Germans here too. Anyway, Played some pool last night which was a blast, the balls are about 2/3 of the size here so it is taking some getting used to but soon I can start taking these tourists for all their money.

I can't believe how much fun I have had and its only the first week, there are 14 days of this to go. Africa is an amazing place - the scenery seems to change daily, and the people are all great. In the coming weeks it gets really interesting, we have been sleeping outside most nights - but now we have to start sleeping with our tents in circle for safety, and at some points we have to wake up a professional game warden to go with us to go to the bathroom because there can be Lions, Elephants, etc.. within 5 feet of our tent. Can't wait!!!

OK this may be my last posting.... There is a chance in about a week but I am not sure.

arrival at swakopmund, Namibia

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ok - so after roughly seven days I emerge from the Bush. We have done so much it feels like a lifetime already. so far I have swam across a river where one side was south Africa another was Namibia, climbed a completely red sand dune at 5AM in Namibia, jumped into a river on intertubes at a campsite, and met some really really wonderful people. I dont have much time now to type becasue everyone is waiting for the internet, but I will try and write more later. After 7 days of camping we are all ready for a night on the town tonight so soon we are heading out, then tomorrow I will be riding a 4 wheeler up some other huge sand dunes, and possibly thinking about jumping out of an airplane, who knows. I will write back more later....

Leaving Cape Town

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Today I start my 21 day trip though Namibia and Botswana - I am so excited. Hopefully the group will be a good one because I am stuck with them for 21 days now. I am a bit tired after celebrating my last night in Cape Town with some people last night - so I dont have much to say, but this will be my last update for a while I think. Went to a nice bar last night called Jo'Burg (on long street) ha a good time, its hard not to drink when beer costs roughly $1.00. I have been enjoying a Namibian beer here called Windhoek - its very good. Yesterday I also toured most of Cape Town, after we discovered Rikkis which are basically little mini buses with open backs that have bench style seats. These things are a bit scary (expecially going up and down hills) but they sure are a lot of fun, they come right when you call and only cost roughly $2.00 to anywhere in the city. I also met a really cool guy who drove the rikki - born in Cape Town but he spent 14 years in London and 14 years in Canada - he was so funny I dont think I stopped laughing the entire ride. His name is Vallie Patel - and he actually has his own radio show from 3-5PM sundays (so 9-11AM our time) I think you can catch it online - the station broadcasts there, its 89.5 Bush radio Cape Town, so search it up. Well my eggs and bacon are here so off I go.

Cape Town

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back to the city for bit.. had a good time last night, went out for dinner (crocodile, and springbok) at a nice place on a very popular night life area in Cape Town (long street) - then headed back to me hostel around midnight, ran into James and Manuel (James makes the T-shirts 'afritude') and Manuel is a big rasta from Cuba. Had an interesting night, but realized I couldn't keep up... Had to get up at 7:30 to do my last tourist stuff so around 3:00 I had to bail out.... meaning I was walking the streets of Cape Town alone at 3:00 in the morning, but all was well and I made it home after a short nervous 5 minute walk. Today I went to Robben Island (where mendela was imprisoned) then took a cable car up to the top of Cape Mountain with Katrin and wandered around up there. It was such an amazing view of the city - now we are wandering around Cape Town and just doing some shopping for gifts, etc...

Tomorrow I head out on my 21 day trip with Umkulu which will hopefully be a really good time, I am very excited... I dont think I will be keeping up with the internet much, so this may be my final sign out (maybe tomorrow morning). Since my inbox will be overrun with spam please - if you want to email me send it to rich @oestreich.org - that one is still pretty decent.

Goodbye to Hermanus

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OK yesterday I departed Hermanus with some great memories - I met the best people there so far (hello Rich and Carol if you read this) and had some great times there... Hit the road with two others I met Ruth (US) and Katrin (German) and we drove (on the wrong side of the road) to Stellenbosch. Learned a bit about the South African highway system (slightly confusing) but we arrived safely. Checked into a hostel called "The Stumble Inn" which I rather like and today we did a wine tour of four extremely nice wineries in the area. I was able to take some pics of beautiful mountainsides covered in wine grapes and the area itself is just amazing. Tonight we are going out for dinner with two girls from Holland (Caitrin and Jessica) we met and then probably going out for a bit int in the area. The city here is a bit of a college town I think so it is rather quiet with lots of nice restaurants and coffee shops. Tomorrow we are going to the Cape of Good hope and checking out some penguins or something sounds fun - then some traditional fare at a restaurant called Mama Africa - I think I might eat some Warthog or some other crazy game, Zebra maybe?

Shark Dive Success

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Fucking A right - I was able to make shark diving today. It was kick ass - I was down in the cage and had a big ass great white swim right at me with its mouth open, very intense... I also have some great pics of it ramming our boat with its tail as it tried to eat some of the bait they put out, what an amazing animal. Anyway off to the wineries tonight and then cape of good hope and back to Cape Town to meet up with my overland trip - I have heard nothing but good about Umkulu so I am very excited... OK over and out... Oh yeah if anyone wants a postcard please post comments with your address and I will do my best to get one sent out to you tomorrow.

whales and sharks oh my

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I arrived today in Hermanus after a long night in Cape Town - I managed to catch my bus at 7:45 AM with a hangover and about 4 hours of sleep. It is beautiful here, I met some people on the bus and we all decided to sleep for a couple of hours and then head out to the ocean and watch the whales, I think I have some really good pictures of everything - thanks to Josh's telephoto lense. If you want to see everyhing that is going on you can look here http://www.whalefestival.co.za/

Tomorrow at 7AM I head out to go into the shark cage - can't wait!!

I'm back

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Since I have the luxury of easy internet access thought I would check in again - today was very interesting - I went on a cultural tour of the Cape Flats and saw some very impoverished people. We were able to enter their homes and see how they live, it is very rough conditions, but the people seemed genuinely happy through it all. Especially the children, there are so many of them here - it seems like everyone in Africa is young, I have seen very few people that appear over the age of 30 - my guess is that this is the effect of HIV/AIDS and the poor health care in many areas. There were some happy experiences though, we went to a pre-school that the hostel I am staying in supported - there were at least 30 children in it, who were jumping and playing and learning english. they all wanted to be picked up and played with - they were all so happy and really give you hope for the future. At the end we all went outside and they played some music from the van we arrived in - there was a spontaneous dance party in the street with all these kids - it has been the highlight of my trip so far.

Good morning

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The longest day ever ended around 12:30 last night, met some nice people - 3 from Ireland and one from Australia, had some drinks and played pool on a pool table here... African pool balls where about 2/3 the size of normal, and I learned the house rules - if you miss entirely the next person gets 2 shots, and apparently slop is OK... I played pool against James - a really cool guy who makes clothing here is his site afritude I plan to bring a couple home for sure... Today I head to the Cape Flats which is basically a shanty town - should be very interesting...

Touchdown Part 2

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WOW! what a beautiful and friendly city. I have been walking/cabing around town today and having a wonderful time. Took some good pictures and had some excellent food. I even talked a pharmacist into selling me some anti-biotics (Cipro) in case I catch something nasty on my overland trip (try doing that at CVS). I also after much tribulation figured out how to call the U.S. (hint you have to dial some obsure 7 digit code to get a real US operator) so I was able to get the security hold off my credit card - which in turn allowed me to get rent a cell phone so.... if anyone wants to call me my # here is 0828581228 you will need to dial 011 most likely and the country code which I believe is 27 so I guess to call me it would be 011-27-082-858-1228 this phone will only be active between now and when I return it October 10th. Till later....

Touchdown

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OK, I am officially in Cape Town - it is 12:06 PM here, but of course my body thinks its 6AM. Plane ride went well - met a cool guy who coached many african soccer teams. Slept on and off and watched the worst movie ever - Queen latifah and Steve Martin, man what a team. In any case it made me comfortable since I was getting a little anxious. I dropped of my gear and I am going to head out into the city here in a bit - I hope to rent a cell phone today - so you can all waste your hard earned money calling Africa to talk to me. I should have good access to internet here so I will be staying in touch.