A Travellerspoint blog

out of africa 2006

south africa

panoramic route
on the way to krueger national park, we plied the panoramic route. we visited the blyde river canyon along the way. and guess what, we were greeted with motor racing competition in one town. the road was simply closed for the race to take place and everyone stopped work to take a look. we spent the night at a tribal village and slept on the floor of one of the many huts made of cow dung. LOL. we also visited a wildlife conservation sanctuary.

johannesburg & soweto township
we heard so many bad news from other backpackers as well as in the newscasts the whole time we were in south africa, especially joburg. the unsuspecting backpacker who was stabbed in the back by a drunkard. there was a girl staying at our backpacker hostel whose house was burgled and she sought refuge at the hostel. there was a shootout that resulted in death of four cops and four bad guys. crime was rampant, a normalcy.

being asians, we stuck out like sore thumbs and invited stares wherever we went. the worst thing was that everyone thought we were either koreans or japanese (richer asians). and that's fricking scary, because we're NOT rich at all. so, we decided to do away with our hats to look "less japanesey", despite the scorching sun. yeah, it's winter and it's cold in joburg, but the sun rays were also very strong. but we didn't want to get mugged so the floppy hats would have to go!

we also visited the infamous soweto, and saw the slums and street children.

krueger national park
we saw loads of wonderful animals in botswana. we also saw quite a bit in south africa. it was frigging cold in krueger. when we were out on a night game drive, i was wrapped up like a taliban and was still freezing. in chobe (botswana), i was chased by warthogs (wild boars) while i was hanging out clothes to dry. i didn't realise they were just behind me. we also had baboons for company. in krueger, we heard a lion roaring the whole night. it was so close - only 100metre away from our campsite. and was quite hungry. that was quite an experience.

i mentioned we stayed in tents half the time in africa, it's the cheapest way. the following video is a "tour" of our tent. it's kinda messy, apologies. haha.

lost in the mountains
i experienced altitude sickness, bled from the nose, and lost my way while going down the mountain - alone, by myself. my height phobia worsened the situation. as background, hundreds (perhaps thousands) of people have gotten lost in the mountains of drakensberg. these block-like peaks don't look as threatening as the himalayas so many people think they can walk there on their own. without realising that the paths aren't as clearcut as they imagined. and weather changes really fast, the clouds, winds and frost come and go without warning. how glad i didn't end up as part of the death statistic. ha!

meeting the cape malays
but of course, how could i not visit bo-kaap where the cape malay-muslims were! i simply had to see the malays. :D and indeed, we went back twice to bo-kaap because the people were so hospitable. we met a mr lateef, who was so upset that we came too late. "if you could stay here for a week more, i would have packed both of you in my car and take you to a cape muslim wedding! so you can see for yourself the eastern and western influences!" he told us that if we ever come to cape town again, we must visit him "and i will tell all my children to come home and we will have a big feast together!" said mr lateef, the guy in the last picture in this entry. mr lateef's wife's grandparents were imams at the oldest mosque in south africa, the green owal mosque. mr lateef stayed just beside the mosque and when he saw us, he quickly invited us to the mosque. we told him that he's too nice and he said "it is nothing, it's what i am supposed to do as a muslim".

the people here no longer speak indonesian, the earliest "malays" to have been imported to south africa as slaves. they looked middle-eastern, thanks or no thanks to intermarriage. the cape malays are just like malays in singapore, very house proud. they have very pretty, colourful homes.

we wanted to visit the keramat, or the grave of the tuan guru - the prince who re-wrote the whole koran based on memory... but halfway up the slope, we were followed by three teenage boys, who were spotted earlier smoking weed. we saw many more "bad boys" waiting for us at the hilltop. we were told by the locals these boys were only waiting to ambush unsuspecting tourists and would steal cellphones, cameras and valuables. we decided to make our way back down. along the way, we saw many more guys smoking weed openly. they were "high", and staggering as they walked. they were from other townships, and not local cape malays, we were told. we hastened our pace because we kept seeing random groups of boys tailing us.

mugged?
it was a "minor mug", but it scared the shites out of us. it happened after dinner one night. we were walking back to our backpacker's at the end of Long Street, the "happening" street lined with pubs. two police officers were stationed at every 10-metre intervals along the street, known for muggings and what-nots. we chose to stay there because it's within walking distance to everywhere. and we were not planning to do much in cape town, except to just walk around, chat with people, and watch the world go by. afterall, we were at the end of our trip and we were left with about $20 each.

i told my friend i craved chicken. and the only foodplace with halal chicken was Nando's. so we went to Nando's and i had my quarter-chicken meal. when we left, my friend asked me why i had my shirt collar up covering my neck. she said i looked like a turtle. i told her it's to protect my neck from the blade if some crazy mugger was going to hold me at knifepoint. she laughed, and i laughed too. then i asked her a hypothetical question "you know, so far, we have been really lucky this whole trip. what will you do if we ever get mugged?"

and suddenly, we heard footsteps from behind us. FRICK what was that! i told my friend to hurry up. but she said she ate too much and felt a stitch. the whole street was deserted but we heard footsteps behind us. when i turned back, i saw a shabby-looking woman, and she asked me to give me the drink i was holding. i pretended not to hear, and i walked faster. she hastened her pace, too. i started running, and she ran after me!!! frigging hell!!!

i turned around again and i was horrified that my friend was lagging behind. behind me was that shabby-looking woman. she cupped her hands together and said "DRINK!" i didn't know what to do! i was very scared about passing to her my drink because she could be holding a knife. what if she stabbed me with it? and i was afraid that the woman had other friends lurking about. so i threw the bottle towards her. she grabbed it, and stopped pursuing me. and by then, my friend caught up. and we started walking as fast as we could. my heart was thumping so hard. i was glad we didn't carry any valuables except ourselves. surely the woman could have asked for more stuffs if she saw me with a bag or something.

the next day, again we found ourselves in a risky situation. it was the weekend and the whole street was deserted. we were making our way back to the backpacker's from the waterfront, a 30-minute walk. we did not want to take the taxi, because we had no money left. LOL. really, no joke. ZERO CASH. we spent all on rooibos tea jam spread that we were going to give our friends as souvenirs back in singapore. near the waterfront, i told my friend i saw a group of dodgy boys tailing us. we should walk faster, i said. we bumped into a white african and black african, who showed interest in us "hey ladies, want to come with us? we are single and independent!" they hollered. we just walked on. "HURRY HURRY! it's getting late. i don't want to be harrassed like yesterday" i told my friend.

the Long Street walk was the scariest walk i had in my life. everyone on the road was dodgy men. they had bloodshot eyes, they wore long jackets which looked very dirty and had hoods covering their whole heads, except their faces. we even spotted one with leather jacket and a long metal chain which he jangled in front of him. we believed it's used as a weapon to choke people with, before robbing them. we were stopped at least 10 times. men were hooting at us left, right centre. some were calling out "konichiwa!" and two stopped us in our tracks, and said "MONEY!" we pretended not to understand. my friend and i did not speak to each other at all, we were walking so fast like Flash Fry. it's like playing PacMan. when we saw dodgy hooded men walking on the pavement, we went onto the road to avoid them. and when we saw people approaching us, we would cross the road and make a U-turn.

all the time i was going "girl, liang-ge nan-ren on road, masuk pavement!", or "san-ge nan-ren on right, jalan cepat!" or "nan ren lai ler, behind pillar, cross road guai dien!" we were cautioning each other in simple malay and mandarin. finally when we reached our backpacker's hostel, we both just crashed on the bed with a huge sigh of relief. my heart had never beaten so fast. craziness!

for my africa pictures, click here

Posted by jalanjalan 20:46 Archived in South Africa

out of africa 2006

zimbabwe

still editing the videos at okavango. in the meantime, i have the zimbabwe pictures processed, and i am mighty pleased with the result. i used kodak disposable waterproof camera for the following batch of pictures and was extremely worried about how they might turn out. and as you can see, not bad at all. :)

victoria falls was extremely beautiful, there were rainbows everywhere. also very wet. we spent three hours in the "rain", which is actually condensed mist. the force from the waterfall was so powerful that the landscape was covered with thick smoke-like mist. many times, i just opened my mouth to collect the natural spring water and gulped it down!!! extremely yummy. mineral water straight from the source. hahaha!!!

we also went canoeing at zambezi river. wanted to do whitewaterrafting but the water level was too high, said the guide. my encounter with the crocodile was on this river. initially we wanted to paddle the canoe ourselves until we were told that the river was full of crocodiles and hippos. to locate the hippos, we had to hit the sides of the canoe so the hippos, which were submerged in water, would stand up and we would avoid going near them. we were told hippos could try to turn the canoe over if we ended up on their heads. crocodiles... we had to swim away if we encountered any, said the guide. worried about them, we decided to go with a guide each.

and then i spotted the crocodile on the riverbank, it was pretending to be a log. as i was going "look the crocodile looked so peacef..." and the crocodile suddenly started crawling down the bank and into the water in our direction. within three seconds, it was just 2 metres away from us. i was stunned, and my instinct was to run away. "it's coming towards us! how how????" but i was with the chief guide and he said "no, i'm the guide, we have to shield the rest" and without haste, he paddled towards the croc. i just froze as we were just half a metre away from the huge croc, which was about two metres long, and HUGE. i was staring straight into its bulging eyes and teeth. my heart was thumping so hard and i remember closing my eyes and telling myself "i'm dead". the guide used his paddle to jab the floating croc's head and it went underneath our canoe. we were lifted a little by its moving body and suddenly it was gone. that was close! the guide said "it could still be following us. paddle faster!" and i paddled as fast as i could. suddenly, i felt like i had so much strength. i was frightened to death and i just wanted to go as fast and as far away from the beast as i could. to stop only so i could periodically thump the sides of the canoe to check out for hippos. there were about 10 hippos and we paddled away from them.

on reflection, i felt so fortunate to be alive. the guide said something like when we're in the river, we're at the mercy of the beasts. "if you see a hippo, and swim away, and a lion is waiting for you on the bank, you're done for. that's life, it's just too bad for you". haha.

but it was damn shiok, i tell you. damn challenging and damn exciting. and damn scary! woo hoo, i survived the zambezi river, how many people can say that? :)

for my africa pictures, click here

Posted by jalanjalan 20:44 Archived in Zimbabwe

out of africa 2006

kalahari desert, botswana

we travelled around in a truck, camping at towns of maun and nata, around the kalahari desert. we also took the opportunity to visit the magadikgadik salt pans, and witnessed a mirror lake and amazing sunset. before we could cross the border to zimbabwe, our 4WD broke down. a temporary replacement would be a mini lorry. and we dumped all our stuffs at the back, and then hopped in together with the load. hahaha, it was goddamn fun to have the wind blowing in our faces. hehe. our guide was stressed not only because of his car, but also the fact that we were not complaining. he said "you ladies, i see you smiling and laughing even though we have no vehicle. you're making me feel bad!" and we said "no worries, we are quite easygoing people. that's what makes travelling fun, you never know what can go wrong haha!". and he smiled and said "good to hear that!" anyhow, botswana was truly wild. animals just kept popping out everywhere from the bushes along roadsides. sights along the way...

for my africa pictures, click here

Posted by jalanjalan 20:42 Archived in Botswana

out of africa 2006

okavango delta, botswana

the guide told us we were the first singaporean clients she has had since she started working 7 years ago. she said camping was never popular among asians so she was rather surprised to see us wanting to "rough it out". actually, i didn't find it all that uncomfortable. we just had to help cook, wash dishes, set up tents, clean up, find firewood, no shower for a few days, and drink water from the stream. ok what, not that bad. the campsite was fairly clean. singapore toilets are 100 times worse, even though they're made of ceramic or marble. i am really very impressed with african toilets, even dug up holes in the bush. the people have good toilet habits.

the first two weeks of our trip, we had to set up and break our shared tent every day. it could get quite chilly during the nights in winter, and the urge to pee was quite great. but the howling hyenas, snorting hippos, and roaring lions could be heard quite clearly and i held my bladder till morning most times. i wouldn't want a hyena pouncing on me while i bombed in our "bush toilet". i was glad that i brought enough ammunition to keep me warm. okavango was a time for cultural exchange (will put up some videos in the next entry), we were quite a hit with the locals. they said we were the first to have asked if we could learn to paddle the mokoros (they were initially afraid we would break their paddles), we picked up their language quite fast, and learnt some of their games. our genuine sincerity in wanting to know their way of life touched their hearts i suppose, we could see pride in the eyes as they showed us the way.

i loved this leg of the trip best, because time stood still. we cooked fried maggi mee for everyone, joked and laughed. we got to see happy giraffes and zebras galloping freely, ostriches, wildebeests, impalas, steenboks too. we saw plenty of perfect sunsets and sunrise, clear blue skies, we heard hippos splashing away in the stream. by this time, i had chucked my watch aside. there's no need for a watch in the wild. to survive, trust in your senses, natural instincts, and your heart.

for my africa pictures, click here

Posted by jalanjalan 20:40 Archived in Botswana

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