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Joe and Emma's Adventure

Welcome to Joe and Emma's Travel Page. Here is where we will be keeping a record of our travels for all of you to read. Please feel free to leave a comment for us. If we have time in between discovering new places and meeting new people we will reply to them!

Diary Entries

Saturday, 08 May 2010

Location: Tanzania

The bus ride to Kigoma, Lake Tanganyika was amongst the most gruelling to date. The driver was really pushing it, constantly sideways over what westerners would commonly call a four wheel drive track. Half an hour into the journey a tyre blew out. We replace it with a spare that has a shredded outer rim and clunk on down the road. One hour later, we are blocked by a truck which is stuck in the middle of the road. It is the middle of the day, maybe forty degrees, semi arid desert, no shade and no one has water. After a while the local get bored of staring at the truck waiting for God to suck it out of the water. “Hey Muzungu, give me five dollars”. How articulate and when f--k did it become appropriate to address your guests ‘white man’ before shamelessly begging?

Thirteen hours later we arrive at Kigoma. Our plan was to camp a few days on the lake before taking the train to Dar es Salaam. However the rail line is down but the fortnightly boat which travels down Lake Tanganyika all the way to Zambia was leaving the next day. The Liemba was originally built by the Germans in 1913 and is now the oldest operating boat in the world. En route the boat, being too big to pull in to the small ports, periodically stopped in open water. Each time we slowed numerous dinghies raced to meet us, tying their small vessels to the huge Liemba whilst still moving at speed. All the boats fight for their position next to the decks where they can trade goods, sell lunch to passengers and ferry those disembarking to shore. In typical East African fashion the get really excited during this activity working themselves into a frenzy of self importance. After two days on the boat, we too board one of these small vessels which takes us to a small village called Kipili. We spent a few days staying at a monastery run guesthouse before wandering over the hill and pitching a tent at a pristine lodge and campsite run by a friendly South African couple. It is set on the lake and evokes images of paradise! Each day we take a kayak to nearby islands where with a mask and snorkel we are initiated into the peculiar freshwater ecosystem of the fascinating lake. In the evening we watch an explosion of vivid colours as the sun goes down below Congolese mountains on the other side of the lake. Afterwards we enjoy a candlelit dinner on the beach.

Three days of buses through the Southern Highlands takes us back to Dar es Salaam. En route the bus races through Muzumi National Park where we see Impalas, Elephants, Giraffes and Baboons coexisting in the velvet light of sundown.

Arriving at Zanzibar by boat we are greeted by towering mosques and historic buildings. Small cobblestone alleyways and men in white cloaks; Stonetown is its own entity. Fifty kilometres north east we chill out for a few days at a local fishing village. As soon as we are underwater, a world more strange and wonderful then we have ever witnessed reveals itself. Thousands of different fish, gardens of bright a bizarre coral, sea slugs, eels, starfish, giant clams and other creatures seem to be almost more abundant than the water they exist in.
As we fly away from East Africa the rain clouds converge in a majestic dance with the less ominous cumulus formations brake just enough to allow the blood red horizon of the setting sun which our plane chases first over Tanzania then Kenya and finally Somalia where it finally disappears to the west.
Mother Nature here is untamed and we are already longing for our next encounter.

Saturday, 01 May 2010

Location: Rwanda

Prior to arriving in Rwanda, we spent a few hours in a gorgeous and quaint library on Lake Bunyonyi trying to gain some understanding of the countries history.
Once we had crossed the border contrasts were immediately notable. The shared taxi we used would only take one person per seat, the roads were in excellent condition and motorbikes only carried a driver and one passenger whom both systematically wore helmets. After on month in Uganda this was quite a culture shock.

We spent most of our first day at in Kigali at the Genocide Memorial Centre. In the evening we strolled through wide and quiet avenues. After dinner we sat by the pool at Hotel de Milles Collins reflecting on the atrocities which Rwanda endured sixteen year ago and the remarkable turnaround the country has made.

For weeks we had been debating whether to obtain permit to track the rare but habituated Eastern Mountain Gorilla. Finally we handed over $500USD each, picked up our permits and made our way to Park de Volcans where we set up camp flanked by silhouettes of giant volcanoes.
Trekking through the dense bamboo forest in torrential rain was surprisingly pleasant. It took just over an hour to find their tracks. The group we tracked was named the ‘Susa’ group had twenty-nine members and was the group studied by the late Diane Fossey. The gorillas were hanging out in a natural clearing, the three silverbacks guarding the perimeters of the group, while the mothers sheltered the babies in the centre. Unfortunately for us they didn’t seem to like the rain and were quite inactive, even sulking. However, it was still a fascinating experience. As we left I lingered for a moment. Sensing this, a silverback stared intensely at me and then shook his head at the direction that the others had exited abruptly dismissing me.

The bus windows in Rwanda were so clean that we decided to leave our packs in Kigali and go on a road trip to Cyangugu in the southwest corner. En route the bus drove through the Ngunwi Rainforest which is thick and lush splashed with emerald greens and shrouded in mist. From the bus I spotted half a dozen Colobus Monkeys sunbathing between rain showers. In Cyangugu it was interesting to soak up rural Rwandan life. Our guest house was opposite a border crossing in the form of a precarious bridge across Lake Kivu towards D.R.C. On the way back we stopped in Butare and wondered around the university and churches whilst enjoying powerful African voices belting out church song. After crossing back into Tanzania, we checked into a little guest house in a border village which was originally a refugee camp for fleeing Rwandans. Sixteen years on, it still has an air of impermanence. Kerosene lanterns line the dirt road and we settle down over a plate of beans and rice chewing carefully to avoid crunching on the rouge stones which are characteristic of local meals.

Monday, 26 April 2010

Location: Uganda

Initially not much seems to change as we cross the border into Uganda. Women draped in colourful material still carry anything and everything on their heads, vehicles are still ridiculously overloaded and street vendors are everywhere. With time the subtle differences become more transparent.
Kampala is a very vibrant city and unlike the majority of Tanzania where there is a cultural fear of the dark, it bounces through the night and well into the morning. One night we go out to watch a contempory local band. The music is great and the locals are friendly and know how to party. It is easy and cheap to explore the city using motorbike transport known locally as 'boda bodas'. Em does a day’s volunteer work at an orphanage where she changes heaps of nappies and is covered in babies all day long. Outside the city it is rare to see a young woman not accompanied by a baby and we can’t help thinking some of East Africa’s struggle with poverty is a result of the population, which shows no sign of easing. Uganda has the third highest fertility rate in the world at 6.7 births per women!

We depart slowly from Kampala’s transport centre amidst pollution so thick you could chew it. In order to exit the gridlock of vehicles within, the driver must coordinate with others who all inch backwards and forwards countless times.
In Jinja, famous for being the source of the Nile, we stroll though a melting pot of churches, mosques and temples and around the pleasant outskirts dominated by cottages, bicycles and birdsong.

A boda boda, a bus ride and three dalla dallas (minivan) takes us a mere one hundred kilometres to Sipi Falls at the base of Mt Elgon. We pitch our tent on a terrace looking straight over a deep valley towards the falls. We stroll through coffee and banana plantations around the falls and through the village unhabituated by populations whose sanity is mildly disturbed as a result of the local maize brew.
On the way out we catch a ride on the back of a pick-up truck which is detouring through remote villages since it is market day. There are sacks full of avocados everywhere and bicycles are camouflaged by bunches of bananas which they are carrying.

After researching the present security situation we decide to venture north east into the notorious Karamajong region. The Karamajong are a tribe of cattle herders with a reputation of ambushing vehicles for food, money, vengeance and sometimes just for fun. Until recently they refused to wear clothes and were usually armed with AK47s. When the disarmament programme started in 2002 bullets were one of the main currencies.
On the first day the road is in terrible condition and we sleep on the bus half way before our expected destination. Before the recent downpours there has been a severe drought and the poverty is apparent. The usual street vendors are replaced by hoards of beggars. The next day the engine of our bus seizes. Within a few hours the locals barter a ride for most of us on the back of a pick-up truck. Including children, forty of us and luggage manage to squeeze in. Most of the people are Karamajong who are easily identified by a missing bottom front tooth which is wrenched out at puberty. The women bear intricate yet subtle, artistic facial scarring. As the truck skids and bumps along a dirt road we are treated to countless birds flying amongst the endless semi arid landscape and tribal songs that the locals happily sing to pass time. We spend the night in Kotido, a wild dusty town where we half expect Clint Eastwood to make an appearance. Another colourful bus ride and an equally entertaining truck ride later, we arrive in Kidepo National Park.

Endless long grasses are broken by the occasional waterhole, dotted with solitary trees and enclosed with the silhouettes of the distant ranges which are partly located in Sudan and Kenya. We fall asleep to zebras grazing around the campsite and lions roaring in the distance. We arise at dawn and meet our guide Denis, a park ranger armed with a huge white smile and an AK47. We walk for four hours with Denis who impresses us with his incredible knowledge of flora, fauna and tracking. Although it was fascinating observing wild animals from the safety of a Land Cruisers roof hatch, we were detached observers. We found the experience of entering the animal kingdom by foot enriched and somewhat primal.

We return south through the central north region, that until a few years ago was plagued by a horrific civil war. On the back of a huge truck we pass countless refugee camps and terrible poverty. However, Gulu the capital of the north seems to be prospering. The local Acholi people are some of the friendliest we have encountered.

During a quick stop in Kampala we exchange travel stories with other 'muzungos' and savor espressos, before hopping on a night bus to the south west corner. In the Mgahinga National Park we hike through a diversity of vegetation zones full of strange and beautiful plants to the summit of Mt Sabinyo where we are treated with views of Rwanda, DRC and Uganda.
Just out of the park in the Kisoro district, we board a shared taxi which drives us through hills terraced with potatoes, sugar cane, beans and cabbages to Lake Bunyonyi. Presently we are staying on an idyllic island in the middle of the lake. There are many different species of birds, all colours shapes and sizes. Their dawn chorus is deafening but delightful. Today we hired a dugout canoe and rowed for one hour to the local market to pick up some fresh produce. Along the terraced banks, women sing and men beat on drums. Next stop Rwanda...


Saturday, 10 April 2010

Location: Uganda

Initially not much seems to change as we cross the border into Uganda. Women draped in colourful material still carry anything and everything on their heads, vehicles are still ridiculously overloaded and street vendors are everywhere. With time the subtle differences become more transparent.
Kampala is a very vibrant city and unlike the majority of Tanzania where there is a cultural fear of the dark, it bounces through the night and well into the morning. One night we go out to watch a contempory local band. The music is great and the locals are friendly and know how to party. It is easy and cheap to explore the city using motorbike transport known locally as \'boda bodas\'. Em does a day’s volunteer work at an orphanage where she changes heaps of nappies and is covered in babies all day long. Outside the city it is rare to see a young woman not accompanied by a baby and we can’t help thinking some of East Africa’s struggle with poverty is a result of the population, which shows no sign of easing. Uganda has the third highest fertility rate in the world at 6.7 births per women!

We depart slowly from Kampala’s transport centre amidst pollution so thick you could chew it. In order to exit the gridlock of vehicles within, the driver must coordinate with others who all inch backwards and forwards countless times.
In Jinja, famous for being the source of the Nile, we stroll though a melting pot of churches, mosques and temples and around the pleasant outskirts dominated by cottages, bicycles and birdsong.

A boda boda, a bus ride and three dalla dallas (minivan) takes us a mere one hundred kilometers to Sipi Falls at the base of Mt Elgon. We pitch our tent on a terrace looking straight over a deep valley towards the falls. We stroll through coffee and banana plantations around the falls and through the village inhabituated by populations whose sanity is mildly disturbed as a result of the local maize brew.
On the way out we catch a ride on the back of a pick-up truck which is detouring through remote villages since it is market day. There are sacks full of avocados everywhere and bicycles are camouflaged by bunches of bananas which they are carrying.

After researching the present security situation we decide to venture north east into the notorious Karamajong region. The Karamajong are a tribe of cattle herders with a reputation of ambushing vehicles for food, money, vengeance and sometimes just for fun. Until recently they refused to wear clothes and were usually armed with AK47s. When the disarmament programme started in 2002 bullets were one of the main currencies.
On the first day the road is in terrible condition and we sleep on the bus half way before our expected destination. Before the recent downpours there has been a severe drought and the poverty is apparent. The usual street vendors are replaced by hoards of beggars. The next day the engine of our bus seizes. Within a few hours the locals barter a ride for most of us on the back of a pick-up truck. Including children, forty of us and luggage manage to squeeze in. Most of the people are Karamajong who are easily identified by a missing bottom front tooth which is wrenched out at puberty. The women bear intricate yet subtle, artistic facial scarring. As the truck skids and bumps along a dirt road we are treated to countless birds flying amongst the endless semi arid landscape and tribal songs that the locals happily sing to pass time. We spend the night in Kotido, a wild dusty town where we half expect Clint Eastwood to make an appearance. Another colourful bus ride and an equally entertaining truck ride later, we arrive in Kidepo National Park.

Endless long grasses are broken by the occasional waterhole, dotted with solitary trees and enclosed with the silhouettes of the distant ranges which are partly located in Sudan and Kenya. We fall asleep to zebras grazing around the campsite and lions roaring in the distance. We arise at dawn and meet our guide Denis, a park ranger armed with a huge white smile and an AK47. We walk for four hours with Denis who impresses us with his incredible knowledge of flora, fauna and tracking. Although it was fascinating observing wild animals from the safety of a Land Cruisers roof hatch, we were detached observers. We found the experience of entering the animal kingdom by foot enriched and somewhat primal.

We return south through the central north region, that until a few years ago was plagued by a horrific civil war. On the back of a huge truck we pass countless refugee camps and terrible poverty. However, Gulu the capital of the north seems to be prospering. The local Acholi people are some of the friendliest we have encountered.

During quick stop in Kampala we exchange travel stories with other \'muzungos\' and savor espressos, before hopping on a night bus to the south west corner. In the Mgahinga National Park we hike through a diversity of vegetation zones full of strange and beautiful plants to the summit of Mt Sabinyo where we are treated with views of Rwanda, DRC and Uganda.
Just out of the park in the Kisoro district, we board a shared taxi which drives us through hills terraced with potatoes, sugar cane, beans and cabbages to Lake Bunyonyi. Presently we are staying on an idyllic island in the middle of the lake. There are many different species of birds, all colours shapes and sizes. Their dawn chorus is deafening but delightful. Today we hired a dugout canoe and rowed for one hour to the local market to pick up some fresh produce. Along the terraced banks, women sing and men beat on drums. Next stop Rwanda...


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Recent Messages

From simon
Hi, really enjoying your blogs -keep it up. Love, Dad
From Jade
one word...wow! sounds amazing! nearly made me cry....I cannot wait to see you both....getting so so so excited now! love ya xxxx
Response: Thanks Jade!!! Miss you xo
From A and Tom
Great to read about your travels!! sounds wonderful, make the most of it all! Had a fun nite with Anne and Simon on Friday in Wanaka.
From Tom
ahhh India looks amazing i wont to go there now!
From granpeg
Love the elephant. thanks. Please take care.
From the dread locked Fre
hey man
the picture of the absces is discosting..beurkk...
did u do that in Koh phangan before i meet another time in BK ?? 'cauz i remembered that u was hurt ...
anyway i hope to see u another time, someday and somewhere else (maybe in NZ).
have a nice trip
;-)
From
I just love my Cambodian silk scarf! Many thanx. What amazing adventures you have been having! Really enjoy your travel log and look forward to next installment! miss you heaps! Much love to you both, Mum.
From Phil B
Gday guys!!
Sounds like an epic adventure you are having, and mean photos. Joe yes I am jealous about the surfing, its been custard here although the boys scored coro gold last week. Crazy to hear about your adventures guys look forward to following. Hope those mozzy bites are okay ems!!
Phil
From Matt Hall
Hi Guys!
Wow, looks like you guys are havin a mint time, albeit with a couple of festy sores - nice.
Its pretty hard looking throu the pics at 7.30 on tuesday morning in auckland, its raining here and has been for weeks. The surf has been good but, scored lauries reef last week. and tirua at a perfect (joe 4ft) the hollowest barrels in a long time, no paddle out thou. well hope you guys continue to have a great time, stay safe! Matt
From Nichola
awesome blog page, sounds like your having a great time!! miss you so much tho!!! xx
From Amanda
Looking good team!
From Ben
Awesome photos
From si
broke my toe
Response: on a exercycle?? hahah