It's been a while since I have sat down to write one of these. Partly because we have been on a whistle stop tour travelling from the East to the West coast of Africa, but mainly due to me being embarrassingly lazy.
When we arrived back on mainland Africa from Madagascar, we decided to head straight down into Tanzania and climb Mt. Kilimanjaro. Sal and I did our research and managed to find the cheapest and least reputable tour company in Northern Tanzania and we were set to go.
The main thing that I remember from the climb was having more pees than the entire back catalogue of Blockbusters. At my most prolific I clocked up 5 in an hour. Apparently this is a side effect of your body acclimatising to the altitude, however it is quite disconcerting when a single bottle of water inexplicably quadruples in volume somewhere inside you.
The climb itself was surprisingly easy up until the 5th day, apart from it being stupidly cold and managing to get as much sleep as an insomniac with a red bull addiction. On the 6th day we started the final ascent at midnight, after no food or sleep. We reached the 5000 metre mark and then the next thing I remember is watching Sal being sick at the top, 3 hours later. Apparently during that time I had been telling her that I felt like I was in a dream and that I had no idea what was going on, but our guide had assured us that this was fine and predictably I had told her there was absolutely no way I was turning back.
After 20 minutes of generally being ill at the top we started the descent and we finally reached our camp about 11am, where we planned to have breakfast and then try and get an hour's sleep. Our guide then said with a big smile on his face, 'Best not go to sleep here, because we're still very high. People sometimes don't wake up when they've been ill at the top because they stay here too long. Haha.' Now I like a good joke, but telling someone who hasn't slept for over 40 hours and who is more than a bit paranoid about leaving 3 hours of his memory somewhere on the side of a mountain that he might not wake up if he falls asleep is about as humourous as Bambi's mum dying. Call me a sentimental old fool, but I have become quite partial to waking up after my naps. So, suddenly not very hungry, we raced down the side of the mountain to a camp nearer the base whilst I pondered whether a priest could read someone their last rites over the phone. I am very happy to report that I did wake up the next day - no thanks to our guide, who then demanded a $500 tip for getting us both to the top. He didn't get it.
After Kili we decided we deserved a holiday so we headed to Zanzibar, an island off the East coast of Tanzania, and laid about on the beaches for a couple of weeks. Zanzibar is a beautiful place with white beaches, turquoise seas, friendly people and most importantly a 200 inch HD TV screen set up specifically for the Euros. Most England games started with me being embarrassed to be associated with the overweight, potty-mouthed, drunken English blokes who had clearly forgotten their sun-tan lotion and ended with me hugging them goodbye, having bonded over England's inability to play a short, simple pass.
With our melanine reaching saturation point and our money running low, we decided to change our plans completely and leave East Africa and go West into Zambia and Namibia, where food and accommodation are a lot cheaper. We booked ourselves on a train from Dar-es-Salaam, the main city in Tanzania, to Zambia, which should take 2 and a half days. We got a sleeper carriage and loaded on all our luggage, which incidentally now includes a Malagasy suitcase which is more crammed full of wood than Linford Christie's running shorts. The train was full of a mixture of tourists taking photos of every bridge we crossed and field we passed as if this iron snake was a miracle from God (me and Sal included) and drunk locals who were clearly hell bent on beating their own pb time in drinking the bar dry. The train got into Zambia a mere 26 hours late, which is quite good apparently, and the first thing I noticed was a shop called King Pies. I instantly knew we had made the right decision to head to Southern Africa.
As we were only passing through Zambia on our way to Namibia, we only spent a few days there, all of them at Victoria Falls. It is the largest waterfall on the planet and seventh wonder of the world and we had timed our trip there to coincide with a full moon so we could see the famous lunar rainbow. It was rubbish. If you stared long enough at the water you could just about make out a faint white arch and if you took a photo with a shutter speed of about a minute you might be able to see a colour or 2 on the picture. In fairness, the falls themselves were pretty spectacular, but only in the daylight and after a few beers. My favourite memory of the place is trading Sally's old flip-flops and holey socks for a wooden giraffe and a couple of wooden statues to add to the ever expanding suitcase.
After Zambia we headed West again to Namibia, but I will leave that for the next entry.....