Watch this space…

January 30, 2006

Lions MatingI have been so consumed with trying to catch up on photos I am way behind in writing… Coming soon is a write up on Kilimanjaro, Zanzibar, Safari, and the Train to Zambia. In the mean time I am off to Bovu Island (an island 30 km outside of Livingston in the Zambezi) for a few days, but here are a few safari photos as a teaser in the meantime.

Tanzania Safari Photos

Making friends on the road…

January 27, 2006

One of the joys of travel for is meeting locals and travellers on the road. Hello Ian and Catherine, Ronald and Barbara, everyone at Hospadaje Victor, Mauro, Gaston, Manuel, Tommy from Kasama, Kim and Kristen, my poker buddies from South Africa and to the countless other wonder people we have met along the way.

Today we were lucky enough to meet a local, who is also a traveller! Jackie is a Zambian that has moved to England and is on her Honeymoon here in Zambia with Michael, her new husband. She was kind enough you show us the Victoria falls and to introduce us to her cousin who works at the Zambezi Sun in marketing and PR. She was very gracious to us, but that has nothing to do with what I am going to tell you about the hotel!

If you are coming to Victoria Falls and you can spend a little more than a meager backpacking budget the Zambezi Sun is a great place! Also be sure to check out Misozi’s site: Destination Livingstone when planning your trip.

It is $143 a night for a double (including breakfast) and while officially a three star hotel it is actually a four star hotel, but some sort of agreement with the goverment means it has to list itself as three star. It is in a national park connected to the Falls. We saw Zebras and Giraffes in our short visit. It is quite a deal.

Victoria Falls was beautiful, but it was a cloudy day so the photos are not as striking as those for Iguassu, but here they are…

Victoria Falls Photos.

Butterfly Photos.

Dar Es Salaam to Zambia by Train

January 25, 2006

A boy in the Mpika train station We took the train from Dar (Tanzania) to Kapiri Mposi (Zambia). It was supposed to be a 41 hour trip, but actually arrived 47 hours and 45 minutes late! 4 days is a long time to be on a train! I am in the process of writing up a detailed account, but in the mean time here is a link to the only high point of sitting in a train station all day:

Photos of Zambian kids in the Kasama and Mpika train stations.

Hell Sells!

A Roof Without Harvey Tiles is like Being Burnt in Hell Without a SaviourWe have all heard that “Sex Sells”. Perhaps it is the widespread Christianity here in Zambia, or perhaps it is just the owner’s personal preference, but one Zambian firm has decided to try a different approach. I’m calling it the “Hell Sells” approach. It is sort of a “buy from me or suffer eternal damnation” pitch. It is just as hot (pardon the pun) and as lacking in subtlety as the sex sells approach, so who knows, maybe it will start sweeping the red states?

A Roof Without Harvey Tiles is like Being Burnt in Hell Without a Saviour

Some words should not be used in a personal.

A 33 years old male Indian national is looking for a nice femail friend cum business partner without ant discrimination of race colour or Religion interested Call: 0746 925 411Regardless of context, I just don’t think using the word “cum” in a personal ad is a good idea.

A 33 years old male Indian national is looking for a nice female friend cum business partner without any discrimination of race colour or Religion interested Call: 0746 925 411

This is an ad I found in the classified section of a circular in Zanzibar and my heart went out to the guy.

Who’s your daddy? Is he big like me?

January 20, 2006

Take home the Big Daddy.Ever since Andrew Teman brought to light the sexually tinged “I’d Hit It” McDonald’s campaign, I have kept a special eye on fast food ads.

There is an African burger chain called “Steers”. They are running a campaign that struck me as almost as suggestive as McDonalds:

“Take home the Big Daddy!”

But ask him to be gentle if it is your first time doing it with a sandwich.

A penny saved might not be 1% of dollar.

Exchange rates signI have long known that traveler’s checks get less good exchange rates than cash. I have seen people refuse to change old or stained cash, but this is the first time I have seen people reduce the rates by (almost 20%!) for small bills. I have seen this sort of thing tat virtually all currency exchange places in Dar Es Salaam. This is doubly surprising because just 3 weeks ago in Moshi people were very anxious to get small US notes to make change. Sounds like an arbitrage opportunity to me.

None the less, I still like having some small bills because no one ever has any change!

Gmail finally adds a delete button.

gmail delete Deviating from travel for a second… Gmail has finally added a delete button. I know it is a minor change, but it makes me really happy. There is now a one click delete so I don’t have to use the pull down menu. Before this I had to use the somewhat flaky grease monkey script. Thanks Google.

Paradise found…

January 19, 2006

SwissportI refer not to the lovely beaches of Kendwa in Zanzibar, but to our luggage!

28 days after checking our bags in Bolivia we finally have them back. In fairness, mine came back five days before Soyan’s, after only 23 days of being “delayed” and this included a trip to Nairobi, Kenya which even I haven’t had time to visit.

Malaysian Airlines was the legally responsible party and Swissport are their representatives in South Africa and Tanzania. While I can forgive the general incompetence of Swissport, I can’t forgive the tendency to lie in an effort to hide the incompetence.

There were countless promises that were not honored, lies about where I had asked for the bags to be sent, complete ignorance as to the location of my bags, and assurances that they were on flights that they weren’t on.

In contrast, the folks at American Express Global Assist were pretty terrific. I have spoken them at least 25 times and they must have called and emailed Swissport and various airports at least 100 times and probably closer to 200. This includes calling every half hour when they are supposed to be open, but nobody answers. This also includes calling every half hour when the manager vanished into a “meeting” for an entire day.

I’ll be submitting a detailed claim to Air Malaysia for the costs incurred for my “delayed” luggage and we’ll see if they do the right thing.

In the meantime a couple quick tips for what you should do if you are travelling to Africa, since 5 of 27 people in my group had their luggage lost or delayed, and what you should (and should not) say to your friends when their luggage is lost.

Tips to save yourself headaches if your luggage is “delayed”:

  • Know the brand, model and color of your luggage.
  • Have some sort of distinctive tag or marker on the outside.
  • Have your name, address and phone number in a sturdy luggage tag on the outside, not just one of the paper ones from the airline. They tear off too eaisily.
  • Have your name, address and phone number on the inside too. This is in case the tags are lost and they need to open the bag.
  • Keep track of which bag corresponds to which claim check. I know this sounds crazy, but it would have saved us a lot of hassle when my bag was returned without the claim check.
  • Wear your hiking boots on the plane.
  • Carry your prescription medicines and medical supplies on the plane.
  • Carry any chargers (and plug adaptors) with you for any electronics you carry with you, such as your cell phone and camera.
  • Carry a minimum selection of toiletries with you if you can bear it. It is not essential because these can be easily purchased and hotels often have them, but it is nice not to have to bother tracking them down after a long trip.

What to say (and not say) to your firends if they lose their luggage:

  • Say: “I am so sorry, is there anything I can loan you?” or “That really sucks, how can I help?” or just “Man what a bummer!”
  • Do not say anything that appears on the list above. They already know all that now. What they want is a little sympathy, maybe some toothpaste and a t shirt, but not a damn lecture!


January 18, 2006

We had planned to take the train from Dar Es Salaam to Ujiji (really all the way to Kigoma, but it is just a few miles from Ujiji). Ujiji was the town where Stanely uttered the immortal words, “Dr. Livingstone, I presume.” Kigoma is on the border of lake Tanganika and from there we had planned to take the ferry down to Zambia.

Livingstone wandered all the way from one coast of Africa to the other and then for years more to get to Ujiji. Stanely spent vast sums of money and caught an almost equally vast array of diseases in his year long trip to Ujiji to find Livingstone. Soyan I were unwilling to wait two weeks to take the train.

After our trip to the Zambian embassy this morning to apply for our visas, we headed to the train station only to find that all the seats for the two weeks of trains to Kigoma are full. We spoke to the main ticket window, the first class ticket window, the assistant station manager and the station manager, but there was nothing to be done. We did put our names on a waitlist with the station manager, but the assistant station manger had already told us that nobody cancels.

After much research, we decided to scrap our trip to Kigoma and head straight for Zambia on a different train which we could get tickets for. The only problem is that we had to book the whole compartment (4 seats) to avoid splitting up in a men’s car and a woman’s car.

If there is another couple heading from Dar to Zambia on Friday the 20th please contact me and we’ll sell you tickets at a discount if you don’t snore.

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