Nairobi To Botswana (Overland Tour)

Life on the wild side. Bunduz

Life on the wild side. Bunduz

A wealthy African man who is living in his bonus years wakes up one morning with an urgent need to leave a lasting legacy. In his long life he has observed that Africa has all it needs to be self reliant and still have enough to support the rest of the world if need be. He goes out on  search of young men from each of the fifty four African countries and takes them through a good education with an aim of transforming the African leadership to a strong unified state. The wealthy man is in his sunset years, but he dreams of a beautiful sunrise. One man, one sunrise!

It was while on the 15 days overland tour through 6 African countries that I had a conversation that went something like this with one comical adventurer, with a knack of capturing moments beautifully and philosophizing the state of affairs creatively albeit his topsy-turvy demeanour.

Brian, shows off some shots

Brian, shows off some shots

The planning had been on going for a while, and I was looking forward to the adventure like a freshly trained jockey to his maiden race! The day finally came and we set off on the grand road-trip organized and managed by  Bunduz

Mukhtar of Bunduz briefs the pack of adventurers shortly after departure from Nairobi

Mukhtar of Bunduz briefs the pack of adventurers shortly after departure from Nairobi

The first few days had most of the overland truck occupants pretty much keeping to their own spaces and indulging in their personal past times like reading or even typing away some pending work reports on their laptops. I quietly watched, knowing that soon this would be a hive of activity and an anthill of interaction as the days went by. Fortunately, the overland truck catered for everyone including those that insisted on working as we made our way through the picturesque landscapes of our beautiful land Africa.

The comfortable overland truck allowed work and play :-)

The comfortable Bunduz overland truck allowed space for work and play 🙂

I have taken it upon myself to tell the world that which is little known about Africa in pictures and words, and so my joy could not be hidden when I saw like-minded people whip out cameras (from the professional full frames to the phone cameras) to take shots here and there. I caught myself mid-way through a jubilant somersault while doing a never ending mental calculation of multiples, on how many people would be reached through the various platforms that the photos would be exhibited! We have to show the world the gem that Africa is!

Many photographers were part of the pack! photo by Brian

Many photographers were part of the pack! photo by Brian

Someone once said that, ‘We travel not to escape life, but for life not to escape us.’ The experiences we had on this road-trip are second to no other; loaded with the bush feel of adventure, the high adrenaline of  sport and the general excitement of interacting with other cultures as well as soaking in new scenery. It was an open secret that the epitome of this adventure would be in Livingstone Zambia, but this did not stop the jolly good adventurers from savouring every moment of the journey.

A beautiful hillside jsu past Namanga in Tanzania

A beautiful hillside just past Namanga in Tanzania

An adventurous experience of a different culture is never fully achieved without indulging the culinary skills of a people. So I believe. It should therefore go without saying that we tried the ‘chips-mayai’ of Arusha, Tanzania. A roadside finger-licking fast meal that is prepared from a mixture of deep fried potato wedges, pan fried eggs and meat chunks.

The adventure was on, and it was quite entertaining seeing the pack of adventurers immerse themselves fully into the experience. Everyone’s eyes were riveted on the Bunduz crew as they demonstrated how to pitch and disassemble a tent. Rightfully so, as this was the intended mode of accommodation for the next 15 days. The Tarangire National Park played host to us on this night.

Pay attention; This is how to pitch a tent.

Pay attention; This is how to pitch a tent.

Bright and early we set off for the fort town of Iringa, a journey that ran as smooth as a straight upward burst of a space shuttle. This was to however be short-lived because the recent rains had cut off the short-cut route that our able and experienced overland driver had intended to use. We had to turn back and use a route that ended up making this journey excruciatingly long. We made it to Iringa late in the night, and thanks to the Trip-Captain’s connections and kindness, we found a restaurant with our food ready. The place was ran by a friendly Arab man named Shariff. From how he ran his business, he exuded the nomadic resilience to make things happen from the little available. He ran a restaurant, a bar and a disco right on the same floor where he housed his family. They say, any kindness to a traveller is paid back ten fold and I cannot wish any less for Shariff. He invited our tired selves into his house and made sure each of us go the food they ordered for. All 30 of us!

Adventurers in Shariff's house at Iringa, Tanzania.

Adventurers in Shariff’s house at Iringa, Tanzania.

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A couple picnic on the shores of Lake Singinda in Tanzania

A couple picnic on the shores of Lake Singinda in Tanzania

Malawi is known to draw masses of tourists thanks to it’s vast turquoise clear waters of Lake Malawi. We were welcomed to the sandy beach of Chitimba along the shores of this beautiful lake by a Dutch man of heavy build who ran a camp site right on the beach. This being Christmas day, the adventurers were itching to have a party! This happened right on the beach, under the moonlight, where the waves broke on the shore as though in rhythm with the beats wafting through the humid night air from a Beats by Dre speaker that one of the adventurers had. The drinks flowed and dance moves succeeded each other with every new song. As the party went on, we contemplated driving the Bunduz support landcruiser onto the beach for louder music from its powerful music system. This idea was however quickly quashed when our Dutch host told us a story of some South African fellows who had to spend a whole day digging out their landrover from the beach sand after a similar night of beach partying.

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Chitimba beach in Malawi.

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Merry Christmas! Party in Chitimba.

She had the purity of a virgin, the innocence of a girl well guarded in her upbringing and an inviting dangerous playfulness of a free spirit. After Chitimba beach, she wasn’t done with me. She took me to Kande beach and escalated our newly found relationship to second course with no notification or apprise whatsoever. She let me dive deep into her, engulfed me in her water and let me float in her waves. I couldn’t help it, for she made it so easy to fall in love with her. She had me, (and I believe many others) under her spell. She’s the beautiful Lake Malawi!

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Let’s go snorkelling!

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Negotiating for a canoe ride from a fisherman’s village

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Diving into Lake Malawi!

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Scott the dive instructor at Kande beach was a good-hearted free spirit.

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Some volleyball, anyone?

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Some WiFi on Kande Beach?

 

It was difficult bidding Lake Malawi goodbye, but as is the adventurer’s story of life the journey had to go on. We proceeded to Chipata, arriving on an evening that was seemingly cold unlike most of the journey where the weather had been hot and humid. We camped at Mama Rula, a friendly campsite tucked underneath a rich collection of indigenous trees and that boasted a generously stocked bar draped in flags and jerseys of various rugby teams.

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Pitching tent in Chipata

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The warm bar at Mama Rula campsite

As we proceeded down towards Lusaka, it was evident that now everyone’s mind was set on the high adrenaline activities that awaited us in Livingstone. It was common to hear groups of adventurers discussing how it felt to bungee or cascade down a torrential river in a raft. Most accounts were the creation of their imaginations; I once listened in on a conversation where one lady told another that it is very advisable to answer all calls of nature prior to undertaking a bungee jump lest you paint the town ‘soil’. It sort of made sense, ha ha!

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Luangwa bridge in Zambia

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A busy shopping mall in Lilongwe, Malawi.

We finally made it to Livingstone, a traveller’s town whose charm is irresistible! Her neat streets  give an aura of organization which subtly sell out the fact that she was once a very important town. The kind of aura that people who were once rich give when sitting quietly at a bar corner dressed in well pressed but old suits. Livingstone was once the capital of Northern Rhodesia up until 1935. Her closeness to the mighty Zambezi River, and the world renowned Victoria Falls made her a hub of tourist activity full of life in the vibrant kind of way! We settled at a well manicured camp-site right by the banks of River Zambezi, Victorial Falls Waterfront.

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Victoria Falls Waterfront

The friendly staff of Safari Par Excellence were fast in giving us a presentation on all the high adrenaline activities that we could take part in during our stay in Livingstone. Top amongst the available activities were the bungee jump which is 111m down into the Zambezi gorge, water rafting through the whirling rapids of the Zambezi River, micro-light flights over the picturesque Zambezi gorge and elephant rides. Within no time, all the adventurers had booked whatever activity they felt interested in. I overheard one say that they had not succumbed to the bungee jumpers’ ‘peer-pressure’ and quietly deduced that they were too scared to make that leap but had to find a non-fear-exposing way of saying it.

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The last sunset of 2015 over river Zambezi in Zambia.

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An adventurer takes a shot of the Lady Livingstone cruise in the sunset

The day finally came when we had to all split up and undertake various activities as booked on the previous day. I was particularly envious of the group that had signed-up for the elephant ride as they would get a free sundowner cruise later in the day aboard Lady Livingstone, but I had my own items to tick off my bucket-list. Top on that list was the mind blowing bungee jump. I walked to the monstrous bridge connecting the gorge on whose belly the Zambezi flows, paid for the jump and waited for my name to be called out. I watched people come, jump and go, but I restrained myself from asking them what the experience was like because I wanted to feel it my way without expectations based on someone else’s jump. It was eventually my turn! The bungee crew harnessed by body to the safety ropes and for some reason I had to double check each hook, every rope and almost every stitch of the body hugging harness to which the ropes were attached. I was somewhat scared but determined to face my fear. I inched to the edge of the jump spot and knew it was now or never when the attendant said, ‘toes off the edge. 1, 2, 3…..’ I didn’t hear him say ‘bungeee..’ for I had immediately leaped off the ledge with my arms wide open, but I assumed he had said it as he had for every other jumper before me. The free-fall drop felt like the real version of that dream every child has falling into and endless abyss. My eyes were wide open looking straight at the roaring waters of the Zambezi and the dark sun licked rocks below. I felt as though my heart had turned into a helium balloon of super-light weight and hovered way above me as I dropped. The entire world felt paused and a ringing silence engulfed my surrounding. I have never felt so alone in my entire life. In all of less than 30 seconds the jump and several tosses while dangling from the bungee rope were over. An experience that even I cannot detail enough for you. I felt invincible as I came back up onto the bridge. It felt like a rebirth of sorts where fear did not take the back seat, but was literally kicked out of the bus!

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The imposing Victoria Falls Bridge

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An adventurer peers over the bridge. ‘Can I really jump?’ She seems to wonder

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All strapped and ready to jump. The smile says he’s calm, but the visible thin sweat says otherwise 🙂

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My turn to bungee came faster than I expected!

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An inspiring young adventurer (Sid) takes the leap!

While we tempted fate on the bridge, other adventurers took part in other activities. I had a recount of a micro-light flight from one lady and she described how ‘naked’ she felt flying hundreds of feet above the ground in a ‘contraption’ that felt like a motorbike high on drugs enough to fly. The pilot had a sticker that said, ‘ Don’t scream, I am scared too!’ She however said that the sights of the Zambezi below were exquisite. She was able to view a good expanse of the gorge and the mist blowing from the Victoria falls rose like bellowing white smoke!

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A shot of River Zambezi from a chopper

Those that took the elephant ride recounted of an instance where one of them dropped her hat accidentally and the elephant she was riding picked it up with her trunk and handed it back. Talk of intelligence in the wild!

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On the elephant ride!

Another bunch took on the rapids of the Zambezi on a raft. Only guarded with yellow helmets whose bright colour made them look like play toys not quite the recommend for when one would be crushing head on with rocks 🙂 Their experience was however a tale they told with manic enthusiasm!

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They set off to do the rafting!

We spent the New Year’s Eve in Livingstone. We partied at the camp’s bar where they had a DJ who didn’t come off as very acquainted to his decks, but we raved on anyway. He sort of redeemed himself when he played Kenyan tunes and gave shout outs to our crew who had by now become the centre of attraction drawing attention from the locals and fellow tourists alike! Remaining true to our adventurous spirit, we sampled other parties that were going down in and around Livingstone. We ushered in 2016 in style!

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Happy New Year from Livingstone!

It would be futile to visit Livingstone and not take a tour of the mighty Victoria Falls locally dubbed ‘Mosi-Oa-Tunya’ – The smoke that thunders. As we entered the gates to start the tour, we could hear the thundering pour at the falls. Mist bellowing into the air and regular drops of precipitate were common. The breathe taking view of the falls makes one think of how powerful the Creator is! It took us about two hours to walk the expanse of the cliff from which we viewed the falls, often catching a rainbow form as the mist went up in the sun.

Part of the group made their way down to Botswana which is not too far from Livingstone. The Chobe National Park which is home to a large number of elephant herds was the main attraction here, and it certainly did not disappoint.

Ferry crossing

Ferry crossing from Zambia into Botswana. Photo by Ali Said

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A herd of jumbo in a mud bath at Chobe National Park

The 15 days that we had been away on travel through Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Botswana seemed to have ran faster than anyone of us would have wished. Such is the life of the adventurer. That which has a beginning certainly has to have an end. Soon we were well on our way back to Nairobi, using the route through a town called Mpika in Zambia, Mbeya and Singinda in Tanzania. Of note is that thanks to the never disappointing Bunduz crew, we had an awesome time! Lasting friendships were forged and we lived true to the adventurers’ mantra that says, ‘Live Everyday as if it were your last, because one day you’ll certainly be right!’

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The able and experienced Bunduz crew that made it all possible!

 

Important Information

Event: Livingstone New Year’s Tour 

Period: 15 Day (23rd Dec 2015 to 6th Jan 2016)

Currency: Best to travel with US Dollars when traveling through several countries

Language: All the six countries speak English and other local languages

Organizer: http://www.bunduz.com/

Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/bunduzsafaris/timeline

Documentary (photos & writing) by: Macharia Njuguna and guest photographers (https://adventurewithmash.wordpress.com/)

 

 

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