I have been diving the Produce wreck this morning and after 2 very bad days where sea was rough and weather cloudy, the water has been obviouslly cleaned up. Visibility was amazing and probably over 50m. Over 6 manta rays were flying over the wreck and we spotted of the resident potato bass.
A small note for those willing to invest. Real estate in SA is amazingly cheap. You can get a nice house with 3 or 4 bedrooms, pool, garage, vast garden for about 300000R ($37500) anywhere in the country. From what I read real estate is poised for doubling in price in the next couple of years. A lot of foreigners already bought nice houses here.
No I did not decided to write a report to be published in the Financial Times, but this is just to say that it looks like travelling right now is quite interesting for european due to a strong euro. Yesterday it broke a new record over 1.19$.
I'm still in Umkomaas and did not manage to dive these last 2 days. The weather is beautiful but a depression off the coast is sending huge waves and doing a surf launch with boats even so possible due to the talented skippers over there will not give you anything. Diving on the reef might be similar to what you feel trapped inside a washing machine. This is the same situation from Sodwana Bay till Capetown. Wait and see.
A little note on food in East/South Africa... Thanks to the British, there is obviously a strong influence of british cooking (hem...) when you eat in East and South Africa. In 99.9% of the places, the traditionnal food will likely be chicken and chips or fish and chips... great food thus. There is of course no lack of vegetables or fruit of any sort but finding something else than chicken/chips is quite unlikely at a reasonable price. And of course, the more oil, the better as everything is fried (and more than often, chips are not crispy anyway). That is to say that in about 2 months I ate more chicken and more chips that I probably did in the last 10 years. I'm sick of it.
Just after posting the last entry I called Umkomaas Lodge to enquire about diving. Unkomaas is just about 40km from Durban and is well known for being a launching point to Aliwal Shoal, one of the top diving sites in the world well known for its dense population of ragged tooth sharks.
I managed to find a good internet cafe that would allow me to plug my computer and has a fast connection as well, it is called The Zone and situated at the Greenwood Village shopping centre. I managed to upload all pictures despite all kids jumping and screaming around as this is also a game center. So pictures from Zambia and Zimbabwe are now online, I hope you will enjoy it. Scroll back to May 09.
I have mixed feelings about this country right now, or at least the traveller/hostels around. I have been talking this morning with Rose and Ann, 2 american sisters that tell me the same. It is extremely difficult to obtain real information of what to do around and the way to do it.
I'm now in Durban situated in the Kwazulu Natal. I took a Greyhound bus (R150) this morning from Johannesburg and after a couple of hours driving in a splendid landscape...here am I. A lot of backpackers hotel are full here and I am staying right now at Traveler's International Lodge (R75).
I stopped at the Eastgate Shopping Centre to take the opportunity to watch Matrix Reloaded. Nothing special about it I would say it's a piece of crap, endless fights, inexistant scenario...the only good thing is probably the special effects (and even part of it is miserable, they obviously wanted to do too much). The scene with Merovingian (Lambert Wilson) cursing in French -- "It's like wiping your ass with silk" he says, should be interesting to French people (you'd better watch the movie in English for full effect, I can't think of how the dubbed version will be). I would be surprised that it does not get a bit famous as it is probably the best one-liner of the movie, though I'm probably sure that I was the only one understanding it in the theater here.
Looks like I moved from Kenya just in time since British Airways suspended its flights since May 15. Going from Kenya or Tanzania to Zambia is a breeze though, just more train/bus trips. Would have been way longer than flying of course.
After spending some more time in Fourways Mall where I went to watch a movie and bought a couple of books, I left Rockey's and their unhelpful staff to the airport around 15:30, I stayed a couple of hours at the airport waiting for my cousin Stephanie to show up around 18:00. We only saw each other for about 2 minutes since she had to hurry.
I'm in Johannesburg right now, staying at Rockey's of Fourways. It was recommended to me in Vic Falls. It was a mistake. The place is very nice but the staff makes my stay miserable. Asking any information and have them move their butts from the sofa from watching TV makes you feel like you are asking them too much. This is maybe why there are less than 5 people there. Dunno if there is a relation.
I'm leaving in a couple of hours to Johannesburg from Victoria Falls. If all is well I will be able to meet my cousin who has a stopover in JNB (she's an hostess at Air France) and is leaving on monday.
I came back yesterday after spending 2 days in Gweru, located in the middle of Zimbabwe. More exactly I was staying in Antelope park where I had incredible experiences. I was able to walk and play with lions aged from 4-months to over a year old (you'd better pay attention with those one). I took some incredible pictures of them and that was really special to be able to cuddle them like cats (still being aware of their sudden change of mood though as they have the same snobbish attitude as cats do and lions are extremely powerful, with sharp claws and teeths that cut meat like paper, my sweat shirt can testify for that).
This time the lions were just over a year old and the difference in size between the 7-month one are huge. You really have to take care here as a claws and teeths make you bleed just by looking at them. Moreover they are about human size and extremely powerful. Just after I went playing a little bit with the 4-months old and take some pictures.
The first walk with the lions happened with 3 individuals aged of about 7 months. The difference with the 4 month old cubs is absolutely amazing. They were not very cooperative for pictures as they are still young and were running all over the place. A contrario to what pictures may suggest, you have to be aware constantly as the lions can switch from 'love mode' to 'predator mode' in a couple of seconds. You can normally spot this easily as the look in their eyes change completly.
I crossed Victoria Falls bridge this morning and I'm now in Zimbabwe. After paying my visa ($30) at the immigration, I ended up at Shoestring Backpackers located conveniently in the town center. I wanted to drop my bags there for a couple of days and go with my daypack to Buluwayo via train. Unfortunatly the situation right now in Zimbabwe is somewhat a mess because of fuel shortage and terrible inflation (or deflation, depending on the point of view).
I went this morning for a walking 'safari' inside Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park. This tiny park of 66 square kilometers next to Victoria Falls is home to the only white rhinos one will see in Zambia. There are 5 rhinos living in and we were lucky enough to find 4 of them in the same place (they are normally solitary animals).
I finally went lately this afternoon for a 15-minute helicopter ride over Victoria Falls. It is definitely a different and nice way to see the falls. Right now, the water level is at its highest since 1999 and the amount of water being poured down is absolutely amazing.
I went today to Chobe National Park located in... Botswana. Another visa stamp on my passport (moreover it was free). Chobe is well known for its dense population of elephants and indeed, they were all over the place. You cannot miss them.
I went to Victoria Falls today ($10) and that was really impressive, even from the Zambian side. I took the underwater housing with me to avoid the camera being flooded and needless to say that it was very useful in some places as water is pourring down all over you.
After an early wake up around 4:30AM and a 5h30 ride with CR Holdings bus, I'm now in Livingstone next to Victoria Falls. I'm staying at Jollyboys Backpackers ($6). From what I can see down there it looks like a good place to painfully hit my bank account. There are so much things to do around there that it is scary and a month is hardly enough. I'm already late and planned to shorten my stay in Zambia from 2 weeks to 1 week but this is obviouslly not taking the right path... oops.
I managed to leave East Africa and I'm now in Lusaka, Zambia. I left all the rainfall of the rainy season in Kenya and I'm in the early beginning of the dry season here. I arrived around 12PM and after paying the visa fee ($25) and taking a taxi ($15) I'm staying at Chachacha Backpackers ($6).
I have updated pictures since April 4 (wow, that's a month ago). I apologize for the delay but did my best before and I have been now for more than 3 hours in the cybercafe in Nairobi to do all this. And there are way more as I need to process all the pictures from Nungwi and Stonetown.
I'm back from Nairobi after the longest bus ride of my life. I left from Dar Es Salaam at 6:45AM and arrived in Nairobi around 8:30PM. Almost 14 hours without no stop but a quick 15 minutes pause for lunch. Needless to say I was happy to remove my butt from the seat, I really started to feel pain. The transport was quite nice though, I took Scandinavian Express buses (35000TSh - $35) which are probably the most luxury buses in East Africa. There is air conditioning, clean seats, superbe organization, top notch staff. I had 3.5 movies during the journey to help waste some time: Signs (starring Mel Gibson), a-movie-I-cannot-remember (was not good anyway), The Master of Disguise (Disney Movie and nothing special about it) and one-movie-I-do-not-know-the-title.
I'm on my way to Nairobi. I took the ferry fron Stonetown to Dar Es Salaam at 1:30PM and ended up staying at the Safari Inn (7800Tsh single, 13200TSh double). After eating for about $1 a day in Stonetown for about a week due to Barclays Bank UK declining my VISA card for some day and preventing me to get any cash (For the record, as of now there is no ATM in Zanzibar so the only way is to use the cash advance service of Coastal Travels) I decided to treat myself and eat to in a luxury hotel. I wanted to eat real nice food (I am French, right ?)