A 38-day adventure by Kristofor
  • Day38

    Melbourne (End)

    July 14, 2010 in Australia ⋅ ⛅ 7 °C

    http://www.travelark.org/travel-blog-entry/tofo…

    After an incredible trip, I now find myself at home, in my room, on my own computer.
    Today's seen me sleep about 14 hours... through sheer exhaustion.
    As expected, there's plenty of mixed emotion and feeling towards returning to my native habitat.

    The comfort of reasonable routine and association with what i know returns.
    Yet on the other hand, the prospect to explore, discover and learn is drastically minimised.

    In reflecting on my adventures, I decided to consider, what was best. What were the top 5 experiences, the highs, and lows of a holiday to remember. Without too much thought, here is what i think.

    Top 5 African Experiences;

    5. THE 2010 WORLD CUP, South Africa (Various)Obviously a huge part of the reason i was here in the first place. Attending World Cup matches was pretty special. It was awesome of course just being around the world cup, not just watching random matches at my leisure, but seeing the impact, the great impact it had on a nation. Watching in bars, restaurants and fan-parks (at normal hours) was awesome.
    Attending the games, was of course even better. I had the pleasure of seeing 8 matches in total, in Cape Town, Durban, Nelspruit and Rustenburg. The Australia and Holland games were particularly special to be at (along with Portugals demolition of DPR Korea).

    4. BLYDE RIVER CANYON, Mpumpulanga, South Africa
    This was definatley the biggest 'shock' spectacular of my tour. In fact, prior to departure for Africa i didnt even know I would be seeing it. The Third Largest Canyon IN THE WORLD (Behind 1. Grand Canyon US, and 2. Fish Creek Canyon, Namibia), and the LARGEST 'Green Canyon' due to its sub-tropical foliage, made it an incredible sight to behold. It is also known as one of the great wonders of nature on the continuent.

    3. TABLE MOUNTAIN, Cape Town, South Africa
    Just an incredible natural monument I wont soon forget. It wasnt only spectacular from the top, but brought a smile to my face whenever I looked at . The awe-inspiring mountain face could be seen near anywhere from Cape Town, towering over the city, making it such a spectacular place to be.
    Flanked by Devil's Peak and the Lions Head on either side, it was a massive flat plateau which offered spectacular views for miles. A place you could explore and hike time and time again.

    2. VICTORIA FALLS, Zambia
    It was a big sacrifice giving up the World Cup Knock Out phase, to explore Africa, however in hindsight, not the least bit regrettable (3 out of 5 of these African experiences being out of my World Cup Route). Any tour I was to take, HAD to see Victoria Falls, and im ever so glad of that decision and committment. Theres waterfalls, and then theres this; an incredible, breathtaking Wonder of the World. Whilst niether the highest or widest, it is the LARGEST (width x height) forming the largest sheet of falling water on the planet. The awe inspiring (and drenching from close proximity) power of this waterfall was incredible to behold, as was the spectacular views from above, on my scenic helicopter ride.

    1. KRUGER NATIONAL PARK, Mpumpulanga/Limpopo, South Africa
    Given its hype, I was somewhat skeptical this would live upto its name. It did, easily. Being an avid animal-lover, there is nothing more spectacular than seeing the greatest animals to roam the planet, in the wild, doing their own thing, at their own pace. Never again will I feel the same satisfaction from any zoo, crowding around a cage to catch a glimpse of a lion resting behind a bush.

    Not only was i treated to seeing EVERY possible animal i could have hoped for, my tour group was acclaimed by our leader as 'The Luckiest' he had ever seen in his 6 year career. We saw each and everything we could have hoped for, on multiple occaisions and at near touching distance. Its an experience I'll never forget. Additionally, given its massive size, its a place you could visit again in the future, for a whole new set of sightings and experiences.

    Pros and Cons of the World Cup in Africa

    + Relaxed Attitude - Definatley not a stressful place. People seem very carefree, approachable and mostly helpful.
    - Africa Time - Relaxed attitude comes with a cost. Everything here happens at its own pace. Forget efficient, punctual service. It dosnt exist. Yes, there might seem like the resteraunt is WAY overstaffed, and theres no customers, but you'll just have to wait.

    + Primal Nature - Everything is built by convenience, and neccessity. Whilst the main cities are somewhat westernised, much of civilization is spaced out and simple. Sometimes you wonder just how many human feet have touched certain areas.
    - Chaotic Nature - Much of Africa is disorganised, and unplanned. Road design and networks are often unsafe and confusing. Street names have been changed without notice. Drivers change lanes and often run red lights without warning.

    + Good Security - Security for the World Cup period was solid. Apart from occasional beggers, none of myself nor my travel companions encountered any sort of danger or fear.
    - Crime Still Prevalent - This largely applies to Durban, but there were still plenty of examples of mass police arrests/ apprehension. Road blocks, people being handcuffed, pulled over. When you look into a doorway in an un-populated street and see an extensive amount of blood, this is somewhat concerning.

    + Local Enthusiasm - Aside from a few low-key matches, the World Cup generated tremendous support and enthusiasm from Africans. Especially admirable was the togetherness support was for the African nations (despite doing poorly). This meant for incredible atmosphere and excitement for every match watched out, and every goal scored.
    - Vuvuzelas - Initially an amusing novelty, the sound of these horns still rings in my ears. Even if you were to argue they were decent as background sound AT World Cup Matches, they destroyed any of the culture or class of national chants/ atmosphere, drained out by what sounded like mosquitos buzzing around your head. In addition, you would hear these EVERYWHERE you went, Shopping Centres, having a quiet drink, Resteraunts, ANYWHERE
    . The instrument itself requires no skill, and develops no rythm. Hearing them at 2am when ur trying to sleep, just sealed the deal for my hatred of this instrument.

    + Australian Performance - Aside from terrible tactics, and a thumping in their opening game, it was certainly inspiring watching the two subsequent efforts. A draw against Ghana with 10 men, which they almost could have won, and then deserved victory over Serbia, with two incredible goals.
    - The Fanatics - Made you truly ashamed to be Australian. A Tour Group, that had no idea. Not only the worst tour company i have experienced, but possibly the most incompetent organisation, period. The organisation sucked as much as 99% of those who signed up for their World Cup experience. The Group itself; picked us up for transport at stupid times, were unorganized, gave us match tickets ON THE DAY the tournament started, didn't have answers, didn't meet itinerary, lost people, winged it, and didn't know what they were doing.
    The Fantics fans; were rude, only pride was how smashed they could get, ignorant, arrogant, quick to anger, naive, selfish, thew beer bottles on the field, could be found urinating in crowded areas as they exited the stadium, ungrateful, unintelligent, embaressing.

    + World Cup Discoveries and Surprises - A world cup of surprise and discovery, a historical first for location, and historical first winner in Spain. Several teams surprised and dissapointed, and new players were discovered, like Tomas Mueller (young player of tournament and golden boot winner). Holland delightfully overachieved, finishing second, Spain lived up to their potential and Germany played beautiful football. England, France and Italy provided epic dissapointment, and Uruguay somehow managed to finish fourth, thanks to Forlan, deserved player of the tournament.
    - Diving and Poor Referee decisions, Again - Lampard's disallowed goal was as close to actually touching the back of the net, as it was to not crossing the line. Could Tevez have been ANY MORE offside against Mexico? Once again, on Several occasions the refs got it horribly wrong in South Africa; so wrong, it changed or ruined games. There was an overkill of red cards, and rash decisions. Additionally, the old 'fall to the ground holding ur face when tapped on the ankle' was painstakingly prevalent again. It gives football a terrible name when the 'new follower' catches a glimpse of it. We need video replays as refereeing is just not good enough. We also need these replays to give stiff suspensions to players 'exaggerating' injury.

    So thats about it for now. A quick reflection on what has been the month of a lifetime. Memories i'll never forget, and cherish always. Now all there is to do, is plan my next adventure, and there will certainly be plenty more to come.
    On top of that, theres no way i'll be missing the next edition of the World Cup in four years time. Bring on Brazil 2014!!
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  • Day36

    Singapore

    July 12, 2010 in Singapore ⋅ ⛅ 27 °C

    http://www.travelark.org/travel-blog-entry/tofo…

    So after 35 days in Africa, I'm Finally off home.
    Aside from the prospects of work and routine, I was ready to.
    Ready to sleep in my own bed, see my friends, and family.
    Actually get some rest, as whilst its been an incredible trip, its been far from relaxing.

    The trip home altogether, took some 25 hours. 4 hours wait at Johannesburg airport, 10 hour flight to Singapore, another 4 hours wait in Singapore, then 7 hours flight back to Melbourne.
    Both flights were packed out, and Matt and I were both given 'middle' seats, of course not even next to each other.
    A few spots on the second leg of the flight to Melbourne, saw me quickly claim a front row seat at least, giving me some leg room.

    We eventually landed home cleared customs and headed our seperate ways (Dave off to Israel for 3 months).
    What a great experience this trip has been. One of the best things I've ever done, and I vow that Africa has definitely not seen the last of me. I will be back for more in the not too distant future.
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  • Day34

    Durban

    July 10, 2010 in South Africa ⋅ 🌙 16 °C

    http://www.travelark.org/travel-blog-entry/tofo…

    The final day, E-Day, the end, the conclusion; it was fitting enough that my final day on African soil would fall on the day of the World Cup Final.
    Somehow, it was a world cup final that included my beloved Netherlands. Up against however, the best team in the tournament, player for player - Spain.
    We awoke around 10am for a marathon period of drama, football and travel. Little did I know, that from that point, I would sleep a mere 2 hours, in the next 50+

    Our destination of choice to watch the final, was to be the Durban fanfest, the next place to be, outside Soccer City itself.
    The pre-match weather was a bit concerning. The Durban slogan for the world cup was 'The Warmest Place to be'

    It was fittingly ironic, as this was about the highlight of the city, literally. Furthermore, despite mostly being blue skies and warm enough, the day of the final saw ominous black clouds sweeping in, alongside high winds, just hours before kickoff.

    We piled into the stadium along with some 40,000 fans, for the Closing Ceremony and quick dinner. There was an impressive atmosphere in there, of which id say Spanish fans dominated support by 6-1.
    It was about the most intense nerve racking sporing occaision id ever watched, eclipsing the Hawthorn Geelong 2008 Grand Final.

    Without going into too much detail, Spain won their first ever World Cup, and Holland finished runners-up for the third time. The cons, it was obviously shattering with only 4 minutes til the lottery of penalties, Robben missed a couple guilt edged chances, and Heitinga's very soft Red card, contributed immensely to Iniesta having the space to win it

    The pros; Holland well and truly eclipsed pre-tournament expectations by a mile, and have claimed second spot, and Rank 2 in the World. Despite playing an ugly physical final, they matched Spain, closed them down everywhere, and did what they had to do. It was little more than bad luck that saw them eventually beaten.

    The trip back to the hotel wasn't without controversy. I managed to leave my mobile phone in the taxi back, and spent the next couple hours (with the assistance of our hotel manager) finding phones, and ways to convince him to get back to our hotel and drop it off. I got it back, but by the time all that had happened, i had little over an hour to sleep (depressed and distressed) before leaving for the airport to leave African soil for home.
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  • Day33

    Winterton Drakensberg

    July 9, 2010 in South Africa ⋅ ☀️ 30 °C

    http://www.travelark.org/travel-blog-entry/tofo…

    I eventually managed to convince Matt and Dave that a daytrip out towards Drakensberg was well worth doing.
    Drakensberg or Drakensbergen is Dutch for 'the Dragon Mountains'
    Its an impressive mountain range of peaks and hills aplenty, great for exploring, camping and hiking.
    The problem was getting there
    We made the mistake of deviating from the M3 (Freeway) after Pietermaritzburg.
    We learned the hard way, that travel on 'light coloured' roads on a map in Africa is best avoided for future reference. The road deteriorated from paved, to gravel, to dirt, to rock, to.. well, near dangerous.
    From a positive perspective, it took us through small villages, and a winding pass through the hills that few had ever seen.

    At a time, it had us on a thin dirt road, travelling 20km/p hr, on a winding elevated road, where you could see no sign of civilization.
    The negative side of things meant that by the time we eventually found our way to Cathedral Peak in the Drakensberg, it was 4pm, and there was not enough time to do anything.
    We walked around the hotel and entrance areas, but were advised to do little else, with light dwindling. It was a teasing ordeal of epic proportions. I couldnt help despair at how beautiful the place appeared, how nice the hotel was, and how fulfilling it would be to spend DAYS there, hiking, exploring, and sightseeing.
    Alas, I managed to snap a bunch of photos, and we had to be on hour way. Tragically, it took little over 2 hours to get back via the highway, as opposed to the 6 hours it took getting there...
    It was a place id truly like to come back to for a few days, next time I'm in Africa.
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  • Day27

    Pietermaritzburg

    July 3, 2010 in South Africa ⋅ ☀️ 30 °C

    http://www.travelark.org/travel-blog-entry/tofo…

    It was a bit of a mixed bag really for Matts Birthday in Durban.
    Matt and Dave arrived the day before, so today was our first trip out, the three of us.
    The foremost plan was to go to Lion Park, near Pietermaritzburg.

    It was hardly the most glamourous place i have been to. It was advertised as a drive through a lion game reserve. In reality, it was more like a dozen lions dumped into a small enclosure you can drive next to and watch sleep.

    Dave and I decided to attempt to surprise Matt by taking him quad-biking, which he wanted to do. Our cover story, was we were visiting a 'waterfall' on the way back, the real location being a 'Thrills Park'

    When we arrived, we were to be sorely dissapointed... it was thrills park alright, for all the wrong reasons. The actual location, was in the middle of nowhere, in a poverty striken area.
    There were no completed buildings to this park, one half constructed shack. There was no security. All 'Thrills' were under construction.
    There was no way i was doing anything, leaving my camera in the car to be stolen. The others were to attempt Quad-biking, only to find the bikes so dangerous and unsafe, they decided against it. Fair enough too. When the 'thrill' is potential injury, mugging of death, its not so appealing.

    In the end, we ended up at Pavillion Mall, to play minigolf. The trip there was interesting enough. Not a white person to be seen, and unexplained crowds everywhere... there were buses so full people were hanging out of the door.
    It has been decided that Durban itself is a hole... the city feels unsafe, is drastically polluted, poorly designed, and most of the street names have been changed, making it extremely difficult to navagate. In addition.. traffic is a joke.. and as dangerous as iv ever seen.
    Minigolf, when we arrived was very fun, and we enjoyed dinner at an Italian resteraunt before the days end. Watermelon cocktails are awesome!!!

    Tomorrow is the big semi final between Holland and Uruguay, and im also looking at doing the following over the next few days; Aquarium, Bird Park, maybe Drakensburg, maybe another game park.
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  • Day25

    Victoria Falls

    July 1, 2010 in Zambia ⋅ ⛅ 13 °C

    http://www.travelark.org/travel-blog-entry/tofo…

    Today, we made the final part of our travels into Zambia, to the infamous Victoria Falls.
    This waterfall is the largest in the world, in terms of the amount of water that goes over the falls. It is also considered among the seven natural wonders of the world, and more than a mile long.

    The border crossing from Botswana to Zambia was amusing indeed. We boarded a barge to cross the Zambezi river. Suffice to say, the barge itself would have struggled to meet safety standards in Australia.. It was wood, with some broken safety barriers, a couple of motors, and thats about it.
    It took a while to get organised and through the border, but wasn't as bad as usual according to our tour leader

    It wasn't too far of a drive onwards to Victoria falls itself, where we had a couple hours to explore/ walk around the falls.
    Views from above were spectacular indeed. You couldnt see the whole thing, or down to the bottom, due to the extensive spray. Baboons also roamed the area, and were everpresent!
    We then hired some raincoats, and ventured down, closer to the falls themselves. You would get more than a bit wet, without these coats, getting close compared to an absolute downpour, due to the spray.
    It wasnt really possible to take photos from here, but it was just awe inspiring to get so close to such a massive waterfall. So much water, such power.
    Onwards we trekked to our accomdation - the Waterfront.
    Here we booked activities for the next day, and embarked on our evening activity - a sunset dinner/drinks cruise on the river Zambezi.
    This was nice, and i met lots of cool people on board.
    It was a huge nights of drinks, and i hardly slept a wink, before being picked up at 6am the next day for my first activity.
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  • Day24

    Nata

    June 30, 2010 in Botswana ⋅ ⛅ 13 °C

    http://www.travelark.org/travel-blog-entry/tofo…

    Today, I entered my second African country, Botswana.
    It was the most painful day of the tour for the most part, travelling about 1000kilometres for the day.
    Nearly the whole day was consumed by driving along dirt roads.
    We also added 4 young Aussie guys onto the tour, which made things alot louder. They were nice enough guys, but not really my type of company.
    Our destination for the day eclipsed the unpleasantness of the journey.
    Our accomodation was to be a place called Elephant Sands, in the Nata region, slightly north of central Botswana.
    The name of this location was self explanatory; it was sandy plains, loaded with elephants. Our campsite itself was in the absolute wilderness.
    The exhilarating part, was as the sun set, elephants came from all directions to drink from the pool by the bar. The accommodation, whilst awesome looking, was impractical and caused me to have a long night..
    They were little chalets, but the connecting shower was open, with no roof, no mosquito nets, and no privacy... I put on a grand show for an elderly couple in the adjacent cabin im sure, as you could see right into where i showered.
    The evening was awesome. A great dinner, and wherever you walked, you could find elephants just meters away, within touching distance, drinking, breaking branches, or just hanging out!
    I lay down to sleep in awe of my surroundings. Outside my cabin, through the twig walls you could see the silhoutees of Elephants, not 5 metres away.
    From here things went downhill.. mosquitos invaded my hut... and with no mosquito net, or anywhere to hide, i was forced to vacate. Mosquitos flying into my ears, and likely brimming with Malaria, didnt sit well with me.
    I weaseled my way in through the back window of our bus, and slept there for the remaining 4 hours of the night... or at least tried to.
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  • Day23

    Polokwane

    June 29, 2010 in South Africa ⋅ ⛅ 13 °C

    http://www.travelark.org/travel-blog-entry/tofo…

    Today involved two activities.
    Firstly, was a trip to the Cheetah Conservation Park near Polokwane.
    This place is set up to preserving and protecting several endangered species, primarily the Cheetah, but also the Wild Dog, Black Rhinos, Lions, and Ground Hornbills.
    It was a decent enough visit, including a guided tour and drive around their facilities. Theres something not quite the same about viewing animals in captivity.. considering how inspiring Kruger had been.
    Even still it was good to see Cheetah up close, and we had an interesting encounter with the wild dogs indeed, them howling and laughing and making a hell of a lot of noise in our presence. Tragically, we didnt get to see the Ground Hornbills..

    From here, we drove onwards to Polokwane.
    Here, overlooking the World Cup stadium was a small national park we explored. It took a while, but eventually we found a large pack of White Rhinos, we were able to get up close and personal with.
    Onwards to dinner at another great quality lodge. The bar and dining area was actually inside the owners home, making it very homely and cozy indeed.
    Then I retired to watch a horrible 0-0 draw between japan and paraguay, the latter eventually getting up in the tournaments first penalty shootout.
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