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Blog Archives: Entries for 2013

Latest blog!

So, it’s been a while since my last update, what have I been doing? From Kampala, Uganda’s small capital I stayed with David who showed me the sights, the market, the Anglican cathedral and even Gadaffi’s own mosque! I climbed into a minaret! From there we headed into rural Masaka and visited an orphanage containing 600 children! Can you imagine it! These are mostly street kids some have HIV and many have no family at all. Many of the boys sleep on metal frames for beds because they don’t have enough mattresses to go around. The 3-5 year old children wet their beds constantly, the smell is like bad cheese!

From there it was to Jinja for my Nile bungee, number 15! On my first day in Jinja, staying with a lovely local guy named Meddy, we visited the hospital where a young boy named Trevor was to have an eye operation to enable his right eye to see. The skin had covered his eye since birth. The operation, which was free, was apparently successful.

Now I’m in Kenya, home of the Masai Mara and Mount Kenya, Africa’s second highest mountain. I began my Kenya trip in Nakuru, visited Menengai volcanic crater before heading into lake country. I spent a night by Lake Baringo before visiting Thompson Falls near Nyahururu – it rained like nothing and I wasn’t able to camp. Two nights in Naivasha at Fisherman Camp enabled me to visit Hell’s Gate National Park, but again, I was hit by heavy rain. I’m now in Mombasa, Kenya’s second largest city. I’ve just come from Nairobi, the capital, where I had four entertaining days with Victor and his brothers and friends, Bebaly and Jose. We visited giraffes, crocodiles, the famous elephant orphanage and lastly Paradise Lost! So now I’m on the Indian Ocean and the heat and humidity is really hotting up!

I should finally mention, in Nairobi, I met a young blind guy named Moha. He lost sight in both eyes due to two different accidents. He’s not been able to see since the age of five, but is now attending university and plans to be a diplomat. What a cool experience to meet him and all the other kind Kenyans.

Now on Lake Tanganyika at Lake Shore Lodge

So I am now at Lake Tanganyika. I have crossed Tanzania in three weeks. It’s been interesting. It was cool in Moshi and Arusha. I stayed with a lovely Finnish couple in Morogoro. I visited a rock garden, which resembles a beach party place, very strange. Then I visited Iringa. I camped for the first time on this trip. At Rivervalley Camp, just 10 km outside Iringa. It’s a camp for people who wish to learn Swahili. Many Americans! I visited the town and tried to walk and climb Gangilonga, Talking Stone. The Hehe tribe believe it talks. Unfortunately, there are many locals who sit on the rock and attack unsuspecting tourists as they climb it. My guide even said it would be too dangerous. So we returned. I next visited Neema Craft Centre. This is a café/craft centre run by deaf people. You can also get a massage. Unfortunately, it was a holiday, so I couldn’t tour the craft shop. I did buy a couple of handmade crafts: they use recycled materials. For instance, they use coke and sprite bottle tops as part of ear rings!

After Iringa, I began hitting the buses for real. First six hours to Mbeya for one night at a Moravian Christian hostel. Then it was seven hours to Sumbawanga, a nice town with sandy dusty streets in the far southwest. One night there and it was an interesting, bumpy, rattle-shaking twisting rolling ride to Katangolo, where I was collected in a 4 by 4 to come to Lake Shore Lodge. The journey was supposed to take five hours, it took over eight! The bus broke down at least three times. I was by the window that wouldn’t open with a young African lady on my left shoulder and her baby on my left knee! At one point during the trip she breast feed her child! So now I am here on the lake. The lodge is delightful. Last night, 18th October, I had roasted meat and vegetables under a full moon with the lake lapping at my feet.

Next I head to Kigoma, in the north, and home of many of Tanzania’s best singers and musicians. Then I go to Burundi. Tony

Now in Morogoro, central Tanzania.

Well, I left you in Zanzibar, sunning myself on the beach. Since then I have been busy. I returned to Dar Es Salaam with a little help from a couple of Tanzanians. Getting around blind is not so easy, because the roads and pavements are mainly non-existent! Taking mini-buses (dala dala) is, or should say, can be dangerous. I have taken a couple and they were OK, if sometimes fast. Once back in Dar, Tanzania’s largest city, with five million people and much crazy traffic. I stayed with a lovely local family. Ivan, Narasa and their young son. I spent one day relaxing and another exploring the historic town of Bagomoyo. It is a spread out town, 75 km north of Dar. I went with a guide. We visited the historical places by tuk tuk vehicle, three wheel motor bike. They are called Bajaji in Tanzania. I managed to break one hearing aid during my adventure to this town. My friends found a school for the deaf in Dar and the problem was easily solved.

Next I took an 11-hour bus north-east to Moshi, home of Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest mountain at 5895 metres. No, I didn’t climb it. A nice guide named Ezekiel took me around Moshi for a day and we took photos of the clock tower, war monument, local market and the central mosque. The following day I did a trip to Marangu Waterfalls. A combination of four small falls about 60 km south of Moshi. I hiked through small bushes, banana trees and eucalyptus, before crossing a small bridge, and following a trail, before descending rock steps to the falls’ bottom. A statue of a young female Chagga woman stands atop the falls. There is a story about girls getting pregnant out of marriage being killed. This girl became pregnant, but rather than being killed she ran away and jumped into the falls.

After Moshi, I headed to Arusha, where I couchsurfed with a nice local guy named Boni. He is a street artist. Very kind. He took me around the city. We visited the museum, where I learnt more about Tanzania’s history, and also the Masai people, they are mostly cattle herders.

I have now taken two long bus journeys. The express buses are long, but the roads are very rough and bumpy. Typical African roads, non-existent in places. Next I head to Iringa for my camping experience, then on west to Mbeya, Sumbawnga and then to Lake Tanganyika. The people are mostly kind and peaceful. They like to talk. Many are helpful and interested in where you come from. They like to try and sell you something, but are not aggressive and if you say no thanks, they are OK about it.

The food is great, apart from ugali, which is flour and water. There is rice, chips and eggs, chips mayai, chicken, also goat. OK, next blog to follow soon. Tony.

Back in Africa

So, I am back in Africa, Tanzania – East Africa. I’ve been in the country a week now. Many smells and sounds, honking horns, dusty streets and chaotic traffic!  I spent my first night in Dar es Salaam at Safari Inn, a good hostel. Private rooms only. The following day I met up with my first couch surfing host, a cool, crazy guy named Maricky.  His place is so far south in the city it is like being in a separate village. A bucket shower and a shared bathroom between at least 18 people. The two toilets are just holes! We went to Zebra bar and hung out I tried local food rice and meat, using my hands. Next we headed to the local chip shop. A common and cheap dish is Chips Mayai – chips and eggs mixed together – delicious. 

Dar es Salaam is the country’s largest city on the east coast. Not many tourist attractions apart from the National Museum and several markets. The Village Museum, which I visited with other tourists, is also worth a gander!

Next headed to Zanzibar. People have helped me from place to place for a small price. I took a hostel taxi to the port on my second day and purchased my ferry ticket to Stone Town, Zanzibar. This was my second stop. I planned to stay with another couch surfer. Hassan. He met me and we had lunch then headed to Prison Island. We took a dhow – a traditional wooden boat with outboard engine. Once on the small island, we headed to the large tortoise colony – giants who are now protected. They number some 2000 so I’m told. I touched a couple and one even began walking at a snails pace!! Their shells feel like hard stones. Next we visited the so-called prison. This was actually used for quarantining people with tropical diseases from Zanzibar. They were often left to die with no way of escaping the island. This place was closed in the 1970s.

Back on Stone Town, I discovered Hassan couldn’t host me as he lived far from town, 9 km, on a rough and, in his words, a dangerous road. I ended up in a hostel. Annoying, that is travelling. The following day Hassan arrived only to inform me he had to go to a relative’s funeral! This would take all day. Luckily I had contacted another couch surfer and she was available to show me around some of Stone with their original chains. The following day I left to go to Demani Lodge near Paje in the east – a beach resort where I rest for two days before returning to Dar es Salaam. More to follow soon.

Still in Stone Town. An interesting small historical city with narrow winding roads/alleys. I also touched the monument to slaves – six stone headed victims. We visited the Livingstone House where Dr. David Livingstone, 19th century British explorer was laid to rest before being transported back to Britain. We also explored several shops eventually arriving at the Spice Market. This was fantastic, lively with many people bartering for goods. I smelt the many spices available; from vanilla to clove, ginger to coriander! Also available were soaps. We found some seashells to feel in all shapes and sizes. Next was the former slave market and prison. These were underground chambers where up to 40 men where held in one small room before being sold at market. The British built Anglican St Joseph church is above the slave market.

A day in life during my travels in Africa

By
Tony Giles

Author of Seeing the World My Way

Published by Silverwood Original, 2010 
Website: http://www.tonythetraveller.com

This trip began back in the middle of February 2012. I flew to Morocco, totally blind and partially deaf, but travelling solo.  My mission: to attempt to visit several countries in north and west Africa in about seven weeks. 

The focus of this article is a day on this trip, a day that will stay long in my memory.  I’d been travelling for just over three weeks, meeting people, walking around different towns, attempting to communicate with my poor French, but generally getting about with my white cane and the help of the kindness of strangers and the occasional fellow traveller – a rarer occurrence in this region.  I eventually arrived in southern Senegal after crossing the border from Gambia, using a shared taxi. 

I’d planned to meet up and stay with a fellow traveller I’d met on the internet.  I eventually arrived at the rendezvous and my friend took me to dinner and then to family to sleep for the night as the road to their village was closed.  The following day my friends and I drove to the coastal village of Abene.  I spent a day in the village just relaxing with my English friend, Simon, and his Senegalese partner Khady, who is lovely.  

The real event occurred a day later. On Friday 16th March I witnessed an amazing day and was reminded why I love and need to travel. 

The heat can be intense in West Africa and although we were on the coast, it still felt strong to me. Nevertheless, after a stroll to the local market with Khady, I sat amidst organised chaos, absorbing the fragrant aromas of fish, rice and fresh fruit and the clamour from women chatting and kids playing.  Later Simon, Khady and I headed to the nearby beach to relax.  This is where the spectacle began.  

I was offered a seat under a mango tree and introduced to the locals. The men had strong hands and happy, relaxed, friendly sing song voices. I placed my feet on the soft hot sand, kicked off my sandals, took a coke and lay back and listened to the delicious sound of sea rolling.  Then the magic of Africa began.  

I was given a musical instrument– a bowl shaped object made from a calabash, hollow inside with three or four saw blades half way across the hole cut into the instrument’s top.  When the metal keys are twanged, they produce different notes of varying pitch.  I felt the smooth texture of the wood and marvelled at the instrument’s light weight. I twanged a few notes, creating a basic rhythm, before letting the local experts take over.  Simon took pictures.

One guy played the calabash and was accompanied by fellow musicians tapping rhythms on beer and water bottles.  The singing began in accompaniment to the rhythm and I joined in with the sway/dancing. The combination of the music and singing coupled with the rolling ocean waves created a fabulous energy in the air and all around.  The trees and sand, sun and ocean and the local culture and music produced this powerful emotional electricity that I was able to feel through my skin and body.  It was what the Africans might call a spirit as they appear to be very superstitious in this region.   

It is one of the main reasons I travel. I’ve been on many long journeys to recapture those moments of magical energy or feeling when everything of warmth and happiness comes together and you feel wow, I’m alive in real nature or culture.  

This is pure and real. I can feel it and absorb it – no sight is necessary, just an open mind and sensitive body  It is a bit like falling in love for the first time over and over again. True ecstasy. Exaltation of recapturing that travel moment when the full picture of sound or smell or vision is realised. For me it is the moment of the energy flowing through my body, which has been created by the environment I find myself in.   

To finish the event off, I had a man come sit beside me with his pet monkey and I was stroked by a semi wild animal – what a cool way to end a day of real African culture and environment.   

Finally, I walked down the beach and entered the water. The coolness was delightful after the heat from the sand. I paddled and enjoyed the sound of the ocean as it rolled and slapped, rolled and slapped. The sun was setting: I could tell by the change of temperature on my body and the change of the sun’s rays on my face.   

A great end to a wonderful day.   

Tony Giles
Abene, Senegal
March 2012-03-17