Bucharest

So, the trip has begun. I’m in Bucharest, capital of Romania. It’s my 92nd country and so far very interesting!

After taking an eighteen hour bus from Athens, Greece and passing through the whole of Greece, 10 hours, and all of Bulgaria, 6 hours, I finally arrived at 2 am in a cool and quiet Bucharest. A taxi driver dropped me at the Midland Youth Hostel, which is opposite the French embassy and only slightly short changed me! 

I’m now using the Leu, Romanian currency, which is 1 Euro equals 4.4 Lei. You can get a good meal for 18 Lei or even cheaper from the supermarket. Romanians like raw cabbage with meatballs and other delicacies inside, they also have creative soups including Tripe – cow’s stomach!

On my first day exploring, I walked up Calea Victoriei, one of the main old streets and headed to Cișmigiu Gardens, one of the city’s main and loveliest parks. The park contains birds, including swans, and also a man-made lake to delight locals and tourists alike. My interest was the sound of the birds and the search for the Rondum Roman – a series of marble sculptures of famous Romanian poets and writers, most from the mid-late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. After climbing down several groups of steps and getting nowhere, only finding bushes and people, I met a man who was local. His name was George. I told him what I was searching for and I was from England and travelling the world. He seemed impressed and endeavoured to help me in my quest. We walked several of the paths before descending several rough steps and he showed me the first statue. They were mostly set back in the trees and bushes. I climbed up on a marble step to touch the statue, but, alas, they were too high. Then I wiped out my camera and with George’s help proceeded to take a couple of snaps. I continued walking along the path stopping when I came to another bench, this seemed to indicate the location of the next statue. George departed and I continued my exploration. Several moments later I met George again, this time accompanied by his love girlfriend, Lidia. They were intrigued by my inclination to wander the world alone and take photos! I explained it’s about meeting people and learning different cultures, I take photos for fun!

Eventually, we all departed and I went in search of one of the park’s main fountains, finally locating it with help from another local. I then proceeded to make my way out of the park. As I neared the entrance I once again encountered George and Lidia. We chatted and eventually headed to University Square together (Piata Univeritiye). We were going to walk but decided to take a tram to save time. At Universitiye they took pictures of several statues for me, including one of an equestrian Michael the Great. I took one of the National Theatre and another of an expensive clock tower. Unfortunately these photos no longer exist, but more about that in a moment. They showed me to nice café/restaurant called Art Café, where I tried local soup and meatballs in raw cabbage – interesting, the soup was delicious. The café resembled a university style refectory and you take a tray and slide it along a counter, choosing which dishes you desire.

Lidia is an English teacher, teaching school children of various ages. I was invited to one of her classes the following day. I attended and talked with about eight girls aged 16. Although a little shy, they eventually opened up asked me questions about how a blind person travels and even about kissing!! After the class Lidia took me to a bus stop and I headed to Calea Victoriei and with help, to Piata Revolutiye. The square with its strangely shaped monument is in honour of the 1989 revolution against over 30 years of communist dictatorship and oppression. I eventually located the former Royal Palace, now home of the National Art Museum. The Athenaeum, which stages classical concerts and other events is also nearby. Two members of staff helped me get an audio guide and escorted me around the museum’s exhibits on medieval Romanian art. The audio guide is fascinating and gives some insight into several famous Romanian princes and kings, such as Steven the Great, 1847-1504. He built 47 churches for each of his victories in war. He ruled modern day northern Romania, Moldavia. After the audio tour, I had a tour around a collection of 14th century Italian art, which had been purchased by a king in the 19th century. Romania had no art collections of its own as eastern orthodox religion is against painting, sculpture etc. Only icons were allowed in the monasteries. The museum is beginning a multi-media guide in order to allow disabled visitors to enjoy the art. There was a booklet with different smells created from products found in some of the Italian works. I was able to feel copies of a relief set in three pieces then put together on top of each other to display the actual relief how it looks to the eye. I also was allowed to touch gold leaf, which felt like tracing paper, so thin was it. So I’ve had gold on my fingers.

The lady who had told me about the art took me across the street to Kretzulesc church and I briefly touched the old rough walls and had a walk inside. Then I managed to cross a main road without being run over and made my way to University Square. I asked a guy how to get to Rosetti Square, named after a nineteenth century revolutionary and he took me there for a photo. I then said I was heading to Piata Unirii (Union Square). He offered to take me, so I said fine. We walked and talked mainly about football. Suddenly I realised we were walking down a small quiet street with few people. I suddenly realised the danger and stopped, however, he grabbed my camera and ran away. I then tried to retrace my steps and find help. Unfortunately, I encountered a guy who was drunk. I asked for Union Square and pointed saying, Da, da, (Yes, yes, Union Square?) He dragged me across one main street and then down a side street. I tried to pull away and then he attacked me trying to break my cane. I began shouting and he ran off. Two ladies and a guy helped me find my hearing aid which had fallen on the ground and found me a taxi. It was about seven in the evening by then. 

The following day, Friday, 9 May. I took the metro after getting directions from hostel staff to Union Square and met two lovely young Romanian girls on the metro. They helped me to a shopping centre to purchase a new camera, plus sun glasses, which I lost during the fight. Next I attempted to visit Parliament Palace but discovered a marching band blocking my path. Therefore I sat in the sun and listened. I became stuck in the crowd and barriers until two lovely girls from Iasi, northern Romania helped me and we walked together to the clock tower and fountain, prominent features of Piata Unirii. They then took me to a café where I had a kebab. After escorting me to the metro they gave me their phone numbers and told me to call them if I visited Iasi, which I plan to do. My next plan was to take an evening guided walking tour, but when I went to the supposed meeting point, nobody showed. Tomorrow, I head to Timisoara, the country’s second city.

Lidia is wonderful, tonight she brought over home-made soup for me to try full of delicious veggies. She also gave me some chocolates and dried fruit for my trip They like to offer food. Very kind people in general and one or two ass holes doesn’t mean the whole city or country is bad. The Romanian are warm and kind people, willing to help if asked.

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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.