Sunday, 31 March 2013

Easter Reflections

Easter is a time for reflections.  For reflecting on it’s meaning and story* predominantly, but for me this year, it's about reflecting on where I’ve been.

I knew moving home to Australia would mean a different lifestyle to what I lead in London. One of the biggest differences is the ability to fly off to another part of the world for the weekend cheaply and easily. Easter, being a four days weekend was a prime opportunity to escape London and I did so faithfully every year I called the city home.

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This year, like those that came before my London life, Easter will be a time for family.  A time for easter egg hunts on the farm, for Lynne’s chocolate mousse, for watching aussie rules, for being lazy. 

What are your Easter plans?

*I'm not deliberately being dismissive of the meaning and importance of Easter but I do try to keep religion of the blog, including my beliefs

Saturday, 30 March 2013

What's Next?

This. Another holiday.

This is actually happening. I'm going to Cuba, finally. And whilst I'm in the region, I'm going to a bunch of other places as well.


I've wanted to go to Cuba for a number of years now and it's something I want to do before Fidel dies.  In my naivety I expect his eventual passing to have a lasting impact on the place.  I want to go and see it before then.  From Cuba, I'll head south to Panama before making my way north to then fly home from Cancun.  

As always, I'll go with the intention of blogging and updating you all.  And as always, Instagram will be where I'm sharing the pictures.


Friday, 29 March 2013

Gorillas in the Mist

Muzungus* in the mud

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Another animal highlight of my trip (of which there were so so many) was without a doubt gorilla trekking in Uganda. 

We trekked in the ever so aptly named Bwindi Impenetratable Forrest for the Nshongi family of gorillas.  A 7 hour round trip trek, both the toughest and the most rewarding, amazing day hike I’ve ever done.  Making things easier was my wonderful porter, Norman, who along with carrying my bag for me and helped me up and down, kept spirits high with his entertaining stories and jokes.
We hiked with a guide up front, porters throughout and a gunman behind with the aim of finding our family’s trackers who had in turn, found our family.  Trackers for each family set off around 7am to where the family was last seen the day prior and track them from there.  We then set off at 8am, walking poles at the ready to meet the trackers and then the gorillas.
After about four hours tough slog we met up with our trackers.  We removed bags, dropped poles and set off on the final trek to the gorillas.  Thinking it would be a few hundred metres, I was stunned when I turned the first corner and came face to face with them. 

What followed was an hour in their company, some with the younger members (there are no infants in this family due to a family split a few years ago) and some with the silverback.  They’re peaceful, expressive majestic animals. 


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{The last photos shows just some of the mud this muzungu was covered in after sliding a good 20metres down a hill in the splits position, left leg leading.  The other two on the last row show the gorillas without zoom to give you an indication of just how close we were to these beauties}

After our hour was up, we coasted back to the starting point, all on a high from what we had just experienced.  Covered in mud, I don’t think I’ve ever been so in awe of nature.



{a short clip where you can hear just how loud the insects were}

*Muzungu – an often used swahili word for white person / tourist.

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Specifics:
I did the trek as part of Acacia Africa’s Gorilla Encounter 14 day tour and they organised our permits. We stayed by Lake Bunyoni both before and afterwards so had a drive of a couple of hours each way to the trekking start point. Permits to trek with gorillas in Uganda are $500USD ($400USD in the DRC and $750USD in Rwanda) and specify which family of gorillas you trek with.  50% of the permit is refunded if you don’t see the gorillas but trekking can continue for up to 8hours (1 way, so in theory 16 in all) before they consider it a fail.  Porters can be hired for the day and Norman, our porter (shared with a friend) was the best $20USD I spent on the trip).  The family I trekked is one of 9 family in Uganda habituated to humans.  Maximum trekking group size is 8 and maximum time spent with the family is 1 hour.  It’s not a cheap outing but a phenomenal one.

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{Lake Bunyoni at dawn and dusk} 

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Giraffes at Sunrise

 

My favourite African animal, for sure.  Well, alongside elephants.  And zebras.  And maybe the gorillas?  But giraffes.  At sunrise.  Playing with each other.  Be still my giraffe loving heart.

 

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These were taken during an early morning game drive at Etosha National Park, Namibia.  I could have stayed and watched them for hours.

What’s your favourite African animal?  I was lucky to see so many on the trip but I didn’t get great photos of all. 

Thursday, 14 March 2013

Where I went- the holiday to home



There is just so much to share with you about my trip from London to Melbourne.  I'm still sorting through the thousands of photos I took, editing some of the video and gathering my thoughts on how to best share. 

For now though, I'm just going to list out my route in a style similar to Breanna's route sharing over at This Battered Suitcase.

LONDON - MUSCAT* - KATHMANDU - KATHMANDU VALLEY - POKHARA - KATHMANDU - VARANASI - AGRA - LUCKNOW - DEHLI - KOCHI - THEKADDY - VARKALA - KOCHI  - MUMBAI* - JOHANNESBURG * - CAPETOWN - CITRUSDAL - ORANGE RIVER - FISH RIVER CANYON - SESRIEM - BETHANIE - SWAKOPMUND - SPITZEKOPPE - ETOSHA - WINDHOEK - GOBABIS - GHANZI - MAUN - OKAVANGO DELTA - MAKGADIKGADI - BULAWAYO - MATOBOS - HWANGE - VICTORIA FALLS - CHOMA - LOWER ZAMBESI - LUANGWA - LUSAKA - SOUTH LUANGWA - LILLONGWE - KANDE BEACH - CHTIMBA - IRINGA - DAR ES SALAAM - STONETOWN - NUNGWI - DAR ES SALAAM* - NAIROBI - LAKE NAKURU - ELDORET - KAMPALA - QUEEN ELIZABETH NATIONAL PARK - LAKE BUNYONI - BWINDI IMPENETRATABLE FORREST - KABALE - KIGALI - JINJA - NAIVASHA - NAIROBI - DUBAI - MELBOURNE.

The abridged version is:
UK - NEPAL - INDIA - SOUTH AFRICA - NAMIBIA - BOTSWANA - ZIMBABWE - ZAMBIA - MALAWI - TANZANIA - KENYA - UGANDA - RWANDA - UGANDA - KENYA - UAE - AUSTRALIA.

For reference and explanation, most of my time in Africa was part of two distinct overland tours.  Cape Town through to Dar Es Salaam was this one with Dragoman (in reverse for me).  The gorilla trip was Acacia Africa's Gorilla Encounter.  I'll share my thoughts on the pros and cons of overlanding, group tours, these specific tours etc in the coming weeks.

*These were airport stopovers only and don't go on my trip advisor map. Kigali, Rwanda, is the only town I've included where we didn't spend the night.

{Picture at top is the view from the tail camera on the Emirates A380 as we came into Melbourne to land, as seen on my in seat entertainment screen}

Thursday, 7 March 2013

Home


Sweet home.

I’ve been here one week now.  Some nights in Melbourne but mostly on the farm.  Doing not a lot but somehow keeping busy.

It’s an interesting time for me.  To come is the job hunting, the flat hunting, the home making.  But for now, it’s the relaxing, the unwinding, the slowing down.  That might seem strange given
Melbourne skyline

I’ve had 4 months off now, holidays for 3 months of it.  I’m relaxed and I came home relaxed.  But I’ve also come home wondering what is next for me.  Do I stay in finance? (probably, it’s all I know).  How can I stay in finance whilst working a job that lets me spend my days outdoors in thongs (flip flops), shorts and a tank top. That lets me take more than 4 weeks leave a year.  Or is that it for the next while.  And if that is it, should I take advantage of my current, rent free, freedom and head off on the next trip.  And then come home and home make.  And if that’s what I decide to do, where is the next trip, when the places I want to go are spread so wide.  All decisions that will come with time. I’m in no rush. I’ve saved for these days.

And on less philosophical thoughts, here’s a taster of what my first week at home has looked like.
Sunny Sunday in Melbourne #brighton #beach#sunset on the farm no. 2 #latergramUp up and away #balloon#Sunset on the farm #latergramHave I mentioned that I love Melbourne? Breakfast by the beach.Moo!
{Beach, farm and sunsets.  A pretty true representation of time. 
Not pictured – friends, family, tim tams, twisties and potato cakes.}