Sunday, December 14, 2008

Dec 14. - Stonetown

After checkout,and a swim in the pool, I went to Stonetown which is the main city on Zanzibar. It has the narrowest, winding roads I have ever seen and a map doesn't help, I know, I got totally lost and had to ask for directions. Needless to say, if I wasn't burnt before, I certainly am now! There are lots of curio shops selling all sorts of crafts, spices, etc. I picked up 3 vanilla beans for less than 2$ and was told by my better half that I should have picked up a dozen.. Lots of very interesting huses and especially the ornate doors.
I will post all the interesting pictures on my blog when I return around the 20th.

Nov. 13 - On the road to Zanzibar

Hopped on a fast catamaran ferry to Zanzibar, the crossing took 90 minutes. It is a fairly nice and clean ferry but buying a ticket at one of the numerous kiosks can be daunting, especially when all the tour books tell you otherwise. So, I dutifully go to the right kiosk for that particular crossing only to see it closed, so off to a kiosk with no problems, go figure.
Well into hour 2 of our 90 minute journey, the island approaches. The first sight is the azure blue waters, wow!

Am staying at Mtoni Marine which is right on the beach. Unfortunately, the water isn't azure but is swimable. It does have a lovely pool and a nice sports bar, also on the beach. I had my mouth all set for ostrich but the restaurant was closed for a special function, so had fish and chips. Everything is a lot more expensive here, at least 50% more.
The next morning after my shower, I feel like a nicely done ham, well cooked and smelling like cloves from the clove soap. They don't call Zanzibar the spice island for nothing.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Lady Bug, Lady Bug, oops

And just what is the last thing a lady bug sees when she hits the headlight, ...
photo courtesy of Canadian Loonie

Friday, September 19, 2008

My New Toy

and many thanks to my lovely wife for allowing me to get this nice bike, and for actually choosing this particular one!!

Post script: Now, she loves the bike and finds reasons to go out for a ride.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Pictures are now uploaded

I have uploaded some of the more memorable photos to:

Please visit and, of course, give me your comments. (This way, I know someone is watching...)


I had a good time in Tanzania, rough roads are but a distant memory (maybe not that distant) and the sights to see are incredible. The terrain goes from dry desert savanna to mountainous regions and near tropical rain forests. I can say that the 2,300 km that I traveled were now worth it, but it was painful at the time and very tiresome.

Enjoy my pictures, I enjoyed taking them and sharing them with you all.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

August 22nd, last day on site

Today is our last day inspecting and it promises to be a long one. We left our -1 star hotel bright and early, 7 a.m. The trip was uneventful but proved to be rushed in order to catch the 4 p.m. ferry back. The next one would be 2 hours later. Well, using all my military planning and timing, we left 15 minutes early on a 4 hour trip. I mentioned to the driver araka , or faster, and off we sped. I am still feeling those dirt roads (if you know what I mean). We stopped for gas, and skipped lunch (again).

Our accompanying car stopped for lunch. Well, as it is typical that nothing is ever the same from one day to the next, the ferry left at 3:30 instead of 4:00. We arrived at the terminal (are you on the edge of your seat in suspense yet?) and the guard (they're everywhere ) waved us onto the ferry araka araka (remember from an earlier post, faster faster!), as we drive on, the ropes have already been cast off and 2 minutes later, we are on our way. To make a long story short, we drive to the airport and I manage to get on the last seat available back to town, and civilization, yahoo!
Wait, it isn't over yet, I had to wait until the last minute before getting my ticket as I was on standby. I get my ticket but then have to rush to pay and get my luggage. As I pay, and the hundred dollar bills that I keep giving her are being refused, I start getting worried. Turns out that they only accept new hundreds series 2002 and newer. Thankfully, I had at least 2 of them and I made it to Dar es Salaam that evening, tired and hungry. Since breakfast at 6:30, a snack at 5 consisted of 4 samosas, which were excellent.

August 21st, Geita

We left Musoma for Geita which is south of the lake. Nothing spectacular today but we did pass on the fringe of the Serengheti and saw more animals in the distance (ho hum). And, of course more bloody dirt roads, or ball smackers, because everytime you hit another big bump, your ...well, need I say more?

We did see a new animal today, big bird! We saw a bunch of storks. These are big birds! And more baboons, seems they're everywhere.

The quality of the hotels continues to deteriorate. However, I do know that it is all uphill from here. Our last site is tomorrow and then I will fly back to Dar es Salaam on Saturday. At least the food is good and I am almost guaranteed a peaceful night, the last hotel seemed like it was next door to a mosque, not a happy camper at 5:03 in the morning.
So, in keeping with my lack of sleep on this trip, early morning, I hear a gate open and when I peek out the curtains, (no, it's not another animal!) there goes the guard, complete with his weapon at the ready, a small bushman's bow. They tell me that they are deadly accurate with these bows which looks like something a child makes out of a willow branch.
Funny thing just happened, just finished supper and a girl comes up to the table with a water jug and bowl so you can wash your hands.
As we drive along the roads, we see people cutting the grass on the side of the road by hand, using machetes. Talking about effective use of manual labor.
We passed thru the city of Mwanza, better known as the city of stone. You see the strangest stone formations with huge granite boulders teetering precariously on top of other rocks. People have even built their houses in amongst the rocks.

August 20, Musoma

We arrived in Musoma which is on the east shore of Lake Victoria. The main fish from the lake is Tilapia, so of course I had fish for supper, then lunch the next day (since they didn't have any chicken). For supper, they got chicken so I ordered it, big mistake. At first, I thought it was beef, but only the tenons, it was that tough. Should have gone with the fish again.
We went up to Sirari which is on the Kenyan border. I managed to sneak my foot across the border so now I can add another country to my list (not fair but ...) No animals today!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The Serengheti

Aug. 19th. Departure this morning crossing the Serengheti. We passed by Lake Manyara and into the park. No great concentrations of animals, just lots and lots of impalas. The Serengheti is mostly flat and very dry. The down side is the horrible condition of the road, if you can call it that.
Our first animals after the impalas were zebra. We managed to see some ostrich several times, their heads buried in the sand.
Finally, we came to a place where other vehicles were parked, a sure sign of an animal sighting. Sure enough, on the right, a herd of elephants, on the left, 3 lions sunning themselves and as a bonus, a pond with some hippos, what a sight to behold!
What more can I say, that was the only lion sighting but we saw another pond with lots of hippos, several more herds of elephants, more impalas, wildebeasts and zebras along with some giraffes. It almost sounds boring after a bit, but then we did spend about 4 hours in the park, and we did have to brake for animals. The only animals missing were the rhinos.
Strange how all the animals except zebra don't even seem to know you are there, except maybe for the lions when you approach them on foot and they see easy fast food!
We finally arrived at our destination 10 1/2 hours after leaving, a thoroughly exhausting day. Miller time, or as is they say here, Kili time (short for Kilimanjaro beer, which is quite good).
The hotel I am staying at is clean, basic and is on the shore of Lake Victoria.

More to come, but then how can I ever top off this day! ....and not to forget that they are paying me for, summing up the day in a few short words, periods of boredom interspersed generously with a bone jarring ride and some exceptional views of wild animals in their natural setting, an event not to be missed. (pixtures on flikr once I can upload them on a reasonable connection.

Masai Country

Aug.18th. Tomorrow we depart for Lake Victoria. Today, we went north to the Kenyan border to visit a site. The countryside changed dramatically from hilly to flat and very dry. We were in Masai country and saw quite a lot, dressed in their traditional red or blue wrap.
Coming back, we passed by an open field and in the distance, we could make out at least 100 zebra grazing. This was not in a park setting which made the sight all that much more spectacular!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Day of Rest...

Sunday, August 17th : Day of rest
Today, there was nothing on our agenda, in other words we were free to do as we wanted. So, we were up early (again) and made our way to Arusha National Park. It is a short jaunt from our hotel, about 35 km and the entry fee is quite modest, only 35$. At first, the gate keeper said he did not take Visa or Mastercard, although there are 10 card machines beside him. He wanted Visa debit card. After I said that I do not have, he hummed and hawed, then finally accepted the money. It turns out he was just too damned lazy to open the safe to give me change.
We weren`t on the road (gravel that is) for 5 minutes when we came across a clearing and there were a bunch of Giraffes and zebras along with some water buffalo and wildebeasts. (so that`s where they got the fixin`s for our meal last nite!). Carrying on, we came across some small deer which they call diki diki. Then quite a bit along the same road, our path was blocked by a bunch of giraffes, no less than 20. We passed no more than 10 feet from one, close up and personal.
We also managed to catch a glimpse of two hippos in the water, snout and eyes only and our path was continually blocked by baboons. We also saw some columbus moneys (I think that is what they are called, black and white with long white tails). Saw a gazelle in the woods and whatever is in the picture!!
Our trip came to an end with some zebras and giraffes off to our left grazing. It seems that`s all they do! We didn`t see any elephants and there are no lions in this park. Afterwards, met up with some people in the bar, they asked where we came from and what we were here to see. After exchanging pleasantries, told them we were actually here to work, that they were paying us to be here (talking about rubbing a bit of salt in the wound..)
Tomorrow, it is back to work and Tuesday, the big adventure begins where we cross the Serengheti,


August 16th : What can I saw but a picture is worth a thousand words. Enough said, nice view but unfortunately too many clouds. It took us about 6 hours to get here and we are here until Tuesday morning. We then set out to cross the Serengheti.
Arrived at Arusha, the hotel is The Impala. The lobby is where they obviously put all their money, rooms are comfortable, TV is fine if you speak Indian and all of the light bulbs are burnt out. We went to another hotel for supper, the Jacarenda. The food is excellent and I can honestly say that this is my first real meal where I left the table satisfied, and full. I tried the catch of the day, Wildebeast. It was actually very good and tender, no fat at all. Don`t know where they caught it and I hope it wasn`t road kill….

Friday, August 15, 2008

There be animals!

Aug. 15th. On my way to breakfast this fine morning, there was a troupe of monkeys in the courtyard. There were several small ones as well. Then, on our way to visit the site, we ran across (and not over this time!) several more troupes of monkeys. Quite a sight. At least we are seeing more than just dogs and cows! I tried to upload a picture but due to the slooooow internet connection, could not.

Tomorrow, we are going to Arusha and should be getting a view of Kilimanjaro, hopefully it will be clear.


Thursday Aug. 14th: We have arrived in Tanga for our next stop. Tanga is on the north-east coast. Our hotel is decent, the bed very comfortable and we are right on the water.

We took a supposed short-cut that took us thru every kind of bush imaginable. We skirted the mountains, through the forests, crossed rice paddies and thru very arid land. Basically we saw it all, except of course any animals. The road was in very good condition with the exception of the last 30 minutes or so which was in really bad shape.

Somewhere in the Wilds of Africa

1Today, we drove from Dar es Salaam inland, about 450 km. We passed some very nice scenery and typical brush and savanna. The only animals we saw was a dead baby zebra on the side of the road and a puppy. Unfortunately, the puppy was our fault, or rather he ran out in front of us. Other than that, nothing else. The hotel where we are is only 2 years old and actually quite nice, but no internet. However the bed isn't very comfortable, it seems that whoever ordered the beds didn't think the mattress was necessary given the e is a Box spring. Tomorrow, we have a long day ahead of us, 7 or 8 hour drive.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Dar Es Salaam - preparation for the big trip

Monday, 11 Aug.

We are in the planning stages for our trip. Right now, we will be driving near the base of Mt. Kilimanjaro, then crossing the Serengheti by car. I will take lots of pics, memory card is good for about 1200 pictures. I will upload the more memorable ones. (and they are paying me to do this!). It will be a very long and tiring trip but obviously well worth it, a triplike this only happens once in a lifetime.

The hotel, Courtyard is a decent and clean place, staff are courteous and the food is ok. Unfortunately, the beds suck big time, you can feel the wire springs, and I have changed rooms once now. I am still jet lagged but a couple of close encounters with Stella should remedy that. (for those of you who don't know who Stella is, see Stella Artois beer, NOT MY MOTHER!!! - hi mom! Yup, I'm drunk.....(insider joke after the beer bash that I went to at CEGEP to see April Wine, just a few short (not) years ago...

I am writing this as I await my meal, Indian food.

Well, will sign off for today, am on
Skype which is nice to be able to see Connie in person. Went to the fish market yeaterday, you wouldn't believe the cheap prices of the sea shells, especially compared to Florida. I bought a nice shell for only 3$. The only drawback is that it smells fishy.

Thanks for the ipac Jon, works really good.

Tuesday, Aug.12th.

Sleep still eludes me, until 1ish. Not a happy camper. We finally finalized the vehicle rental,about time considering we leave tomorrow. The trip will take us around the base of Mt. Kilimanjaro, crossing the Serengheti, sleeping on the shores of Lake Victoria and back to Dar es Salaam. I'm sure there will be many unique sights and lots of sore bums! Can't wait to upload pictures and share them with you all. (but you also have to remember that there was someone on the other side of the camera!

First few words of Swahili, araka = fast (had to tell this to the waiter since he was sooooo slow, 90 minutes for lunch!)

Chao for now

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Sunday walkabout

Here are a few pics of our sunday walkabout.


Hi all,

This is my attempt at a blog. Arrived at the airport and there should have been someone there waiting for me. Came out and saw many names but mine, of course. Turns out that the person waiting for me had the sign rolled up and, although I had never seen him before, I was supposed to recognize him.

Welcome to Tanzania. Saturday was the first day that I had more than 5 minutes to myself. Went downtown on two separate occasions, to buy a handphone and look around. To say there isn't much is an understatement. Typical African city but with a few diffences, where else do you see some Kenyan bushmen in their red outfits roaming the city. Also, saw a bushman similar to him on The God's must be crazy.

The hotel I am staying at is probably a 3 star, maybe but it is a 10 minute walk to our partner's office. It is also a 3 minute walk to a fairly decent restaurant,and the beer is good, Stella Artois.

The traffic is very disciplined compared to other countries, even better than in Montreal believe it or not. There isn't that incessant tooting of the horn and they generally follow the rules of the road. The roads are also in quite good condition.

Work is pretty hectic and undisciplined, as is the norme in Africa. Dar Es Salaam is right on the east coast and the Indian Ocean. There are regular ferries to the island of Zanzibar, the spice island. It's about a 90 Minute trip. I'm not sure if I'll get a chance to go there. Our trip is slated to begin on Tuesday and our route will take us around Mt. Kilimanjaro, more to come on that later.