Bulletin 8

10 May 2003

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Hi all,

We are in Nambia and have a few days to relax and sort out things like email.

We had a short, but relaxing, time in Zanzibar. We did the obiligatory spice tour, ate fresh seafood in StoneTown and hired a motorbike to explore the northern beaches. The north of the Island is beautiful with aqua seas and white sand beaches. Debs spent a lot of the time beach combing, collecting cowrie shells to use as counters in the Owarie board.

From Dar-es-Salaam we drove down to Malawi for a few days on the beach at Lake Malawi. It was a lazy time as it rained a lot. Steve did a bit of horse riding though. Steve also had his birthday in Malawi - Debs surprised him with a carved Owari board and a T-shirt signed by everyone on the truck.

From Malawi we headed down through Mozambique to Zimbabwe. It is a strange country. The exchange rate is fixed by the government at 55 to the US dollar, but on the black market the rate is 1200 to the dollar - if you get caught using it they throw you in jail though. Petrol prices are also fixed at an absurdly low rate which means that the petrol stations never have petrol and the queues are hundreds of cars long. People actually buy knackered out old cars just to sit them in the petrol queues!

We stopped briefly in Harare and then headed down towards Bulawayo. There is a place called Antelope Park on the way where we had an amazing time. They have "tame" lions there - we went for a walk with four of them, just like walking dogs except they are almost fully gown lions. We have video of us walking along holding their tails! They also have three two month old cubs that we sat around and played with. They are lovely. We also went elephant riding - Steve went for a swim with them. Debs also got to bottle-feed milk to a baby impala.

After the Antelope Park we went rhino watching near Bulawayo. We got to within about 20 meters (on foot) of a huge white rhino with its baby.

From Bulawayo we headed north west to Victoria Falls. This is a very modern tourist resort now. As you can imagine the falls are amazing. We wandered right up to the edge and got absolutely soaked by the spray. Debs had a french manicure in one of the local 5 star hotels. Steve also spent a day "playing" in the gorge. He did abseiling and "rap jumping" which is abseiling facing forwards (ie straight down). The rap jumping is terrifying the first time, but Steve was hooked and ended up doing it 6 times, not bad considering you have to walk up an 80m cliff after each one.

They also have what they call a "gorge swing" there. You are attached to a rope (not a bungee cord) tied to a cable in the middle of the gorge and then you just step off the edge of the cliff. It is one of the most terrifying experiences imaginable, way beyond bungee jumping or parachuting for some reason. We have some great video of this.

The gorge swing/abseil was done in Zambia so that is another country ticked off the list.

After Vic Falls we headed into Botswana. We arrived almost immediately at the Chobe national park. By this time most wildlife was fairly routine, but the highlight was sitting in a boat watching a herd of elephants swim across the river.

The next adventure after Chobe was the Okavango Delta which we had really been looking forward to. The idea of relaxing in a dugout canoe while hunting game really appealed to us. Unfortunately the rains were late and there was no water and very little game. We spent a total of five hours in the canoes over three days, with the rest of the time spent walking or sitting around. The water level in the rivers was so low that we couldn't see anything from the boats. We enjoyed it anyway, but still felt a little let down.

Namibia was the next country on our itinerary, and we passed through the captial, Windhoek (a surprisingly modern city), as we headed towards the Etosha national park. We stopped on the way near Grootfontein where they have the world's largest meteorite - we lay on it and watched the stars go by.

We were sure that by this time we would be "over" wildlife parks, but Etosha managed to surprise us. Each of the three campsites that we stayed at had a floodlight watering hole where we saw jackals, antelope, zebras, elephants and rhino. This was all apart from all the wildlife we saw during the day.

Just south of Etosha is a cheetah park where they look after orphaned cheetahs. After walking with lions, this was our opportunity to get up close and personal with a different kind of big cat, and to watch them being fed.

After the cheetah park we headed up to Epupa Falls on the Angola border for a couple of days of relaxation before heading down through the skeleton coast (which was covered in fog and very cold) to Swakopmund.

Swakopmund is an adrenalin sports mecca. We spent this morning sandboarding, and will be going back tomorrow and the next day. Others in the group are quad-biking, skydiving or deep-sea fishing.

Truck life for the southern part of the trip is somewhat less taxing than the first part. For a start there are less of us as several people only booked for part 1. Secondly this is a well travelled overland route, and we spend most nights in campsites with luxuries like hot showers and flushing toilets. We also have a higher food budget and can afford to buy things like cheese and meat. It helps that we spend most of our time on tarmac as well so it is far more comfortable.

Steve & Debs are Friday's cook group, as there are no "special duties" (quartermaster, firestarter, etc) now. We have divided it equally, Steve does fire and washing up and Debs does the rest!!

We only have two weeks of the trip left, until we reach Cape Town. The final night is spent at a vinyard and it is Bens birthday. It will be a great opportunity for us to say our goodbyes and get ready to join you all back in the real world.

We hope this email finds you all fit and well.

Steve & Debs

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