Tuesday, August 26, 2008


All good things (and rambling blogs) must come to an end.


We travelled approx 18-20 000 km of African roads. We travelled by boda boda, dala dala, matatu, rikki, public bus and private tour bus. We went by landrover, by ferry, by plane. We survived a dhow, a speedboat, a rubber raft and a bicycle taxi too.

We saw a host of animals, the big 5, 5 types of monkey, 4 or so national parks, Victoria Falls and 9 African countries.

We meet many people from many walks of life and had a conversations with them in rough english, gilted swahili and battling french.

Thanks to everyone who has read this blog over the last few months and a special thanks to those who offer encouragement to keep writing. My/our first Jeffari is now over and so I guess the blog updating is too. I just hope the next jeffari isn't too far away.

It was awesome.

Dubai, Aussie and Home


Well before we hit Dubai we had an unexpected stopover in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. This was totally part of the schedule but news to us. Still, we got a wee look at the city and it appears nice through the left hand side portal.

6 hours of comfy seats later and we land in Dubai. We had a fair idea what to expect (i.e heat and construction) but weren't really prepared none the less. We got through customs reasonably quickly only to spend 90 minutes between 1am and 230am queueing frantically in 38 degree heat trying to grab a blasted taxi. Kate had been expecting crushing efficiency and we were solely disappointed.

Anyways, we got to Dave's apartment quite happily around 3:30am. After a bit of a sleep we hailed a cab and headed to Madinat Jemeirah. This movement would be a familiar one for expats (i.e the A/C room, A/C car, A/C mall combo) This mall-etta is an upper class, smallish mall right next to the famous Burj hotel. Anyways, we partied there for a bit before hitting up the Mall of the Emirates. We shopped for ski gear, sports gear, fashion gear, shoes, perfume and cinnabons. It was a western style paradise. Greatest mall I've seen thats fo-sure. Cheap too.

At night we (Kate, Dave and I) headed into the gold souk for a looksee and a cheap dinner. We rounded off the hectic day with a nice impromptu dhow ride on the Dubai river. Good times!

Next day was more of the same but instead we hit the Ibn Battuta mall. He was some Marco Polo type explorer of Dubaian origin and we were again in awe. After much kerfuffle we finally managed to meet Dave who treated us to an Arabian meal of some note. Halloumi, Hummus, Shisha, Shish kebab, vineleaves and the obligatory cinnabon and we were in heaven. Big Special thanks to Dave and his massive hospitality. We both needed and appreciated it immensely.

Sadly after that was the trauma of a 4 hour sleep, a long day of flying, 45 minutes sleep the next night and finally an arriveal in Sydney at 7:50 am. It was great to see Jan and Bill and great to see a nice bed with innersprings too. We slept for ever that night and awoke happy but flu-ridden. It was raining :( Anyways, we also managed to catch up with Alex, Loz, Mike, Jess and Marcel which was excellent.

Saturday involved a quick flight to NZ, a bus ride and finally a taxi to home in Timaru. It is now tuesday and it hasn't stopped raining. I am still flu ridden but happy at home while Kate is now into her second day at Timaru District Hospital. She reports it is very nice. We are off to Tropic Thunder tonight on cheap Tuesday and really, it's like we never left...

Monday, August 25, 2008

Uganda, Rwanda

Hey Everyone.

Turns out I haven't blogged for the entire duration of the olympics. Clearly blogging and olympics watching eat into the tiny amount of spare time that I actually do have. Apologies for that. This post will cover our last few African adventures.

When we last reported in we were about to scurry off for the opening ceremony. We hit up the cafe next door, ordered a coke and sat down waiting for the action. Alas, there was none. Undeterred we harrassed the cafe staff to search all 392 channels of DSTV to find the ceremony. They couldn't and we were subsequenty furious. FURIOUS. We jumped on mototaxis and barrelled home to complain. Anyways, our mototaxi driver tells us it starts at 2pm. We find this odd as it is nearly 230pm according to us. Turns out nobody told us that Rwanda is an hour earlier than Uganda and we'd been living the wrong time for nearly 3 days. That of course explains why nobody else was at the restaurant for dinner the previous night.

Back at our hotel we discover the olympics on the TV in our room (like any decent 1 star hotel). We decided to forgo lunch and dinner and sat through all 4 hours of the opening ceremony. It was spectacular and all rather impressive. If only it were real...

The next day we headed out to the genocide memorial. This was donated to Rwanda after they misbehaved in the early 1990's by an apologetic European nation. It is thus a western style fancy museum. It is utterly fantastic and devastatingly sad. They chronicle the genocide and then compare and contrast it with other 20th century genocides in Cambodia, Yugo, Armenia and Germany. Let's just say that after it all we didn't really feel like speaking for a good hour or so and were generally peeved with the human condition.

To cheer ourselves up, we did as we are inclined to do, we watched olympics and dined out. For 3 straight days that is! We had chinese, indian, chez robert (pronounced shay roberrrrrrr) and watched more olympics than anyone. We even switched hotels to find one with more supersport channels. This cost us unnecessary extra which was recouped through missing meals in the pursuit of other peoples perfection.

Oh, as an aside, don't buy Hugo Boss Deep Blue aftershave from some guy on the street. No matter how well packaged it is, it is still toilet spray. I hope that $5 bucks made him happy. It was excellent toilet spray though. Country Garden flavour to be precise.

Next was the return trip from Kigali to Kampala. We were dreading this one as it was our last on african buses and we knew it was gonna be 9 hours plus. To mitigate our upcoming pain we decided to upgrade and book on the Jaguar Business Class coach. However, these people, they were not serious. Turns out the business class coach is broken and we have to go on the cramped regular coach. This didn't mean we got a refund for our higher priced ticket. It simply meant they could squeeze another 30 people onto the bus who were all paying the business class price. Grr. This bus ride was also amusing insofar that the first 3 hours are on the right hand side of the road and the last 6 hours are on the left. Admittedly the differences between the two sides of the roads are less apparent on that particular pot holed strip of tarmac. 9 gruelling hours later and we crack into Kampala.

To celebrate we eat fast and then run to the mall to catch Batman (we knew to adjust our watches this time). It was excellent despite not finishing til 1am. The next day was spent shopping and drinking coffee at the 1001 cups of coffee, coffee house. Excellent.

Next day - Rafting!!! We woke early and left Kampala for Jinja to hurtle down 35 km of the Nile on a 4.5 metre boat. Cool!! I was dressed in togs while Kate opted for a nice pair of my old boxer shorts. Hilarious. 2 hours later and we're sitting there practicing our stroke. After quickly learning how to unflip the boat we were off. First stop was a waterfall of grade 5 fury. It was awesome. Especially awesome was the bit where we suddenly flipped and got destroyed in the white water. He he. The rest of the day followed much the same pattern. Kate got progressively more terrified. It was great.

Sore and tired we got home late and slept in nice and good. After a couple of hours in the Emirates office sorting out our tickets we headed the 37km to Entebbe to stay the night in relative peace. We didn't count on a power cut and the squishiest bed in roll-together history...

Our last morning in Africa was spent in a wild life sanctuary. We visited injured chimps, eagles, rhino's, lions and shoebill storks. I photographed them all and plan to pass these photos off as genuine wilderness photos..

Our last act on the continent was to hire 2 dudes for 1500 shillings each ($1USD) to take us on the back of their scooters to the airport. We were one step up from the Kerrigans and happy as larry. 90kg of Jeff and 20kg of pack made the 50cc scooter struggle mightily though.

Next stop...Dubai.

Friday, August 8, 2008



We are now in Rwanda, our ninth and last country in africa. Rwanda is made up of mountains (for Africa) most of which have some how been tamed with terracing and cultivation. The people speak French and Swahili and are generally very friendly. The other obvious thing is that there is a massive international aid presence here which, without knowing more, feels like a guilt trip over the events of the early 1990's.

Where we last left off was Fort Portal. We enjoyed our few days there including a lovely side trip to Lake Nkuruba(see left) where we were the only guests of their camp site. We saw heaps of colobus and vervet monkeys playing/battling each other which was cool. From FP we caught another (hopefully our last) traumatic bus. This time we traversed a million pot holes and ended up in Kabale in the south west. We spent a night there in the lovely House of Eridisa hostel before heading to Lake Bunyoni. This lake is a famous R&R spot in possibly the most beautiful setting we have come across. We planned to hang out there for a few days but ended up coming back after only one (got bored). After another day in Kabale we headed west into Kisoro.

Kisoro is a nice, small town 12 km from Rwanda and about the same from the (purportedly) evil DRC. It is home to a million motor bike taxis and a large, cheap market. We stayed at the rather average Virunga hotel before heading into the hills. We decided, perhaps unwisely to make the 37km trip on motortaxi. Nice plan but after 90 minutes of bump, bump, bump I had sore legs and a massive bruise on my tailbone/backside. That night we stayed in the tiny Nkuringo campsite in the middle of nowhere many meters above sea level. It was very basic but cool in it's own way - picture two single beds in a little hut thingie with a tin roof. At about 4pm it decided to hose down with rain - maybe 6 inches or more and thunder continuously all night. Twas indeed crazy. Unlike the food there which was horrific and, it turns out, full of bugs.

Righto. So we rock up to the Nkuringo wildlife office next morning excited to track real life mountain gorillas in an impenetrable forest. The first hour was great as we left civilisation and followed a nice wee track. Soon after though our guide told us the Gorillas were only 2 hours away. Little did we realise this meant descending through thick foliage down a steep mountain pass. All 6 trekkers ended up on their butts numerous times with injuries abound. One trekker was a 68 year old lady with a replacement knee and it must have been tough for her. Anyways we finally reached the Gorillas and let me say, it was awesome. Kate was trembling with excitement. We had imagined them to be sitting still in a group where we could watch. Instead we spent an hour scrambling up and down tiny wee paths after the Gorillas as they moved around and ate. They were magnificent creatures and so very human like. Great photography too (see right). We only had an hour with them but were exhausted by the effort of tracking the blighters.

So now all we had to do was get back to basecamp. The simple task of retracing our steps was made an absolute ordeal by the rain which suddenly became torrential. So picture us freezing, absolutely saturated (goretex schmoretex) and trudging through thick mud/morrain straight up hill. Then, of course, the dodgy beef struck and, well, enough said...

The cure for the aforementioned exhausting struggle came in the form of some lovely gentlemen on our trek. They climbed the tortuous mountain ahead of us and returned to their fabulous resort called "The Clouds," This resort had been open 5 days and is spectacular/pure luxury. These nice chaps invited us and the gorilla guides over to their "place" for high tea. So we turn up saturated, covered in mud and frozen to be greeted by massive fluffy white towels, a hot fire, comfy sofas and an enormous afternoon tea. The hotel even gave the older lady a t-shirt to get dry in! Needless to say we love that place!! Jam and Cream Pikelets, Meatball thingies, Jam rolls, individual pots of tea and so much more. Glorious.

Next day we headed into Rwanda on motortaxi. We scurried through immigration and headed on a nice wee minibus to Gisenyi or as Lonely Planet calls it "the Costa de la Kivu." This was possibly a tad generous but we did have a nice meal at the Stipp. Interestingly enough the pleasant atmosphere was often disrupted by large planes taking off from nearby Goma airport (in evil DRC). Apparently this is the Congo govt restocking in their war against rebels! Scary.

Yesterday we headed into the capital town of Kigali and today we are sipping Bourbon Coffee - an attempt to make Rwandan Coffee into a luxury item that we were too happy to support. This arvo we hope to catch the olympics opening ceremony and then tomorrow we're off to the Genocide Memorial. Contrasting aspects of humanity I would imagine.

Congratulations to Dave and Mary (little bro and his new fiance). Also Congrats to Ro and Jo who also got engaged recently.

Finally, we changed our flights again. Off home late next week! Hurrah. Visiting Dave in Dubai and people in Sydney before getting to Timaru in a fortnight.

Party on.

Jeff and Kate (who, sadly, isn't feeling 100% today)

PS duelling monkeys....

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The Zip Off Pants Update

Confession time.

First some background: Picture a naive, (extremely attractive) bachelor called Jeff who during the season of Xmas 2007 was tempted by his upcoming adventures and a 20% off sign into buying his first pair of zip-offs.

In a fit of excitement he got them home and marvelled over their quick drying temperament and zip off ease - surely would be perfect for travel.

Imagine then the disappointment when after 3 months on the road the zip-offs are rendered surplus to requirements. Here is why:

1. Who actually zip's off? In all the days I wore them I never once needed to zip off and only once zipped off for the fun of it. If you want to wear pants, wear pants. If you want shorts wear them. If you want to change then change. Also, it's way easier to regulate your temperature by switching between shoes and jandals or removing a jersey then zipping off.

2. The place where zips are needed is not around the knees. It's on the pockets. The voluminous pockets would be perfect for carrying a litre of water (if i didn't have hands or a backpack that is) or a quick meal ration. They are useless for securing your wallet though. Thus if you happen to be buying zip offs for travel I suggest you check this closely before purchasing.

3. They are, lets face it, not built for glamour.

So there, I discarded them in favour of my jeans - a sure fire travel no no. Except that jeans don't show dirt, they are good at night and look good.

Roger Kabisa.


U see a nice country. Uganda.

Hey World.

11 days down the track and we find ourselves in Fort Portal, East Uganda. After rudimentary inspection we can find neither a Fort nor a Portal. If there is a case to be made for this being a portal then the case is that this area leads into the Rwenzori mountain's. That is silly though or else every second town in the South Island would also be a portal.

Anyways, before we left Kisumu we had the doubtful pleasure of the Kisumu musuem. We were optimistic as we had heard that they had a real "stuffed lion eating a wildebeest." We turned up full of this optimism to find out prices had trebled since our guide book was written. Undeterred we pressed on and saw a range of highlights. The most magnificent of these was perhaps the aquarium - (worse than an average pet store in NZ) or the turtle sanctuary (small square fenced off area with zero shade and 30 turtles. very sad) The funniest part is that these were way better than the snake park (where the snakes were actually plastic) and the authentic tribal village. The taxidermied lion was very impressive though. I can only imagine how much more impressive it would have been if it wasn't missing an ear and a significant part of it's flank.

Right, so from Kisumu we had a delightful day of minibus torture and headed into Jinja. Ugandan visas now cost $50 each which is frustrating. Obviously the rationale is that it's way easier to collect revenue from tourists at each border than have a taxation system in your country. Jinja was nice. The hostels were overpriced and underclean but the location was superb. We got a little exercise there and visited the source of the nile which was sourcy. nice. We wandered to Bujugali falls one day and had wild rice salad another.

From Jinja we headed onwards to Kampala. Getting there was easy but oh man, the bus depot was incredible. So many people yelling that you could barely think and could only really join in the yelling as a method of coping. Needless to say that Kate doesn't enjoy being yelled at and thus the stress levels peaked. We ended up taxiing on out of there and heading to a hostel called the Red Chilli. We ended up in a tent there which was cool. From there we got a room next day in mighty Dewinston St at the Hotel City Annex. We explored Kampala quite a lot over the next few days. We made it to the movies twice, an irish bar, a thai restaurant and generally overspent and overindulged. It was nice.

The best part of Kampala was the fact that we scored Gorilla permits. Previously we had been told this was not going to happen since they were booked out til November. Undeterred (we are undeterred a lot at the moment) we went to the actual offices of the permit people. There a nice lady took a shine to Kate and promised to help out. The next afternoon she rang to say she could find two for as at Nkuringa, Bwindi on the 5th of August. Hurrah. Double Hurrah. Once we stumped up with a thousand fine USD we were secured.

To celebrate we came to Fort Portal. From here we need to fill in 5 more days between here and the Impenetrable forest. To fill this in we'll prolly play cards, read books and drink Nile Specials which at 5.6% have quite a kick. We'll then head from the Gorillas into Rwanda for another fortnight. Then it's back to Kampala and eventually home in just under a month.

Congrats to Casey, Julia and their new arrival. Love it.

Jeff and Kate.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

The megatropolis of Kisumu

Well. It's been less than a week since I last posted but when you gotta go, you gotta go.

We are in Kisumu. Kisumu is not exactly tourist central. It is however home to 353 000 friendly kenyans and thus is the third largest city in this fine country.

Our last day in Tanzania was remarkably Tanzanian in tone. We huddled outside the Moshi Hilton at 6:00am waiting for the luxury minibus we splurged for to turn up. 6:10am and it arrived right on time and it was nice too. Comfortably relieved we sat there in the bus, in the dark as it started to rain heavily. Our nice large shuttle drove us across town back to their depot where we were dumped into some leaky old minivan and hauled to Arusha. Obviously some logistics weeny had taught them how to consolidate a load. Needless to say I was nonplussed about sitting there in the dark, getting dripped on clutching my bags for 90 mins. In Arusha they transferred us back into a coach which was nice. 3 hours later we are through the border having picked up a Kenyan transit visa. Unfortunately though, our delightful bus decided it was not going to Kenya and promptly broke down. The driver and conductor being nice guys then decided to transfer all our luggage to a new bus. Problem was that they missed my book and glasses sitting on my seat. Thus picture ungainly Jeff sprinting (well running as fast as possible) back over the Kenyan and Tanzanian borders with 40 locals laughing and looking on. It was kind of like the reverse of the olympics .. you know...slow Mzungu running with fast Locals sitting and watching..

Anyways, with glasses in tow I settled into my comfy new seat only to endure 4 more hours of roading hell. We arrived in Nairobi petrified of Nairobi (thanks guide book) and dishevelled. Help was at hand though in the form of a random aussie guy we met who hailed from Newcarstle. He took us to some random lodging house and showed us the pizza restaurant where we managed a small pizza each for lunch and another medium one for dinner. In between we graced the Nairobi cinema with our presence and endured the Incredible Hulk for 2 full hours. Nairobi was bustling and interesting. Not exactly what we'd expected.

Next day we rose early again to catch the train. Except that the train was cancelled due to corruption ruining the entire service. Thus we caught Easy Coach instead. This would have been easy had the coach had suspension but alas it didn't. After 7 hours of this and some of the worst roads we've seen we crawled into Kisumu peeved and bone shaken. Luckily though we met another lady who took us to a nice hotel called the "Sooper" lodge. This is where we've been holed up for a couple of days now and it's really very good. Kisumuins are nice people and we've had a great time here shopping at the market, eating cheaply and having coffee's at the mall.

Tomorrow we're heading to the little used border crossing of Busia by catching a minibus that has Busia written on it. Could work! From there we head onwards to Jinja where I hope to have a spiritual connection to the locals.

One last thing. If it is in lonely planet it now costs double and isn't very good. If it isn't in lonely planet but is recommended by someone you meet then it costs less and is generally alright.


Jeff. (Kate is busy)