Monthly Archives: January 2016

Weekly Photo Challenge: Vibrant Rollers

A submission to the Weekly Photo Challenge: Vibrant

Looking for all the world like a young child has coloured in a picture of a bird. The Lilac Breasted Roller – the most vibrant of birds!
We have seen a number of these birds on Safari in the Serengeti and Chobe Game Reserves- but they live locally too – though I have yet to see one in the garden.

UK 50K

Soon this blog will celebrate it’s second anniversary. Over this time people from all over the world have paid a visit.

Recently a milestone was reached in that 50000 views from the UK, out of a total number of views just under 75000 from just over 17000 visitors.

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The map shows visits from across the globe with a few gaps. The redder the colour the more views.  The top 25 viewers are listed below. My old home and my new home feature strongly ahead of the US,Canada and Australia, with a swathe of European countries punctuated by mostly British Commonwealth.

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The white areas have yet to visit including Cuba, Guyana, South Sudan, Cote D’Ivoire, Somalia, Chad, Niger, Lesotho, Montenegro, Moldova, Kyrgysztan, Afghanistan among others.

There are discrepancies, in that visits from Mauritania, Iran and Uruguay have not been recorded as views although visits have occured (as shown at the side of this page).

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Recent newcommers are Republic of Congo and the Cayman Islands.

To all those who’ve visited ,even if only once, thank you for coming.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Vibrant Garden

A response to this week’s Weekly Photo Challenge: Vibrant

The climate here ensures that vibrancy remains within our garden throughout the year. Here is a selection of our vibrant garden.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Optimistic (The Optimism of Youth)

A submission to this week’s photo challenge: Optimistic

This picture taken almost 35 years ago on holiday in the then Yugoslavia (or possibly Austria).  

 What was I thinking way back then what hopes and dreams did I have.  I recall at that age the idea of being an Oceanographer appealed. I’d given up the pre-teens ambition of being a zoo keeper when I realised all it entailed. I certainly had a yearning to travel and in that sense my optimism has been fulfilled 35 years on as I am living and working in Africa. 

 

No Need For Alarm

At about 6:30am we are woken by an alarm. Nothing unusual other than the fact that this alarm is not inside but outside the house. A unusual combination of cat and birdeach day.

The white browed robin chat singing it’s heart out at the very top of its volume – intricate tweets and warbles. Below this literally our cat Peper approaches the bedroom window , bell jingling, claws scratching at the mesh, plaintive mews calling to come in after a night on the tiles.

Click here to hear

On a weekday this is great, not so the weekend!

Rain Rain Go Away!

They’re called the short rains – they last from November until late December. So by all accounts they should be over by now, except they’re not. 

It doesn’t rain all the time in the rainy season – we’ve had some good days, but when it rains it pours torrents.   

   
 Today it torrented down for over an hour, washing away the roads as they turned to rivers. 

 In the aftermath vehicles were trapped in potholes and abandoned until eventually levered out.   

   

Most roads here are mud, compacted but vulnerable to the torrents which turn once flat roads into a network of dips and chasms. Cars must weave through the roads taking the best possible path.  

 Interestingly today’s worst route may become tomorrow’s route of choice as the roads erode further.  There is no immediate sign of repair and to do so in the rains would be an exercise in futility, but day by day they become more and more difficult to navigate, victims of El Niño. 

The long rains are supposed to come later and should last from March until May. At this rate the rains could well merge into one!

Note: Not all photos were taken today but are indicative  of today’s weather.

Sunny Sunbird Sunday

 A Sunny Sunday afternoon in the garden with added Sunbirds.   
 
 
 
 
 


   

Weekly Photo Challenge: Alphabet Games

A submission to this week’s photo challenge:Alphabet  

alphabet playing games with words

Playing Games with Words

 

Knock Knock! Who’s There?

A strange knocking sound filled the garden. Tap tap tap tap! Tap tap tap tap. I rose to investigate and looking up I wandered slowly seeking out the source until I spied it. A flash of red caught my eye! A woodpecker seeking grubs buried in the branch. The thick foliage made it difficult to get a clear view, and the bird was nervous of being observed. It was a Nubian Woodpecker – given away by it’s lower red  stripe (Malar Stripe) on it’s head.
 

2015: 6 Countries, 4 Safaris, 3 Waterfalls, 3 Lakes, 2 Rivers, 1 Mountain ….and 2 Mums

What a year it was!

My first full year in Africa – the first year that I did not spend a single moment in the UK. We made the most of the year in terms of travel within Africa.

If 2014 was about moving to Africa then 2015 was about exploring part of it.

We travelled widely within Tanzania, visiting Rubondo, Bukoba, Dar Es Salaam, Mbamba Bay, Moshi (twice), Shinyanga, Tabora and Kigoma.

Rubondo Island on the Southern Eastern Edge of Lake Victoria. This island is a National Park, home to Elephants, Giraffe and Zebra which we we failed to see and Hippos and Crocodiles which we most definitely did see. We travelled there in February for a few days. This included a walking safari through the forest as well as a driving safari. The first of four Safaris in 2015.

We also travelled beyond the borders of Tanzania to visit Uganda, Malawi, Zambia, Botswana and Zimbabwe.

At Easter we travelled by coach to Uganda, our first trip outside of Tanzania. In two weeks we crossed the country  traveling to Kampala the capital and from there to Jinja, Murchison Falls, Mbale and Entebbe.

Kampala, the capital, was the hub of our journey from where we travelled to other locations, a busy city crammed with cars we spent Easter weekend here, visiting Watoto Church (home of the children’s choir).

In Jinja we encountered the River Nile, which flows out from Lake Victoria heading northward to the Mediterranean. We walked to source of the Victoria Nile though in truth this is just the place it emerges from the lake, the real source of the Nile is located in Rwanda to the south of the lake.  After a leisurely sunset cruise we then followed this up with a more vigorous encounter as we white water rafted along the upper reaches.

Murchison Falls as it’s name suggests is the location of an enormous waterfall where the Nile pours through a gap of a few meters into the Rift Valley. This was our first big waterfall of the year and certainly dramatic. Here also we had the chance to take a Safari into Murchison Falls Game Reserve and to see the many Elephants and antelope there as well as numerous bird species.

Mbale gave us a taste of Uganda off the tourist trail, and a chance to catch up with a girl we knew from home in the UK, working on a Street Child project. It also gave us a an opportunity to visit a second dramatic falls called Sipi Falls, a set of three falls flowing off a steep escarpment (another tributary of the Nile).

Finally on our trip to Uganda we travelled to Entebbe where we visited gardens and a wildlife park and chill a bit before returning home.

Later in the year we embarked on our multinational four week tour of Africa, accomplished purely on public transport. These countries formed part of our journey chronicled in our blog Victoria to Victoria.This encompassed a journey across Tanzania from Mwanza to Dar Es Salaam, Songea and Mbamba Bay.

This was my (though not Anita’s) first sight of Lake Malawi ( aka Nyassa). Three days here before chartering passage on a cargo boat to Likoma Island and our third country Malawi. From here the Ilala ferry to Monkey Bay and on to Zomba for a reunion with Anita’s old work colleagues and a chance to visit Chilimba Village her home for two years in the 1990’s.

Our journey northward then to onus to Liwonde (another reunion), Dedza and Lilongwe (more reunions) before crossing over to our fourth country of the year, Zambia. Our destination was Livingstone and the Victoria Falls. These immense falls were the third and most impressive of the year. We spent 5 days in Livingstone crossing briefly over into Zimbabwe (5th Country) and then had a day (and a third Safari) in Chobe National Park in our sixth country Botswana. Elephants, giraffe, water birds, kudu and hippos dominated the watery landscape. We travelled the Zambezi river a second great river of Africa.

We came close to but never quite entered Namibia at the near quadripont on the crossing into Botswana where these two countries as well as Zimbabwe and Zambia are separated by a mere 100m.

Our journey back from Zambia (and yet another reunion with former colleagues of Anita) commenced at an out of the way town called Kapiri Mposhi. Here we embarked upon two day  eventful train journey back to Dar Es Salaam through amazing scenery.

Back in Dar a fabulous day on the beach at Kipepeo Beach gave us rest and a chance to swim in the Indian Ocean. Then a further coach trip (one of many which lasted more than 12 hours) to Moshi. Here we hoped to see Kilimanjaro without  success.

After four weeks we arrive back home an amazing journey complete.

In October we took the car and travelled across to Kigoma on Lake Tanganyika, second longest, second deepest lake in the world.   Our third Great Lake of the year. A relaxing week at Jakobsen’s Beach, doing little but swimming and chilling. Our site had it’s very own herd of zebra, lots of bird life and amazing cichlids.

December saw the arrival of Mum and Mum-in-Law and the commencement of a Safari through Serengeti centered about a balloon trip and some amazing big cat encounters. Not before a return trip to Moshi and a final sighting of Kilimanjaro.

Not forgetting an excellent Anniversary weekend at Wag Hill (recently reopened again after closure) and a birthday weekend return to Kipepeo Beach.

Of course these are just the highlights of our team me here with plenty of life going on here locally in Mwanza. All this and more can be found by checking out the blog and our adventures in Mwanza and beyond!

Turning 50

I can’t believe I’m 50. When I was young 50 seemed such a great age. Honestly 50 seemed old! Yet now I’m 50 – and I don’t feel old.

If “Life Begins at 40” then I’m already 10. I think in this modern era 50 is probably the new 40. In lots of ways I feel no different to how I was in my 20s. Yet I find myself entering  a decade which ends at 59.

My birthday celebrations begun before Christmas, with the arrival of Mum and Mum-in-Law in Tanzania.
 We had a great time in Moshi, before heading into the Serengeti. A fabulous Safari centered around an amazing balloon trip.
  
  
    
    
   
My birthday fortunately coincides with a Public Holiday – Zanzibar Day, which guarantees a day off every year 😉 However, this week’s celebrations began on  Monday evening, with a meal out with work colleagues at a local restaurant, “Charcoal Ribs”. A colleague celebrated his 40th on the same day as mine, so we held a joint 90th birthday meal.  

    
 After the meal a group us headed into town – I never thought I’d start my 50th in a night club but the first hour of Tuesday was spent at a local African club called Kiss Club. The mix of African rhythms was infectious and although our stay was short it was great fun!

Tuesday was the big day and it started with breakfast with my son at Tunza Lodge by the Lake. Thankfully after three days of rain the morning was bright and sunny. Sadly Public Holiday or not my wife was in work and my daughter on a school trip.  

    
 A short walk around the corner took us to Malaika Beach where we splashed out on pool passes until mid-afternoon. 

    
 Arriving home to find out garden transformed into a party venue. Friends from all over Mwanza gathered for a Joint 90th party. Live music a barbecue took us into the evening a great end to a fabulous day. 

    
    
   

My 40’s brought me promotion, my first visit to Africa (The Gambia), travel to Vietnam and Cambodia and a move abroad to settle in Tanzania

I wonder what my 50’s will bring –  it’s certainly been a great start.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Weight(less) Mountain

A second contribution to the WPC: Weight(less)

On our second trip to Moshi we remained somewhat disappointed until a the sun set the mountain appeared. 

The upper slopes of Kilimanjaro revealed in the golden light whilst the lower slopes remained concealed by a ribbon of cloud. The mountain appeared to be floating weightless above the town. 

    
   

Weekly Photo Challenge:Weightless

A response to the Weekly Photo Challenge on the theme of Weight(less)

Just before Christmas I had the chance to fulfill one of my lifelong ambitions and take a balloon flight over the Serengeti and thus I was also able to tick off one of my bucket list items.

You can read more about it here.

What an exhilarating experience to hang weightless above the plains.

Rock City Mall

Mwanza has it’s first shopping mall.

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It was being built before we came, but was virtually finished not long after we arrived. In the early part of 2015 it was rendered and painted, the insides were constructed and the outsides landscaped.

 Meanwhile we waited for it to open …. and waited and waited.

Rock City Mall finally opened just before the elections back in October. I say opened – the building was opened but few shops opened at the same time.

Today we paid a visit.

 The building is enormous. Four atriums surround a fifth each of these are floors high with an extra balcony in the middle atrium and a basement area.


The mall will cater for all your needs provided those needs are phones, banking, clothing and jewelry. Indeed banks and phone shops seem to dominate the allocated floor space though most remain as yet unopened.

The phrases ‘Opening Soon’ or ”Coming Soon’ are  very prevalent. In fact very little is currently open.


The pictures below were taken of the only stores that could be said to be open though even two of these were locked up!


A supermarket will apparently open soon and the shop has been partially fitted out but as yet there is no stock on the shelves.   

The mall echoes and we wondered as we wandered why it had been opened before it was ready.

There is some activity as workers fit out some of the shops, and in the two phone shops there were customers, which could not be said of the three clothes stores or the jewelry store. The banks are as yet not open, save the odd ATM. Most plots remain unallocated and unfurnished, rubble strewn concrete floors and bare electrics behind the polished glass windows.

 As yet the escalators do not function and I assume neither the lifts. The place certainly feel incomplete, though the orange and cream paintwork, chrome railings and marble floors are spotless.

 It is sad that the mall is so devoid of  shops and you have to ponder whether it ever will be truly full. We saw no sign of a place for a cinema which personally would be a great bonus. Maybe the opening of the supermarket will draw more custom, we will come back ourselves then, but for now it’s a place where tumble weed wouldn’t feel out of place.

Guest Post: Mums’ Reflections

Tonight is the last night in Mwanza for my Mum and Mum-in-Law so I asked them to write down their impressions of Africa at the end of their three week stay.

  Mum (Jane)

  1. Vibrant, the colours of the women’s clothes – beautiful and seemingly well dressed, although it might be their only set of clothes.  
  2. Paths along the roads always throng with many people at all hours of the day- possibly because many don’t have a car or bike.
  3. As for transport this consists of a pikipiki (motorcycle) or a daladala (minivan) carrying many people like a tin of sardines.  
  4. Overall we in the West think we have so much, but actually we have lost so much.
    People here  are:
    • friendly
    • very polite
    • respectful (especially to someone of my age)
  5. In Tanzania it seems as if all the birds of the world have made their home here. All shapes and sizes and beautiful colours and songs.  

Poverty always confronts you which is so difficult, but there are organisations trying to help the Street Children which is good.

Nonetheless Tanzania has been a great experience overall.

  

   Mum-in-Law (Heather)

The heat hit me as I descended from the plane at Dar Es Salaam. Africa here I come! 

The Serengeti was amazing- driving right up to wild animals which continued to graze unperturbed. 

 Leaving our Safari was like stepping into a totally different world, filled with people in brightly coloured clothes, walking along the road or waiting by to sell their wares; goats or cows herded by boys, driven with long sticks; men on bikes with the widest loads imagineable, pikipiki motorcycle taxis everywhere. 

 It’s a colourful vibrant scene yet with none of the rush and pressure of life in the UK – a very different world to mine – much simpler, less scheduled. People work hard, but fit far fewer activities into their day. 

There’s real poverty – so hard not to give to every beggar! But there’s a quiet, gentleness of spirit, an acceptance of a much slower pace of life and lowered expectations. 

 For me, just having time to ‘be’ and warm all the time – was so restorative. I have enjoyed my first ever Christmas in the sun!.  

 

Weekly Photo Challenge: Circle

A submission to the new Weekly Photo Challenge:Circle 

 Looking up into the balloon on our recent flight over the Serengeti.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Now (the year has turned)

A submission to this week’s photo challenge:Now

    Taken last night as the New Year came with fireworks, just like other places across the world. Happy New Year from Mwanza, Tanzania