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East Africa and beyond....

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Follow us as we take on the game parks, gorillas and gastro, that is East Africa...enjoy x x x

home sweet home

Melbourne, Australia

So after the gorillas we had had enough of East Africa, so we decided to surprise you all and fly home early!

So it was back to Kampala, where we boarded our Emirates plane homeward bound...
36 hrs later with stops in Ethiopia and Dubai we arrived in Melbourne...felt SO good to be home!

A long sleepy 3 hr drive took us to Hamilton where we snuck in and surprised Bindi & Ian and then the next day it was across to Kerang to do the same to Rod & Jen!

So now we are bout to head back to Melb & Uni so that brings the African adventure to a close!

Thanks for actually reading this thing! It made our day every time we had comments to read & we loved being able to stay in contact throughout our holiday!

Can’t wait to catch up with you all!

love Jem & Gret
x x x

permalink written by  jem_gret on February 15, 2007 from Melbourne, Australia
from the travel blog: East Africa and beyond....
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Gorilas in the mist

Kabale, Uganda

Gorillas in the mist…

So it was time to take on these famous gorillas….it all started with a 12 bus ride down to the far south western part of Uganda, to Bwindi Impenetrable national park..
We got in about 8pm and we had to begin the big trek at 8am the next morning…After a sleepless night (due to Jem being too excited to sleep!) we met with the other 22 people trekking that day.
There are three habitual groups in the national park and we were out to find Group M...
We turned up and we were the youngest by far. We were surrounded by professional trekkers, all decked out in this gear with altitude readers and the works…. We didn’t even have rain gear! Oppps…
We had a meeting with our guide who basically said, not to run when they charge and to expect anywhere from 2 - 10 hours of trekking to find the gorillas….AND to know we were in safe hands with three guards armed with AK- 47 to protect us from the rebels roaming the park….hmmmmm!
So the trek began…Gret naively thought it would be a nice stroll through the park….HOWEVER we were literally climbing vertically up the mountain with our guide making a path with his machete up front… It was damn hard!! Jem was loving it but when the guide told us the gorillas were near 1.5 hrs in, Gret nearly cried with happiness!
So we dropped our bags and poles and went into the gorilla’s domain…crazy!
Jem was so excited by this stage he couldn’t even hold the camera steady so half our photos are blurred!!
We were literally 1 metre from the massive silverback and even witnessed him charge us!! We just dropped to the ground while our guide made weird gorilla sounds attempting to calm him…to see him up close was unbelievable…He was just made of muscle and so intimidating! Awesome..!
Plus we saw two mums with newborns clinging to their stomachs…
All up we saw 8/10 gorillas of the M group…we sat there for the hour we were allowed with them, in silence!
It was such an amazing experience & hope our photos do it justice!
The hour flew and the downhill trek resulted in few massive stacks by Gret!!
Look forward to seeing you all soon!
One more week then we are home!!
Love Gret & Jem!


permalink written by  jem_gret on February 11, 2007 from Kabale, Uganda
from the travel blog: East Africa and beyond....
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Our travel to the source of the NILE!

Kampala, Uganda

So we said farewell to Tanzania and boarded our plane to Kampala, Uganda.
Thinking we had escaped the madness of Dar, we landed in Kampala and it turned out to be just crazy…
our hotel was smack bang in the middle of the city and there are people, cars and just chaos everywhere… admittedly we freaked out and headed to Jinja the next day….Old peaceful bagamoyo seemed a distant paradise away…!

So we boarded a shared taxi, which is basically a beaten up old mini bus that we found can hold at least thirty people inside and even more out! (Jen ren we think you get claustrophobic just thinking about it)

PLUS there are no toilet stops for a 4 hr trip, so Gret demanded to stop a few times while the local men had a laugh and ogle out the window… !
Arrived at Jinja and immediately booked into a full day white water rafting on the White Nile for the following day…basically so Gret wouldn’t have anytime to freak out!So we took on the 30kms of Grade 4 and 5 rapids and a lot of paddling in between…Basically its hard to explain what its like to be flipped out of a raft into the raging waters and being sucked under for what felt like eternity (well to Gret anyway!) and then popping up miles down stream….Our guide was fantastic and lived on the adrenaline of being sucked under for up to 20 seconds…fun??!!

And because of this, Gret adamantly refused to stay in the raft for our last rapid, ‘The Bad Place!’ and went down in the safety raft instead!!
(Fliss & Hame you would know what we mean…sadly we couldn’t find the G - spot!! AND Jem missed out on his action DVD because none of the other cheap travelers wanted one !!)

After beers on the truck ride home and massive BBQ with our new rafting friends, we actually hit the sack, exhausted at 7pm…embarrassing!!

The next day we were onto our new adventure….Quad Biking!! (This was definitely Jem’s weekend!)
It was just the two of us and our guide “Herbert”, who soon realised on the training laps with Jem doing mono’s that we needed some speed…
So we flew around tiny villages for the 2 hour safari waving and just generally trying to impress the local kids! They loved it! They would see us coming and run to the track to try and give us high fives and even jump on if we let them. If we slowed down near the kids they would run along after us and hold on to the bikes until their little arms just couldn’t take it any longer. We knew we were really out in rural Uganda when the poor little kids with their bloated bellies would hold their hands out for food as we went past! That’s when we started to feel a little bad, until we were reassured that part of our payment for the Quads goes towards the local communities through education and health programs… but its always hard to see little kids like that…

After having all that excitement, we realised there was not much else for us in Jinja, so after another 4 hours crammed into a mini bus, we arrived at Sipi Falls at the base of Mt Elgon.

We thought it was about time for a bit of R & R, so we stayed in luxury bandas right on the top of the falls, overlooking a huge gorge…it was what we imagine the Grand Canyon to be like! Pretty damn spectacular… and all this for the cheap price of 180 000 shillings (or $US 110) a night, it would want to be!!
Plus we had the whole place to ourselves!
But instead of R & R, Jem made us trek down to the falls and through the canyon… We had 5 little local boys following us and picking up Gret when she fell! Of course, hoping for some reimbursement at the end… (you always just give in!) The falls and the area is just beautiful and of course no photo will do it justice…As we were leaving, we flicked through the visitor book and saw that Sarah Richards had stayed there on 15th feb 06… (Hamilton girl) …crazy hey?!Now after another 8 hr cramped mini bus ride, we are back in Kampala & waiting for our gorilla trek to begin…

Love Jem & Gret

permalink written by  jem_gret on February 7, 2007 from Kampala, Uganda
from the travel blog: East Africa and beyond....
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African Child Care at its Best

Bagamoyo, Tanzania

Its hard to believe that our volunteer time in Bagamoyo is actually up…

Last weekend we ventured into Dar es Salaam for some shopping and to stock up with junk food….We went to the famous Kariakoo market, which turned out to be one of those African overcrowded markets you see on TV!!

Anyways, luckily there was a huge group of us, as we soon realised we were being followed and ‘accidentally’ bumped into by a few men, so we soon got out of there! Wasn’t the best idea going there, but an experience in itself… : )

So since our last update, the other volunteers in our school have left, so its just the two of us with 75 out of control kids!
We soon found our favourites within the group… They all seem to have such strong personalities for being so young…Its made the whole program so much easier to stick out just by working with these kids everyday as they have been so much fun… As soon as we walk up the road to school 70 odd kids coming running out and don’t stop until they are under our feet! After the sweaty walk to the school you would think that would be the last thing you would feel like, but we both can’t help but smile!! (we don’t remember liking our teachers this much!!)

However, in class its a different storey. They go crazy (we have got videos don’t worry..!) Occasionally the local women will come by the school and scream at them to be quiet (which we silently thank them for) as sometime we just have no control at all! We actually have to use a stick (just as a threat!) as no amount of yelling or stern looks will make them listen unless there is a threat of seriously being hit…the odd tap on the bum does help though!Jimmy the owner of the school was actually doing some chanting one day while we watched on…The kids just scream back whatever he says, and that’s how they learn the alphabet/numbers etc…The chants this one day went something like this…
“sit down”
“sit down”
“be quiet”
“be quiet”
“shut up”
“shut up”
“I will slap you”
“I will slap you” and that part comes with the slapping action as part of the chant!!
They had obviously done this chant before and it sound very wrong but it was actually hilarious to watch. The kids just love it regardless of what they are actually saying!

Gret’s fav student is tiny Sofia who is just 2.5 years old….

Her parents let her come along to school just to keep her busy and she’s so gorgeous walking the kms to and from school every day…she really is just a baby & seems to have fallen in love with Gret (because she picks her up all day long!) but is just terrified of Jem.. Jem’s favourite is Hassani…

He is the smartest kid in the class but is also the class bully. If we are struggling to control the class we just hand the stick to him, he says something in Swahili and they all just sit down and face the front. He can also translate what the little kids are crying about every two seconds.. plus he adores jem
Every Friday is beach day….no teaching at all, just a full morning at the beach… It was a bit scary to think what Health & Safety would have thought of the whole situation back home! Just the two of us would walk the 75 kids down a highway to the beach, screaming at them to get out of the way of the trucks!! It’s a long hot 3 km walk and by the time we reach the beach they are all stripping down, clothes EVERYWHERE and straight into the water…they don’t go very deep, but we can’t watch them all! They are all very resilient but it’s a relief when they all come out alive!!
Jem keeps all the boys entertained with sprints down the beach and odd game of soccer…Gret just plays with the babies who are too scared to get wet! Then its chaos trying to put clothes back on wet sandy bodies and there are ALWAYS tears! The hot walk home kills everyone, but thankfully we have started organising water to be bought for the kids to drink…they savour every last drop! But if they don’t get their water all we can hear is a monotone cry of “Sir Sir” or “Madam Me”!!!For our last day yesterday we bought them all ‘cassava’ from the local women…Its like deep fried parsnip with salt…actually kinda yum and you get three big pieces in some newspaper for the equivalent of 5 cents! So we got 75 of them and although it literally caused a kid stampede, they loved it and it was good way to finish the month…Living in Bagamoyo has been really easy…we have made friends with a big group of Rasta men, who have made ‘friends’ with some of the single muzungu volunteers and most weekends there is a “beachie” party with them all singing and drumming under the moonlight…its pretty surreal!
Our favourite Rasta’s name is KITEBO and he has recorded a few songs so we bought his CD for about 1 aussie dollar. All the rest of them have dreds down to there bums and can’t really communicate so its just hand slaps and fist rubs all round.

We live on the 20 cent massive mangos that are everywhere here and so good…and only 20 CENTS!!...puts our prices at home to shame!

The walk to school involves Gret running from the bulls that roam the roads and Jem being amazed at the size of roosters here! Its just so relaxed and just nice slow pace of life… By the time we walk home for lunch it would be about 45C and humid as anything.. Gret can’t talk for that half hour and is straight in the cold shower. Sometimes we get home and there is no electricity and no water so we have to just sit there in a lather of sweat while we watch the Africans walk past in jeans, jumpers and alot of the time beanies!! Crazy people!
BUT its time to move on and we are flying from Dar to Kampala, Uganda on Tuesday morning...

Gorillas, white water rafting, quad biking and more game parks await!

Love to you all!

Jem & Gret

x x x x

permalink written by  jem_gret on January 29, 2007 from Bagamoyo, Tanzania
from the travel blog: East Africa and beyond....
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into the unknown

Bagamoyo, Tanzania

First of all, we are really sorry about photos vanishing off our previous posts...some reason they are not working....the blog maker is onto it for gret, but hang in with us if there is shortage of photos!!

So with Zanzibar and safari behind us, we started our volunteer placement…

We met Douglas (program coordinator) at the Dar ferry port and he knew nothing more than we did about what the next month would hold…very nice guy, but no idea of what was going on! Disorganisation could be the name for our volunteer foundation!

Anyways we picked up Tali (Melbourne uni girl) from the airport who was in massive culture shock!….the airport was crazy…it was the a public holiday and for some bizarre reason hundreds of kids just come and hang out at the airport for the fun of it all…It was so loud and just crazy…!

It took us about 6 hrs to get to Bagamoyo instead of the usual 1.5 hr trip, cause Dar must be honestly the worst place in the world for traffic…
We ended up just walking along the road next to the traffic jam for around 20 mins before our car caught up with us…no air con to top it all off!

So we get to our house around 10 pm, no power, no water and a massive rat running around in Tali’s room…poor girl!! We were ok with it all as somehow we managed a room with double bed & ensuite for our month here…the other volunteers all have no hot water, but the secret is that we actually DO…shhhh : ) yes we are being selfish!

We have 6 other volunteers here with us = two Yanks, Canadian, New Zealander and two fellow Melbournians…its great to be around familiar people again as we are really the only ‘muzungus’ (whities) here…

We have two security guards and a gorgeous cook called ‘Happy’. Somehow she whips up these meals from the dirt and charcoal cooker in the backyard…fresh bread, chapatti, potatoes, rice and ugali (yuck) ….often referred to the anti-Atkins dietWe put some photos up of our cleaner’s daughter, named Usher. She is 4 yrs old and is just too cute and mischievous to describe…she spends all day/night at our house and is Jem’s new best friend...So onto our actual work…

The first week the Pre School kids were still on their xmas break, so we took kids aged 14 – 20 yrs for English and maths……

we actually had to learn the English tenses again (perfect tense..what the??!) in order to teach…jem even whipped out some liner equations for them to tackle…the (negative X negative = positive) took a LONG time to GET!The heat here is so intense…its just constant sweating, no air conditioning and often the power cuts out for days…we have never been so hot! It’s a 30 min walk to school and when we finish at midday, the walk back is an absolute killer…This week the kids came back…well actually only 12 of 70 turned up the first day…but woahh!They are 4 - 9 years old and an absolute handful...at the moment there are four of us teaching with only around 40 kids, and still they are just out of control…They just punch/ kick and do generally the opposite to what we try and tell them!! (plus their English is very limited!)
It’s a long 3 hours when we only work from 8.30 till 11.30. We feel for you Rod & Jen!They are so cute though and scream ‘Madame’ and ‘Sir’ at us all the time…They get one cup of water for the 3 hours they are at school & they treasure every last drop…There is man called Jimmy who set up the school (African Child Care) and he is often around building/painting etc, but the teaching is completely up to us…
(Although he will beat them with a stick if they misbehave…its awful but that’s they way all kids are bought up here) It’s hard to teach when some kids who don’t know the letter A, yet some can read whole sentences… the little ones get lost behind as they chant all the answers and just follow the lead of the 9 year olds.

We introduced play time as before they

permalink written by  jem_gret on January 10, 2007 from Bagamoyo, Tanzania
from the travel blog: East Africa and beyond....
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xmas, sea lice & pythons

Zanzibar, Tanzania

Well Christmas in Africa has come and gone for us…our Christmas eve beach party involved some crazy African dancing, an aerobics show (?!) and a massive python being thrown around the crowd…alive!! Gret was freaking out!! …health and safety???!! Though the performance has convinced jem to learn how to do handstands & walk over the next month!

Anyways, Christmas day we went snorkeling out on a nearby island reef…heaps of bright fish but the coral was nothing by Australian standards…PLUS some sea lice had a serious thing against Gret…enough said!

Jem seems to have taken after his dad with getting sea sick even in the shower, cause WHILE snorkeling he felt queasy!!

So the sea lice and queasiness combined did not make for the best xmas morning we had had…

Xmas lunch consisted of a 2.5 hr wait for a pizza…perfect African time ….lets just say we were not in the best mood after it finally arrived and then being accused of not paying…!!

A sleep in the arvo and some drinks at night, and xmas was all over for another year...

We are now back in stone town, after spending 8 nights up north in Kendwa rocks… Hope the photos do that place justice, as it was really quite spectacular…

Every night we would sit on our balcony & watch the local kids playing a massive game of soccer…finally Jem got up the guts to join in, and the ‘mzungu’ even managed to set up a goal!!.. plus jem spent hours in competitive volleyball games with crazy south Africans/aussies…

Days were spent drinking cocktails &eating surprisingly good meals, (though Gret is sticking to Cadbury for breakfast!!)

Plus hours of hard bargaining for those must have African souvenirs… jem lost his cap (sorry boys, think it’s gone) and t-shirt off his back in order to get one special gift!!

Spoiled ourselves one night for a belated xmas dinner at the only 5 star restaurant

on the island…was beautiful out on the water…we definitely could not afford it!! But it had to be done…with $50 mains, that Gret decided she didn’t like (once ordered!!). Although Jem had the best steak of his life!

8 days later though we were well and truly ready to head off…so it was back to stone town for our NYE celebrations…spent last night having sunset drinks with our new 5 Swedish friends who turned out to be Muslim…so not much drinking was done by them but we had a few for them that’s for sure…

watching the Indian ocean go by was a pretty cool way to spend the night.. Thanks everyone for the msgs!

Currently waiting for the ferry back to Dar, where we will meet Douglas who is the coordinator of our volunteer program….the unknown awaits!

Until next time, when we will probably have some teaching dramas to tell, enjoy summer!!

Keep in touch…we love getting comments on this blog and texts!

Love Gret & Jem

permalink written by  jem_gret on January 1, 2007 from Zanzibar, Tanzania
from the travel blog: East Africa and beyond....
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Zanzibar paradise

Zanzibar, Tanzania

Well, thank you everyone for your comments!! Keep them coming, they keep us smiling…we have added some more photos to our last post, so have a look below!

Internet here has been very hard to come by, so sorry for the lack of communication!!

Okay, so to pick up where we left off…

The moped idea was so great in theory, but not so good in practice!

They took us to a soccer Field for the ‘trial’. Of course Jem scooted off no worries at all, but for Gret it was another story….the whole trying to jump start the engine, clutch in one hand, gears in another plus the accelerator and brake was just too much! There was a little melt down in the hot empty Field, but she stuck to her guns and refused to take it on the crazy African roads….

Luckily we had a plan B…. we hired a 250 BAJA that Jem took a fancy to, so Gret just jumped on the back happily and we drove to the east coast village of Bueju… with only a few minor incidents with cows and crazy overtaking ( not on our behalf!!) on the way…

So we made it to the east coast and had a fantastic tree house accommodation for 4 nights while there. We ate with the local family and had fresh octopus and rabbit fish that was so simple yet great tasting food…so far no BROTH to speak of (that’s for the Holmberg family!)

But after 4 days with basically not another sole in sight, the deserted beach got too much, and we decided to head up to the north part of the island… (We should have listened to you fliss!) PLUS we got absolutely burnt to a crisp…soon found out the anti malarial drugs SO make you burn faster and n o sun cream was oh so stupid!! BUT we learnt out lesson and just bought sun cream for about $20 bucks…not cheap!

Jem went all local and had a go climbing to get a coconut then ripping it apart to the amusement of the local kids…tasted good in the end!

We are in the village of Kendwa now and the beach is spectacular. People everywhere and this place is bordering on paradise!

Tonight (Christmas eve) there is going to be a massive beach party at our accommodation…massive big DJ (best in north Zanzibar!), acrobats (?!) huge seafood beach BBQ and apparently hundreds are going to come here…should be great!!

Tomorrow for Christmas day we have a snorkeling trip planned to take us down to Mnemba island which will be all day snorkeling with a seafood lunch…

NYE will be spent here too with another beach part planned…

Zanzibar has been overall amazing…Gret’s type of holiday and we swear we have seen the famous place where fliss took the photo of Hamish while up here…
Apart from a thousand cats running though your legs as you eat (which gret nearly has meltdowns about!!) its pretty much white sands, turquoise waters and sun everyday..

AND we finally got one SIM card today, that we are going to be using while here…

the number is:

+255 786809753 …msg us, so we will know if it actually works or not!! (or call if feeling the love!!)

Love to you all

Miss you all so much over the Christmas season…

“donkey donkey plod along…” : )

love Gret and Jem

permalink written by  jem_gret on December 24, 2006 from Zanzibar, Tanzania
from the travel blog: East Africa and beyond....
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Game parks down

Zanzibar, Tanzania

Jambo everyone, we are two weeks into our trip and so much to talk about...

We arrived into Narobi easily, but literally had our gobs wide open the whole taxi ride in, as that place is so so crazy. There are people walking all through the traffic, and no road rules at all...lets just say we had a few ppl try and take us off the road and and our driver simply laughing the whole way saying 'crazy kenyans!'...culture shock rating was a 5/5 for sure!

The first part of our overland tour took us to the Massai Mara game reserve. The road is unexplainable. It took 6 hours to go around 250kms, and in parts everyone drives off the road and into the dirt, as the road has holes the size of tyres in it...unbelivable.... and Gret swore not to complain about the Lux ever ever again...

So we took on the game driving through the park.the scenery is just what you imagine...its almost like you can hear David Atinberry whispering behind you! Everything seems to be on a gigantic scale over here, and you just feel so minute! Seeing a pack of lions up close so we could of touched them,

a cheetah stalk and (nearly!) kill, and massive leopards jump from trees were the highlights of the game driving while in the park and then while in Tanzanai in the Serengetti and the Crater...

But, while in the region we also got the chance to go visit a working Massai village...

They did the traditonal jumping and Jem was dragged in to dance with them while Gret looked ridiculous trying to sing with the women....

The kids were abosulty gorgeous and so happy....they would scream.."one, twooo, threeee" while we took their photos, then run over to see the photos of themselves...by the end of it we were covered in cow crap, but couldn't wipe the smiles off our faces...

And now we are finally on Zanzibar...its so hot, so the tan is starting to look good! the island is just beautiful.. We are about about to jump on out hired mopeds and go to our accomdation on the east coast...wish us luck, as Gret is not exactly road worthy with her "L's", but they let it slide...we have had a few porblems with her visa too...so at the moment we are illegally staying here, but its all good... hakuna matata hey??

Christmas and news year on the beach coming up, and alot of beach time...safair was roughing it but we have managed to get through gastro free so far!..(others on the trip were not so luck!)

time to head to the beach!

love gret & jem

also, so sorry for lack of photos...to upload too forever, so we had to cut the number very short....PROMISE more soon!

permalink written by  jem_gret on December 19, 2006 from Zanzibar, Tanzania
from the travel blog: East Africa and beyond....
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One week to go....

Melbourne, Australia

Counting down the last week until we fly off to east Africa…

So make sure you follow us as we take on gorillas, game parks and the inevitable gastro…enjoy

Jem & Gret

x x

permalink written by  jem_gret on December 1, 2006 from Melbourne, Australia
from the travel blog: East Africa and beyond....
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