I’ve learnt to just say yes whenever my mother asks me if I want to travel with her, for a few reasons; 1) She’s my best mate, so it’s always awesome to have some quality mum and son time, and 2) She travels in style, so airport lounges and business class is always a treat.
It’s been a good year for me, climbing out of the deepest hole I’ve ever dug for myself, and at some point I must have agreed to a trip to Africa with my mum and her friends. At the time I agreed to the trip I hadn’t started up Threesome Studio or Spacewalk Agency though, and I didn’t at all realise the trip was going to be a huge 3 weeks long!
My initial thoughts were that I was going to miss my cat Mia, and also WTAC, and a big new client job with Spacewalk and WTF is Africa all about? Leading up to the trip I didn’t end up doing any research at all. I figured the group was made of people older than me, and that most likely it was going to be a mostly comfortable “Africa in class” behind glass, air conditioned with hotels kind of affair, but how wrong I was!
The trip was raw, Africa is raw, it’s been a tough test of patience and also a sometimes gruelling test in physical and mental strength. At the same time it’s also been a huge eye opener in so many ways, and I doubt I’ll ever look at how lucky we have it in Sydney, Australia the same ever again.
We started in Cape Town and ended with a 10 day Safari. Our last stop on Safari had no Wi-Fi, no electricity, no hot water, no drinking water (no plastic bottles); our trip had gone from Business Class flights, to hotels, to lodgings, to tents, to a 300km+ off road drive to stay one night in a Maasai Camp.
Massive newfound respect for the elders on this trip. They’ve shown me up on how resilient and optimistic they can be in hard times. They remind me that I’ve still got a hell of a lot to learn. There was a priest in our group too, and whilst I started by taking pot shots at religion (as I usually do) I learned to put my ego aside to have much more constructive conversations with her as the trip went on.
Enjoy the select photos from my trip below. When I travel I like to blog every night so I avoid coming home with a memory card full of photos, and the huge task of trying to remember what happened each day. I also just find blogging at the end of the day therapeutic, so if you’re interested in a day by day blog of my entire trip, please visit my blog: http://www.justinfox.com.au/?s=Africa+Trip
Landed in Cape Town. The Singapore airline hostesses were so damn cute. I had a little chat with one when the plane landed, she was wondering why I’d want to visit South Africa, suggesting that it’s a violent place!
Ran into this guy Zenn Viljoen and instantly recognised him from a few YouTube videos I’d seen of him, so trippy! Check out a video of him here (I didn’t record this).
Andre and his M3. Met up with this guy who I recently met on Facebook. He was once head of search at Saatchi. We had a few beers and talked about as much shit as we could before the bartender called last drinks!
Day #3: View of Cape Town from Robben Island, an island which was a high-security prison where Nelson Mandela was held captive for 18 years. The first half of the tour was a bit meh, as we never got off the bus, but the 2nd involved a tour guide who was an inmate once, he added a personal touch to what would have been a pretty dry history class.
A few guys on Facebook suggested I visit the Franschhoek Motor Museum which our guide says is owned by the 2nd richest family in South Africa. Turns out it was on the way to a few of the wineries already on the list for the day so I was granted my wish!
Day #5 was a day in transit. We went to the casino where I spotted ZEN, an Asian food restaurant. We ate at the steak house across from it though and I had one of the best grain fed steaks I’ve had in a long time!
Day #6 & #7: We lost a day in transit, and it was a nightmare as our flight was cancelled which threw us into chaos as we had an interconnecting flight to catch in order to make it all the way to Tanzania. Our tour manager Benjamin is a Christian man, he prayed his ass off, and somehow, with the help of an amazing airline hostess, we made it by the narrowest of margins.
We got to our hotel at midnight, had a quick meal and we were all in bed by 1-2AM, the next morning we were straight into these mighty modified J70 Toyota Land Cruisers, and off on a Safari, which started out pretty damn slow as many of the animals were so far away (a zoom lens would really have been good…), but the pace picked up when we found a pack of lions, with one young female attempting to sneak up on some wild boar, but with no success, then, whilst watching a large group of elephants, the largest of the group decided to head straight for us and cross right in front of us, day made, that was quite an experience for sure.
Day #8: We got to meet the Maasai and have a tour of one of their villages. My fave shots from the trip!
Day #9: Another huge day of transit, and the roads were getting even rougher. They’re corroded, so the surface of the road is a lot like corrugated iron, bumpy AF. Going slow is fine, but we had major km’s to cover so our driver was doing 90km/hr on average which made for a really loud and bone shuddering ride for a big part of the day.
We passed a few Land Cruisers with broken rear suspension. Our 2nd car scored a cracked windscreen and a flat.
We made it to the Serengeti National Park though, and saw a whole lot of wildlife on the way; a male Lion pack, a Hyena, lots of Giraffe’s and Zebras, Gazelles, Antelopes, a huge Vulture and an Eagle mate sharing some road kill and also the destination for 1.8 million Wildebeest (we’ve come at the right time to see the wildebeest migration).
From here on we were literally camping out in the open in tents. I could see endless Wildebeest migrating from my tent and the sounds at night were amazing.
Day #10 & #11: I woke up in the middle of the night to the sound of an animal that got louder and louder, and so clear and loud as it walked right past my tent. It wasn’t obvious to me what animal it was, but it sounded like heavy deep bassy breathing, and I thought it might have been a lion. I was the first at breakfast (as usual) in the big tent and I was greeted by 2 of the staff who asked if I heard the lion last night! They said it was the big male, the king!
We made the trek to North Serengeti, another long hard day of bumpy AF driving. It’s almost like this trip was a test for me, a test in patience, in being calm in situations where I can’t have what I want when I want. Hearing some of the wild stories these older guys on our tour have to share over drinks at dinner had me thinking twice about judging people too early too.
Day #12, #13: We had 3 nights at our camp in North Serengeti to catch a Wildebeest river crossing. Our guides had been trying to keep a poker face, but we saw very little on Day 1, and word over the radio is was that there weren’t so many more animals around, and that migration could be over.
We headed out on Day 2 and by the time we had our first rest stop (which was packed with tourists), we hadn’t seen much at all. Just before lunch we heard a commotion on the radio, there was a crossing, and we weren’t too far away. Our drivers both drove aggressively, rally styles, to get to the crossing as quick as possible and soon we spotted about 10 or so cars bunched up together to watch a huge Wildebeest and Zebra crossing.
There were 2 lines into the water, the Zebra’s were crossing on the left, and the Wildebeest were traversing a 5ft vertical drop to get into the water on the right (which made for spectacular viewing). This went on for a fair few minutes before some ominous shapes started appearing in the water, yup, Crocodiles.
As if the view wasn’t breathtaking enough, the presence of a Crocodile, then 2, then 3, had everyone excited. One Crocodile in particular was snapping at the Zebra as well as the Wildebeest and on it’s 4th attempt it managed to catch a Wildebeest by the legs, we all heard the beast wail (which was awful), then just like that the Croc had brought the Wildebeest down into the water and disappeared.
Sensing danger, the remaining Wildebeest and Zebra stopped crossing.
It’s interesting that many of the tourists were cheering about a Croc taking a Wildebeest, agreed, what we saw was a once in a life time thing, but a whole group of religious people cheering for the death of a Wildebeest, and praying none of the Zebras were killed by Crocodiles (whilst not at all praying for the Crocodiles to catch a meal), all seemed interesting to me.
Day #14: Without a doubt the toughest day on the tour as we travelled over 300kms on extremely rough dirt roads to get to our next destination, the Maasai Giraffe Eco Lodge in Lake Natron. Even the more resilient of the group suggested that the rough ride was too much, and even our tour guide suggested that perhaps this particular transit should have been mentioned when they were booking the trip.
Had there been better seating in these Land Cruisers (some of the seats were bent in one way or another, most likely because of people standing on them to get a better view of the animals on the safari from the open top), and perhaps air conditioning (our driver suggested our car needed a re-gas), then perhaps there wouldn’t have been any complaints, but as it is, we arrived at the Maasai Camp pretty broken.
No Wi-Fi, no electricity, no hot water, no drinking water (no plastic bottles); our trip has gone from Business Class flights, to hotels, to lodgings, to tents, to a Maasai Camp.
When we arrived there had just been a sand storm, then soon after, rain, this absolutely made a huge mess out of the eco-camp and staff were rushing to clean up our rooms as well as the main tent (kitchen/seating area).
We sat outside for a while to the sound of a goat screaming for its life, then the sight of a goat being dragged past us by a Maasai on a leash, urinating the entire way. It was pretty obvious to me that the goat was going to be our dinner, and too right, it was.
The Maasai warriors choked the goat and snapped its neck, drank its blood, skinned it, splayed the meat over naked flames and did their song and dance. Definitely not for vegans! The meat was tough and chewy but damn tasty!
Day #15: We had the Maasai Chief take us to see the Flamingos. The earth is black here, volcanic, like something from another planet. We walked out on the dried up river bed until the earth got so dry that each step would make an audible crunch, like we were walking on corn flakes. From a distance you could see a pink horizon, the Flamingos! Sadly for every step we took, they took 10 and we just couldn’t get near enough to them for a decent shot.
The sun was pretty damn harsh out there, we were all drenched with sweat by the time we made it back to our cars, from there our 2nd car ran into some more bad luck (2 flats and a broken windscreen so far), this time their driver ran into some Maasai cows, and the Maasai were claiming one of the cows was dead, but the corpse was nowhere to be seen. This made for a huge commotion between our drivers, the Chief we had in the car and the Maasai, but they eventually resolved it by swapping details and we were on our way.
Our lunch stop was at a small village which had the foulest toilets I’ve ever seen to date, and this was our last packed lunch box on the trip too. 60kms of dirt road to go before we hit tarmac roads, 1.5hrs of tarmac before we get to a hotel close to the airport.
Day #16: Another huge day of transit. 4am start, a quick drive to Kilimanjaro airport, then a plane to Zanzibar then on to Dar-es-salaam, then finally a flight back to Johannesburg.
It’s been a wild ride!