A Travellerspoint blog

October 2010

New photos online


Howdy all, I've uploaded a bunch of photos from Lebanon, Jordan and Malawi. It took me aaaages and I think my head is going to explode!!! Enjoy them

Posted by rachndave 06:27 Comments (1)

Lake of Stars


We arrived at the festival on the back of a truck with a mixed bag of locals and backpackers after the minibus unexpectedly stopped short of the final destination - quite normal transport for us now after that initial dry spell - but still the most fun. The lakeside campsite belonged to the luxury lodge next door so it was quiet, grassy, shady, spacious and even had hot showers (but no burger van unfortunately). We put up our tent under a red flowery tree and awoke the next morning to a glittering blue lake and white sand not 20 metres from our front door. This feels like a holiday :)

The festival site was very small by past festival standards: two small stages on the beach, a couple of quiet bars and half a dozen food stalls with its own little bandstand stage. So by the end of the weekend you would recognise lots of people and bump into the friends we made on the bus ride over. So we spent the whole weekend buzzing between the stages and the bar. There wasnt any other entertainment off stage and the crowd wasnt particularly interactive like we’re used to so really there isnt much to report other than seeing a few new names like Aly Kaita (a merenge (xylophone) player) and a spine tinglingly good lady singer called Kheiti. The drummers of Burundi were impressive and energetic but otherwise everyone on stage was pretty groovy although very chilled surprisingly. Eddie Temple Morris did lots of dancehall remixes and was followed by Mr Jamm for the sunrise set. I’d never heard of Mr Jamm but someone says he’s a Radio 1 dj…this explains a lot. He did quite a good 80s dance classics set but for some reason he decided to mark sunrise by playing Phil Collin’s Coming in the Air............ We still don’t understand and people were still commenting on it days later. We caught Mr Jamm another time as well unfortunately and he was much the same. Apologies Malawi.

The only real break in the chilled vibe came on the Saturday morning, Dave woke up to the tent flaps brushing against his chest and when he sat up to close the tent he realised that the tent flap was actually a snake! Eek! A snake! We have to applaud his instinctive reaction to pick it up behind the head and throw it into the group of American peace corp camped next to us. The snake slithered off disgruntled and Dave promptly went back to sleep :)

While grabbing a breakfast veggie curry we sat on the same table as a travelling Aussie girl and Irish guy called Lani and Bryan and we ended up pairing up with them for the weekend along with their friends a spanish/dutch couple called Anna and Jeroen they met on the road. Both couples have invested in a land roving car with a spacious canvas tent that sits on the top while the car includes a fridge and stove, tables and chairs, water reserves and all the home comforts we cant fit in our rucksack. They’re amazing cars. Lani and Bryan are also carrying some footballs which they’re donating to kids that they come across – it’s not an official charity but they were struck by how much money fifa made during the world cup when South Africa made a loss and yet children here are playing football with bundled carrier bags or flat old balls. So if you want to donate some small change to the cause there’s a facebook group and paypal details at “Balls 2 FIFA! Balls 4 Africa”. http://www.facebook.com/home.php?#!/group.php?gid=131207233587674

Anna and Jeroen are going to give their landrover to a friend of theirs in South Africa to hire out to other adventurers after their adventure is done so if I ever come back i’ll definitely be borrowing it. You have total freedom to explore the entire reach of the country and when you’re riding in it everyone seems to smile or wave at you.

We even had the chance to ride in it after the festival when the six of us decided to go to nearby Cape Maclear, further up the lake coast, where there was talk of festival after parties and snorkling. Sounded perfect.

Posted by rachndave 05:44 Archived in Malawi Tagged festival companions Comments (0)

lilongwe li-long-a-we li-long-a-we li-long-a-we a-weeeeeeeee

The flight from Jordan to Amman wasnt actually that bad. Dave was sat next to a man on his way back from the netherlands who'd had to change four times which also put things into perspective.

But sweaty and sleepy we arrived in Lilongwe airport - full of Lake of Stars tourists, the odd missionary but mostly people coming home. And coming home it almost feels like. From the minute I stepped off the plane i've felt a real calm that i can't really describe. I dont know if it's because everyone speaks slower and drives slower or because it's so beautiful here or what but it just feels....nice.

And it's so green! our first sight was a group of bright purple flowered Jacaranda trees and the drive to the main city was lined with trees and exotic plants with people on bikes and riding on the back of trucks and children in oversized uniforms and ladies in brightly patterned dresses carrying baskets on their heads and all those images that I had in my mind but I was actually here to see it. I was so pleased to be here.

Lilongwe by African standards is a big town we're told, but to us it felt sleepy, coverable on foot and far too relaxed to be a capital city surely. Our hostel was also super laid back with its own bar (showing Top Gear on the telly!) and thank the heaven's above: toast, beans and cornflakes for breakfast! Three things i’ve been craving for the past two months. There were proper supermarkets here which was a real treat to wander down isles and see familiar brands and variety of goods after nothing of the sort in the middle east. This wasnt quite what i was expecting, but it turns out these supermarket goods are mostly imported from South Africa and often out of the reach of people earning say a teachers wage.

Since travelling through quite a lot of the country on a later roundabout bus journey to the festival I can see just why Lilongwe is considered large. Every half a kilometre we would pass a village consistingof a dozen or so square brick houses with conical grass roofs and then every 50km or so would be a larger town of 50 houses and a people selling market goods on the ground. The landscape is dry earth but bushy and dotted with many many green trees and the odd termite mound when it isnt cropland. Although the bus took 6 hours my eyes couldnt take in enough. I made a note of a few things i saw on the way: pairs of women carrying baskets, groups of men sitting in the shade, lone boys walking though fields, goats, herd of humped cows, boy listening to old radio on a wall under a tree, long handled water pumps (like one sided see-saws) at the edge of villages surrounded by many brightly coloured buckets and waiting people, people carrying bags back to the villages, shops with hand painted signs, pink and purple flowered trees, piles of deep red-brown bricks ready for building, grass fences, football goals, half a dozen boys with 5m long sticks trying to shake mangos off the trees, grass fires, evening games of football.

It’s just like you’d imagine really but alive and beautiful.

I was thinking a lot about how life is the same everywhere really but the details are slightly different. Think of clapham common on a Sunday you’ll still see people sitting around in the shade, women carrying babies and people carrying things home from the market

Apologies for the delay in writing by the way. It’s not easy to find internet here. In the internet cafe in Lilongwe my hotmail messages wouldnt send and the blog would even load. Elsewhere doesnt have fixed line, only wireless, so I need to find someone with a laptop I can borrow for an hour at a time to write the text and the three times I tried to use the internet this way there was a powercut which meant the wireless router goes out too...frustrating, but I think this will be the norm from now on m’afraid.

Posted by rachndave 05:36 Archived in Malawi Comments (0)

Still alive

Don't worry, we're still very much alive. It's difficult finding/getting/maintaining an internet connection here - i've had to borrow this one from the church ;) But since we last spoke we've arrived in Africa (so sooo beautiful here), done some mega bus journeys, been to a festival, chilled out on an idyllic white sandy beach on the blue lake, been on a river safari, climbed a mountain, been poorly, recovered and today is Dave's birthday and we've been swimming in a waterfall. hopefully we'll be on the beers later after we've jumped on another bus.

Will fill in more of the blanks as soon as I can. Big sloppy/sweaty kisses, Rach and Dave the Elder

Posted by rachndave 05:34 Archived in Malawi Tagged ping Comments (1)

Wet wet wet wet wet FISH wet


Oh splashy wet cool water how we've missed you! We arrived in Aqaba in the far-too-early morning after a 6.30 bus from Wadi Rum and after a quick nap headed straight out into the sea, stopping only to pick up some flippers and a mask. The corals around Aqaba are relatively quiet and unspoiled although they're the book-end to the much more well known Eilat in Israel or similar sites in Egypt.

We spent the next three days in the sea or by the little pool in our bargainous sea-view hotel (which was brand new and willing to give us a big discount for the business. A little bit of unexpected luxury after a week in camps or on hotel roofs).

We saw more colourful fish than you can shake a snorkel tube at and an octopus, and a huuuuuuge stingray, some unflappable puffer fish and played sheepdog with a shoal of thousands and thousands of small silvery fish - at one point being both surrounded by them all in a doughnut shape. We swam above some divers who were diving down to a wreck we were bobbing above and played with their bubbles which were lit up like millions of underwater diamonds by the sunlight which will always be a special memory for me.

I think the 3D freedom of the divers gave Dave the envy because he signed up for a introductory dive the next day and was taken down to swim round a sunken military tank of all things. I think he's got the bug now. I'd already done a padi course during an early adventure (hi Katie!) so I know how he feels, it's like a ticket to a different world.

Because it's still the Middle East, and Jordan is even more conservative than some countries, the beaches are full of families with half the living room brought along with them and women in the water fully clothed. A sight I will treasure will be four women in full burqas and veils, a few hairy men topless in shorts, all playing keepy uppy with a football up to their waists in the water. (burqas/veils arent the norm here by any means by the way which is why it was such a sight).

Also because it's the middle east everyone stays out on the streets, including the very young children, till past midnight. So after having one of the nicest meals we've had while we've been in this part of the world - a spiced rice and fish dish with a tahini sauce that i'll try and find the recipe for when i get back (one for you Auntie Alison) - we walked past the public beach and sat with our feet in the water listening to some young drummers behind, talking to some people curious to see the pictures we were taking and watching families with their shisha and barbeques having nighttime picnics. I was watching a girl who must have been about nine or ten, grinning, splashing and dancing freely to the drums in the water - shoulders a shimmying - to be told off (I think at least) by the older female family members. I couldnt really tell if she was upset after that because she was be told to reign it in or because they had to leave, as they did soon after, but she was so pleading and mournful, crouched low in the water, after that as if she wanted to melt into it or hold onto the seabed somehow. My heart went out to her. I hope she's a bit of a rebel as she grows up, she had such a spirit about her.

Had a lovely chat one night with a german guy we've seen in nearly every city we've visited but never had a chance to talk to. He said it's been the same for him and had spent time with the same four german PhD students we met in Wadi Rum everywhere as well and was pleased to hear about their engagment which hadnt happened when he saw them last. We talked technology pretty much all night because we all had the same sort of jobs and interests. It was a lovely change actually from talking about travelling. He's a TED fan, so for all you who know we had some good chat. Wish we'd crossed paths sooner. Hope his girlfriend has recovered from tummy toubles.

So at last we both have some sunburn :) We've been pretty covered up since we left because we've been out and about, and for decency's sake, or because the sun is just too strong to expose much to it. I have brown arms and face but that's it really. But now I also have red legs and so does Dave :)

Today we're back in Amman. After our last shisha, non-alcoholic beer and taste of arabic music (played by a man who reminded me of a portly Neil Diamond) last night we're turning our thoughts to phase 2: Africa. We fly to Lilongwe in Malawi this afternoon. Things might get a bit more patchy communication wise but the world is getting ever smaller so you never know. Will try and let you know we've arrived not-too-frazzled after our 16 hour, three plane journey at least.

Thinking of everyone at home all the time. Miss you. Speak to you from the next continent.

PS. It's not too late to buy Lake of Stars tickets you know...

Posted by rachndave 03:09 Archived in Jordan Tagged beaches lodging sae observations Comments (2)

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