11 June 2009

Diani days and traveling ways

Even though the beach at Diani is really nice we ended up spending most of our time avoiding it thanks to the constant attention from the Diani Beach boys. I even had one guy try to tempt me to swap my socks for a wood carving. Wonder what they would have traded me for my skiddies? The only way to avoid the hassle was to stay in the apartment compound or to retreat to the other oasis of calm we found, 40 Thieves, a great beach bar and restaurant a few minutes down the road.

As well as avoiding the hawkers we've spent most of our time in Diani trying to arrange our onward travel plans. Because of the great time and the fantastic deal we had on our last safari we've again teamed up with Doc at Kenyan Adventures to plan our next one. This time we're crossing the boarder into Northern Tanzania to visit the Ngorongoro Crater and Serengeti National Parks. Once again Doc has worked his magic and got us a deal that is by far the best we've been able to find.

We've also been trying to make plans for our onwards travel across the continent towards Cape Town. After two weeks in Africa we're finally getting more of a feel of things here. However; there are a few issues that make independent travel a hell of a lot more challenging than in Asia.

The first problem is transport. Unless you have your own vehicle or can afford to hire a car or driver then getting around can be problematic. That leaves us with public transport, where there's a real lack of infrastructure. Most of the train lines are no longer operational, those that are frequently experience breakdowns and delays that have been known to last for days.

Going by road is the only real option for the majority of the continent. The main inter-city routes aren't too bad as they are usually served by express buses which, if you're lucky, may be fairly sensible.

However, once you get off the inter-city routes the main option is the matatu or dalla-dalla, an overcrowded mini bus which is usually driven at break neck speed with scant regard for passenger safety or the rules of the road. Most of them are maxed up and emblazoned with a bad boy name like "Ultimate Power", "Death or Glory" or "Manchester Roony".

There were a couple of classic African journeys that we were looking forwards to doing; the 3 day trip down Lake Malawi on the Ilala and the Tazara train line across Tanzania. However; trying to arrange the connections using public transport has been a complete logistical nightmare.

The second big problem that we have encountered is that the accommodation at the budget end of the market is pretty dreadfull and usually has the ambience of somewhere midway between a doss house, knocking shop or prison. Anything that is to the (fairly modest) standards that we've had in Asia is usually vastly overpriced and way out of our budget.

The third problem is security. Everywhere we've been and most of the places we're going to are listed as unsafe once the sun sets (and a fair few of them aren't much cop during the day either). Although having the continual fear of being mugged keeps you on your toes it does have the effect of curtailing your enjoyment a little. We don't really know how real the threat is but we're certainly not going to risk finding out. Especially when the guide books and most of the locals warn you of the potential danger.

One of the other big problems with using public transport is that the bus stations, where you start and end your journey, are often highlighted as the worst places in town for robbery, muging and scams. Not really the ideal place to be wandering around with all your bags, money and passport looking a little lost.

In light of all these problems we've decided that it is easier, less hassle, cheaper and safer to join an overland expediton. We'll be teaming up with a truck run by African Trails which left London a couple of moths ago and is heading overland all the way to Cape Town.

So once we finish our safari to Ngorongoro and the Serengeti we'll carry on by ourselves for a couple of weeks as we continue down through Tanzania to Dar es Salaam and Zanzibar. Then we'll meet up with the overland truck and push onto Victoria Falls or, if things go well, as far as Swakopmund on the Atlantic coast of Namibia. We then plan to try again on our own, heading South, until we meet up with our next visitors, June and Brett, in Cape Town at the end of August.

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