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Africa 2013

A Diary of our Holiday in Africa: October – November 2013

19th October
Departure Mumbai – airport crowded, but this time no problem with passport, arrival Johannesburg – crowded, but no problem with visa as expected – a simple stamp given on the page where I already had one stamp (meaning all the hassle with postponing the trip was a useless harrassment by South African Airways)
Accommodation: Protea Hotel Wanderers
In the afternoon: sightseeing tour through Johannesburg

Apartheid Museum – segregated entry „for the Whites and Blacks“ to show the absurdity of apartheid, a very interesting overview of the history, details from Nelson Mandela life
Soweto – at first glance looking like poor, but decent housing, not real slums, some houses even very nice, but of course we cannot be sure how all area looks like
Mandela House (Orlando West Soweto)
Pieterson Memorial – 13 years old boy who was killed during the student demonstration against teaching only in Afrikaans in 1976 – famous picture of another student carrying him in the arms and his sister crying in the background was spread all over the world. These events are considered in South Africa as a start of fight against apartheid regime.

Johannesburg - Apartheid Museum, Soweto Cooling Towers, Hector Pieterson Monument

20th October
Departure from Johannesburg – long queues at the airport, but well organized. Finger prints of all fingers had to be made at all African airports  

Arrival Livingstone, Zambia.  After some waiting transfer to the hotel Zambezi Sun in Livingstone.  A quick evening walk to the Victoria Falls, but it was getting dark so that we had to get back before the security guard would close the side gate to the hotel. In the evening a zebra grazing below the balcony of our room.

Hotel Zambezi Sun

Short history of Zambia:
David Livingstone at the Zambezi:
Except for an occasional Portuguese explorer, the area lay untouched by Europeans for centuries. After the mid-19th century, it was penetrated by Western explorers, missionaries, and traders. David Livingstone, in 1855, was the first European to see the magnificent waterfalls on the Zambezi River. He named the falls after Queen Victoria, and the Zambian town near the falls is named after him.

Livingstone´monument in Zambia and Zimbabwe

Northern Rhodesia a British Protectorate: In 1888, Cecil Rhodes, spearheading British commercial and political interests in Central Africa, obtained a mineral rights concession from local chiefs. In the same year, Northern and Southern Rhodesia (now Zambia and Zimbabwe, respectively) were proclaimed a British sphere of influence. Southern Rhodesia was annexed formally and granted self-government in 1923, and the administration of Northern Rhodesia was transferred to the British colonial office in 1924 as a protectorate.

A Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland: In 1953, both Rhodesias were joined with Nyasaland (now Malawi) to form the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland. Northern Rhodesia was the center of much of the turmoil and crisis that characterized the federation in its last years. At the core of the controversy were insistent African demands for greater participation in government and European fears of losing political control.

Independence: On December 31, 1963, the federation was dissolved, and Northern Rhodesia became the Republic of Zambia on October 24, 1964. At independence, despite its considerable mineral wealth, Zambia faced major challenges. Domestically, there were few trained and educated Zambians capable of running the government, and the economy was largely dependent on foreign expertise.  Three of Zambia's neighbors – Southern Rhodesia and the Portuguese colonies of Mozambique and Angola – remained under white-dominated rule. Rhodesia's white-ruled government unilaterally declared independence in 1965. In addition, Zambia shared a border with South African-controlled South-West Africa (now Namibia).
Zambia's sympathies lay with forces opposing colonial or white-dominated rule, particularly in Southern Rhodesia. During the next decade, it actively supported movements such as the Union for the Total Liberation of Angola (UNITA), the Zimbabwe African People's Union (ZAPU), the African National Congress of South Africa (ANC), and the South-West Africa People's Organization (SWAPO).

Conflicts with Rhodesia resulted in the closing of Zambia's borders with that country and severe problems with international transport and power supply. However, the Kariba hydroelectric station on the Zambezi River provided sufficient capacity to satisfy the country's requirements for electricity. A railroad to the Tanzanian port of Dar es Salaam, built with Chinese assistance, reduced Zambian dependence on railroad lines south to South Africa and west through an increasingly troubled Angola.

By the late 1970s, Mozambique and Angola had attained independence from Portugal. Zimbabwe achieved independence in accordance with the 1979 Lancaster House agreement, but Zambia's problems were not solved. Civil war in the former Portuguese colonies generated refugees and caused continuing transportation problems. The Benguela Railroad, which extended west through Angola, was essentially closed to traffic from Zambia by the late 1970s. Zambia's strong support for the ANC, which had its external headquarters in Lusaka, created security problems as South Africa raided ANC targets in Zambia.

In the mid-1970s, the price of copper, Zambia's principal export, suffered a severe decline worldwide. Zambia turned to foreign and international lenders for relief, but as copper prices remained depressed, it became increasingly difficult to service its growing debt. By the mid-1990s, despite limited debt relief, Zambia's per capita foreign debt remained among the highest in the world.

21st October
Walk up to the „Danger Point“ to see the Victoria Falls from Zambian side. Impressive gorge (canyon), but only sporadic streams of water. In the afternoon trip over the border (by taxi) to Zimbabwe side (obtained Zimbabwe visa to the new passport, which proved finally useful, as there was no empty page in the old one J). From this side,  the magnitude of the falls could be seen although October and November are months with the least water (the best months for visiting are  after rains which finish in June). However, even now, from the Zimbabwe side the falls were gorgeous.

Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe

22nd October
In the morning five grazing zebras below the balcony of our  hotel (Zambezi Sun) – beautiful sight.
Fascinating boat ride to the Livingstone Island starting at Royal Livingstone Hotel, swimming to the rim of  the waterfalls. It made me scared - the stream looked very strong although it was in a dry season and the guide was standing at the rim taking care of the safety. But the view was really worth it. 

Victoria Falls from Livingstone Island, Bridge connecting Zambia and Zimbabwe 

In the afternoon an excursion to zebras and giraffes feeding in the surrounding park of Royal Livingstone,  walking back to Zambezi Sun Hotel.  Later  swimming pool.

Giraffes and zebras next to hotel Royal Livingstone

23rd October
12.00 a.m. departure from Zambezi Sun to the airport in Livingstone.
Flight with Kenya Airways from Livingstone – with a technical stop in Harare (Zimbabwe)  to Nairobi (Kenya). Waiting for the plane in Nairobi, the airport was quite old and crowded. Continuation by Precision Air (Tanzanian airlines, turbo plane) to Kilimanjaro.  No problem with visas, easy entry. Transfer to Protea Aishi Machame Lodge, pleasant lodge next to the mountain Kilimanjaro. The guide/driver  with Toyota Land Rover was allocated to us for all safari days.

Short history of Tanzania
Little information is available on the history of Tanganyika, as the mainland was named before the 1800s. Nevertheless a number of prehistoric sites have been found, including the remains of what may be the world’s oldest example of prehistoric life, dating over 1.8 million years old, leading to speculation within archaeological circles that East Africa may be the original birthplace of mankind.

From the 1800s there is evidence of the existence of the Masai tribe in Tanganyika that thrived in the interior of the country away from the coastal regions. Evidence suggests that tribes of Bantu origin such as the Masai gradually displaced earlier prehistoric ethnic groups.

Trading contacts between the East African coast and Arabia were established as early as the 1st Century AD and by the 8th Century they had developed a series of coastal towns and trading centres. In the 15th Century the Portuguese arrived and claimed control over the coastal regions of Tanganyika without ever settling or colonizing the area (and were consequently driven out by the indigenous settlers with the help of the Arabs). Little attempt was made to penetrate the interior until the middle of the 18th Century when Arab traders began to explore this area as part of their constant search for slaves. European exploration began in the mid 19th Century and in 1866 David Livingstone established his last mission at Ujiji on Lake Tanganyika as part of his crusade against the slave trade.

At the end of the 19th Century, German colonization began to take root in Tanganyika as the Germans formed treaties with local tribal chiefs. During the German occupation there was a boom period in the development of roads, railroads and cash crops. By 1890 the Germans had drawn up an agreement with the British dividing up the East African territory between them.
In 1905 the Maji Maji Rebellion began and was to last for a further two years ending with the death of an estimated 120,000 Africans. Brutal colonial rule provoked this rebellion and a scorched earth policy was used to crush it. Many Tanzanians regard this as the first moment of a nationalistic movement. The Germans lost control of this territory after World War I to the British under the League of Nations agreement (the British had previously seized Zanzibar from the control of Arab traders). After the end of World War II Julius Nyerere, a former schoolteacher founded the Tanganyika African National Union (TANU) in 1954 and the real movement towards independence and self-government began. In 1961 independence became a reality and Nyerere became Tanganyika’s first president. Shortly afterwards the British deferred their control of Zanzibar back to the local Arab leaders. Shortly thereafter the country revolted and joined Tanganyika and the resulting union along with Pemba resulted in what we now know as Tanzania.

24th October
With plenty of good luck, the clouds disappeared and we could see snowy peak of Kilimanjaro in all its beauty. With its 5 895 metres, it is the highest mountain in Tanzania, the highest mountain in Africa,  and the highest free-standing mountain in the world. Since ever I liked the Hemingway´s story The Snows of Kilimanjaro very much - to see this mountain was a part of my dreams.

Snows of Kilimanjaro

Continuation to Lake Manyara (Arusha region), accomodation in Manyara Wildlife Safari Camp. Lunch. From 4 p.m. safari in the area of Manyara lake, mostly monkeys (in big numbers), zebras and gnus.

Monkeys, zebras, Manyara Lake Safari Lodge

25th October
Continuation via Ngorongoro to Serengeti.
There are 3 distinctive landscape areas in north-east Tanzania.
The first is Arusha, dedicated to agriculture. The farmers are cultivating corn and as a second crops beans, but also a lot of fruits (banana and papaya trees are everywhere) and vegetables.

Arusha Market, Mount Meru

The second is Ngorongoro which is protected natural area where  Masai tribes have  their villages and breed their stock, the wild animals are in this region as well and are protected.
Serengeti is the  national park where human activities are forbidden, it is  only for animals (with the exception of tourist lodges).
The moment we reached the border between Arusha and  Ngorongoro (it opens with the gate where the entry fees have to be paid),  the tarmac roads were finished.  For the remaining time, safari  trips of around 200 km daily (5 hours) on the field roads with many potholes had to be suffered. Miraculously, our backbones did survive this.
The next "border" line was between Ngorongoro and Serengeti (another gate and another entry fee).  Thousands of animals appeared immediately,  especially zebras, antilopes, impalas, gnus etc. Having entered  the Tutankhamun tomb in Egypt and  asked what he could see, Howard Carter answered, absolutely amazed: gold, gold only gold. When we first entered Serengetti we could only repeat with the same amazement  – zebras, zebras only zebras :-)  (thousands of them).
Accommodation Serengeti Serena Lodge, in a house in a native style.

Serengeti National Park

26th October
Next morning safari – to see all the  „cats“ – lions, leopards, cheethas, plus hippos, elephants etc.
We saw a lioness dragging a killed zebra to the hill to feed her cubs (male lion nowhere in sight). Two adult lions lying and sleeping next to the killed zebra. Leopard sleeping in agacia tree all four legs hanging. Cheetah standing in the middle of the tropical grass – when lying down, she became invisible. Ostriches usually  in pairs wandering through the savannah. At least 40 hippos turning lazily around in the waterhole. Hyenas waiting for the rest of the meat left by feline beasts. And inbetween, zebras, zebras, many zebras, antilopes in thousands as well, some giraffes, impalas, gnus, buffalos, water birds.


27th October
Departure to safari in the crater of Ngorongoro. In the  middle of the huge crater there is a salt lake where the animals come to leak the salt, very near are also waterholes. Rainy season in Tanzania is March, April, May (monsoon seems to continue then in June, July, August via Indian ocean to India). In the rainy season no safaris are organized not only because many roads are impeneatrable, but also it would be difficult to find the animals – they have water for drinking everywhere and have no need to concentrate at lakes or waterholes.  Only in the time of dry season, they all have  to come to the surroundings of the same waterholes and can be easily spotted.

Ngorongoro crater, Masai hut

Once the border of Serengeti to Ngorongoro is crossed, the area of Masai is starting. Our guide took us to a typical Masai village which is not overrun by tourists.  The Masais are sometimes  waiting next to the  roads, in their typical clothes, mostly in red colour, with sticks (all Masais always walk with a stick), sometimes with painted faces like warriors. When somebody stops and wants to take a picture of them, he has to pay. But at the same time they are also inviting for an excursion to their villages. We paid the entry which is shared by all village of 60 USD. Masai men and women came and were dancing a welcome dance first. Then they took us to the middle of the village and showed how they can make fire like in the prehistorical times by friction of  a piece of a very hard wood in the hole of the wood which is soft. They really made sparks and tinder to which they added  dry grass and made a fire. They also sang and showed warrior dance – the main point is that the men are jumping high in to the air, sometimes it develops into competition who can jumb higher.  Masai guide who took us through the village spoke good English and introduced us to his wife. His age was 28, her age 32. He had to pay for her 18 cows. In difference to India, where the parents of the girl must give a dowry to the family of the groom (therefore girls are not so much wanted),  a woman has a big value in Masai culture and men have to pay for their wives. Our guide estimated my value at 35 cows, George must have been pleased – but in the end, what would he do with the cows? The Masais are allowed to have more wives, the father of our guide had 18 wives (he had to be rich, as he had to pay for them). Every new wife has to build for herself a new hut (from cowdung and weeds). We were invited  into one of them – the entry was  very low, the hut  was small with  fire burning inside. Then we were taken to the Masai kindergarden, the kids in preschool age were singing for us and got a donation into their money box. There was a blackboard there with pictures of animals painted by chalk and the names of the animals in English and local language. Then they wanted to take us also to a butcher, but George told me that they would show us a ritual which included  cutting the throat of a cow and then they would want to offer us a drink mixed from her blood, milk and some other ingrediences. I did not have the guts to see killing of an animal, I was always hiding even when my father was killing a rabbit or a carp, so we said no with thanks.
For those more interested in life of Masai, I can recommend a book based on the personal experience The White Masai by Corinne Hofmann (she married a Masai and describes her life in the complete different culture). 

Masai couple, a portrait of a girl, Masai kindergarten

After numerous kilometers on  bad roads, we reached our accommodation for the night in Tloma Lodge, Arusha. The lodge was full of blossoming flowers and plants, the most beautiful gardens we have seen, also many bananas and coffee plants – they were self sufficient in fruits, vegetables and coffee and proud of environmental aspects of their lodge.  We were accommodated in a spacious house which was quite far from the reception and there was no lighting on the way, so we were crawling for dinner in darkness.  For the way back they gave us a torch, all other guests seemed to be used to such lodges and had their own torches.

Arusha - red soil, Tloma Lodge, coffee beans

28th October
Continuation from Tloma Lodge to Arusha, lunch in the middle of the town in hotel Mount Meru with a view at Meru (a vulcano, the second highest Tanzanian mountain after Kilimanjaro). Visiting downtown Arusha, which seemed to be quite a prosperous town. It is a major international diplomatic hub. The city hosts and is regarded as the de facto capital of the East African Community. Since 1994, it has also hosted the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda. It is a multicultural city with a majority Tanzanian population of mixed backgrounds, large Arab-Tanzanian and Indian-Tanzanian population, and small White European and white American minority population. Religions and denominations of the Arushan population are Catholic, Anglican, Jewish, Muslim and Hindu. 
We have seen no slums of Indian type neither in Zambia nor in Tanzania or later in Zanzibar.

In the late afternoon we were transferred  to the Kilimanjaro Airport. We had a direct flight to Zanzibar which took only about an hour. On arrival we were expected by travel agent and brought to the hotel Bluebay (it is connected with another hotel Sultan Sands and lying directly at the white sands of the beach of the Indian Ocean.

Zanzibar - hotel Blue Bay

29th-30th October – enjoying beautiful swimming pool and sea. Every evening different cuisine theme. First evening just dinner on the lawn with European music. Second evening – Italian Night. Third evening – Arab cuisine. Forth evening – celebration of Halloween. Fifth evening – fruit de mer. Every night different group for music and entertainment. The beaches of Zanzibar were amazing, white sand originated from shells, calm blue sea..

31st October – excursion to Stone Town (the name of the centre of the capital Zanzibar used also for the capital itself).
We walked through the narrow streets, admiring shops with nicely smelling spices (cloves),  attractive masks and beautifully carved doors of many shops. On the waterfront there were waiting many indigenous boats, which offered transport to the nearby Prison Island. As it was very hot, we finally decided did not go.  The biggest attraction of  Prison Island is not a prison (cancelled already long time ago),  but a colony of giant tortoises.

Short History of Stone Town
The first stone houses in Stone Town were probably built in the 1830s, gradually replacing an earlier fishing village. At the time, the Zanzibar Archipelago was controlled by the Sultanate of Oman.
In 1840, Sultan Said bin Sultan moved his seat from Muscat in Oman, to Stone Town, which thus entered an era of quick development as the new capital of the Sultanate of Oman and Zanzibar. In 1861, as a consequence of a war of succession within the Omani royal family, Zanzibar and Oman were separated, with Zanzibar becoming an independent sultanate under Sultan Majid bin Said.
In the 19th century Stone Town also flourished as a trading centre. It was especially renowned for the commerce of spices, mostly cloves, and slaves. Around middle of the century, the sultanate had a close relationship with the British;David Livingstone is known to have stayed in Stone Town in 1866 while he was preparing his final expedition into the interior of East Africa in search of source of Nile. Also Henry Stanley started his search for Dr. Livingstone from Stone Town.  In the same period, several immigrant communities from Oman, Persia and India formed as a consequence of the town's intense commercial activity.

In the last decades of the century, the Sultans of Zanzibar gradually lost their possessions in mainland East Africa to the German Empire and the United Kingdom. In 1890, with the Helgoland-Zanzibar Treaty, Zanzibar itself became a British protectorate. In 1896, a sudden rebellion of the Zanzibari Omanis against the British rule led to the Anglo-Zanzibar War,, which is remembered as the shortest war in history: the Sultan surrendered after 45 minutes of naval bombardment  of Stone Town by the Royal Navy.

During the period of British protection, Stone Town remained a relatively important trading centre, although the British gave privileges to Mombasa and Dar es Salaam as their trading stations in East Africa. The slave trade was abolished in 1897.

In 1964, Stone Town was the theater of the Zanzibar Revolution that caused the removal of the sultan and brought the birth of a socialist  government led by the Afro-Shirazi Party(ASP). Many refugees, especially Arabs and Indians, escaped the island as a consequence of the revolution, some lost their lives in the riots. When Tanganyika and Zanzibar combined to form Tanzania, Stone Town kept its role as a capital and government seat for Zanzibar, which was declared to be a semi-autonomous part of the new nation.

Zanzibar - Stone Town

1st November – „Wonder of Zanzibar“ massage – first scrubbing with the mixture of Zanzibar spices, then soothing and cooling yogurt pack, then very good Zanzibar massage in the spa of Bluebay Hotel.

2nd November – transfer to Zanzibar airport. On the way we could compare the surrounding vegetation with the one in Goa – very similar. No slums, but the huts of Africans poorer than houses in Goa. Departure to Muscat (Oman Air), with an unforseen stop in Dar-Es-Salaam. Changing planes in Muscat with destination Mumbai. Arrival 5 a.m., morning rest in Mumbai flat, continuation for Goa (2 remaining days of Diwali holidays).

The holiday was one of the most interesting ones  we ever had. At times it was a sort of “back to Africa” feeling  for me  (I returned from another sub-Saharan African state, Angola, in 1982).  But I have never been in this part of the African continent and we both enjoyed acquiring a lot of new experiences and knowledge of the culture, living style and nature (flora and fauna).