RSS

Category Archives: Travel

Image

Tsitsikamma to Tataouine Expedition

The world’s second biggest continent, 54 countries, a continent of mystery and intrigue, of immense beauty and promise.  Its also the place I call home.  Africa has always inspired me, always tempting me with the promise of adventure.  But for so many people across the world Africa is nothing more than poverty, war, disease and corruption, and I am passionate about encouraging people to see Africa differently, because this is not the Africa I know.  The best way we (my hubby and my best mate) can think of to right this wrong is to answer the call to adventure, exploring our great continent and smashing stereotypes along the way.

How we will do this? We’re going to drive from Tsitsikamma in South Africa to Tataouine in Tunisia, touching all 4 sides of the African continent and 3 of the cardinal points and passing from the most southern tip at Cape Agulhas to the most northern tip at Ras Ben Sakka . This expedition will take us 153 days and through 23 countries throughout Africa. By the end of our adventure we would have driven almost 30 000km.

Along the way we want to change more than perceptions though. We also want to ensure that we leave a long-term and sustainable difference in each country that we visit. We will do this by planting two school food gardens in each country we travel through – that’s 44 gardens in total. We will also be living on US$1.25 for a day in 6 capital cities along route to explore and better understand the most commonly used definition of poverty, its usefulness in a continent with such a strong informal economic sector and possible alternatives.

You can follow our journey on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/T2TExpedition2013 or Twitter (@T2T_Trace, @T2T_Matt & @T2T_Ishtar). Our website will be up and running soon so watch this space:)

T2T infographic 2

 

 

Advertisements
 

Zanzibar: Beyond the Beaches

In May this year my hubby and I were fortunate enough to escape to the island paradise of Zanzibar for a week of sun, white-sanded beaches, turquoise water, lots of fresh seafood and cocktails served in pineapples with mini umbrellas. We got all this and so much more! Even though we were there for only 7 days we came back well rested, but also rejuvenated because of several experiences that re-affirmed our belief in Africa and the successful future that awaits our continent under good leadership and an active, informed civil society.

                        Braai – island style!                                              The beaches of Pwani Mchangani

The first experience was the churches and mosques of Zanzibar. We noticed that they were often next door to each other, and this physical closeness was also reflected in a closeness of minds, as Christians and Muslims lived side by side with an acceptance and genuine tolerance I have not witnessed anywhere else in the world – developed or developing! I recognise that a true understanding of tolerance and acceptance can only be established once you have lived in a place for some time, but at face value there was nevertheless a marked difference in the way people interacted with each other in Zanzibar compared to anywhere else I have been. The thing about religion in Zanzibar that was really striking, however, was not this tolerance but the appearance of the churches and mosques…they were of the same type, size and condition as the houses around them. They were only recognisable as places of religion because of a cross, crescent moon or loudspeaker inconspicuously placed somewhere on the outside of the building. The buildings and their imams and priests lived as the people did, and despite not being in any way religious myself, I have enormous respect for any religious institution that treats themselves as equal to their members. Now don’t get me wrong, there are a few old, big (and beautiful) churches and mosques in Zanzibar, and these have their place, but the working houses of religion are as I have just described.  There are very few ornate buildings laden with treasures while members go hungry and/or sleep outside in the rain. Zanzibar’s houses of religion, I was told by locals, often double as schools, clinics and whatever else is needed by the community – and all were welcome, regardless of which building this happened to be occurring in on that day and regardless of any religious differences. Many could learn from this sort of incredibly tolerant and advanced interpretation of religious belief.

This also translated into the way people treated each other and treated strangers – openly, honestly and with much love. Not once did a single person or place – trader, restaurant, tour guide, hotel, taxi driver, whatever – try to add the expected ‘tourist’ tax onto prices – locals in fact warned us of certain places that over-charged tourists. On trips to Barcelona, London, Kinshasa and Cape Town, among others, I’ve been charged the ‘tourist’ tax, so that was a pleasant surprise.  We saw no beggars while we were there, which suggests that the poor (of which no one can deny there many in Zanzibar, 44% of the population lives on less than US$1.25 per day) are to a large extent looked after by locals, and we saw this first hand. While on a tour through the historic, vibrant and incredibly interesting Stonetown we saw several people feeding the poor in their area, children still in their school clothes ran through the streets carrying food deliveries to the elderly, and there was a sense of community that both enviable and tangible.

                                                   The intricate antique doors of Stonetown

Only one person asked us for money while we were there. The person in question was a man with a very visibly deformed leg who required corrective surgery. He had a quotation from the local hospital indicating exactly how much the operation, hospital stay and follow-up treatment would cost, and finally a receipt book so that donors could not only receive proof of their donation but also could see how much of the total amount this man, named Samuel, had collected so far. Yes, it could have been a scam, but why bother when he could have just begged – he would have got the sympathy vote! Instead he was steadily and proactively trying to change his life, and I for one wanted to be involved, even in the smallest way, in donating to his worthy cause.

Zanzibar offered us beautiful beaches, Red Colobus monkeys in the Jozani forest (found nowhere else in the world), opportunities to feed and interact with giant sea turtles, historic beauty and interesting sites dating back over a thousand years, spice farm tours (which were MUCH more fun than I expected!) and a refreshing dose of reasons to believe, both in humanity and Africa. Sure, there are issues that need to be dealt with, there is much work to be done but what we saw suggested that things are improving, and with a people so involved and engaged that’s no wonder at all. Maybe it’s a little hippy, but then again I am a little hippy!

    Red Colobus Monkeys         My hubby, Matt, in the main Stonetown fresh market       Turtle Sanctuary

                                  A few snaps from the (communally shared and run) spice farm tour

Source:

Poverty Monitoring. 2011. ‘Tanzania, Country Report on the Millennium Development Goals 2010’ http://www.povertymonitoring.go.tz/WhatisNew/MDG%20Report%202010.pdf

 
4 Comments

Posted by on August 23, 2012 in Tanzania, Travel

 

The Other Side of Uganda: Part 1

In November 2009 my hubby and I were on our way back to South Africa after 14 months living in Kenya. To end an amazing adventure in style we decided to go gorilla trekking in the Impenetrable Forest (accessible only by foot) at Bwindi in Uganda. A friend from South Africa was visiting us in Kenya at the time and so decided to join us on our detour to Uganda. Upon arrival, after the 45 minute flight from Nairobi, we made our way across beautiful Kampala via a hotel that had messed up our booking to the Hotel Rooch where we ended up staying. Although we all agreed the hotel’s name was uncomfortably close to “roach”, it was very good value for money and staffed with very friendly, kind and helpful people. Early the next morning we met our tour guide, Farouk, and started the day-long drive across the entire country, through the Queen Elizabeth National Park and on to Bwindi. Immediately we were impressed by how efficiently the traffic ran and even though the row of cars in front of us seemed endless it caused very little delay (unlike Nairobi, London, Johannesburg or New York!) and we were soon on our way. Our first stop was at the equator where in addition to taking the mandatory touristy photos with the Equator sign we also did a little shopping at a local craft centre. After spending time in Kenya we were immediately struck by the lack of hecklers, no one was hassling us, no one telling us sob stories as motivation for buying their goods and certainly no fighting between vendors. All were (justifiably) proud artists who had set prices clearly marked on all their goods and you could buy or not – simply demand and supply of quality goods, no charity needed or accepted here.

An easy, relaxing, and very pleasant drive later we arrived in Bwindi just as the sun was setting and knew instantly we were in for an unforgettable adventure of a lifetime! We were surrounded by thick, green, lush forests and every now and then a clearing had been made and a home created. It wasn’t long however before the forest starting claiming its space back and the houses (please note houses NOT shacks) just disappeared into the trees. There was a village that was abuzz with the usual activities of that time of the day – adults heading home from work, often via a shop or two, the kids playing in the streets and a large amount of catching up between the villagers who all knew each other’s names.  And then there was a smell. A clean fresh smell of nature that you just do not get until you are far far away from any sort of industrial activity to areas where humans have not yet started to change the environment on a large scale industrial sort of way.  This was the only place on earth (so far) where I have smelt that smell. It was all these things and so much more that made Bwindi immediately impressive.

Bwindi is locally managed and governed but the area’s people work in partnership with the Uganda Wildlife Authority to ensure the area’s biggest resources (the forests and gorillas) are not only preserved but managed for the benefit of all. Managing protected areas with ‘community’ participation is one of the key strategies of the UWA management style as laid out in the Uganda Wildlife Policy (Republic of Uganda 1999).The gorilla permit at the time was US$500 (worth every cent) and this money is spent on much more than just the staff costs, admin, the gorillas or the forest itself.  How do I know this? Because we were shown! That’s part of the deal: you see the gorillas and then you see the village that enables the gorillas to still be there, as well as how they have adapted their society’s activities and methods to ensure preservation of the environment.  This does mean that the forests and gorillas need to subsidise village needs that would usually be funded by activities that are limited because of their existence.  But that’s ok because they do!  The money clearly goes straight to the thriving community, no corruption since the finances are all public, and just a few examples of what this has led to which we actually saw were:

  • The Bwindi Community Hospital which is not only run with gorilla permit funds but was built with them too. The hospital provides healthcare to over 40000 locals and visiting tourists if required. The hospital is small but state of the art.
  • The provision of infrastructure, health and education services to the formally re-located but then not re-settled Batwa people
  • Maintenance of all roads in the area – which although not great, would be impassable if it were not for the daily efforts of locals
  • The Bwindi Primary School, the building of which was funded and is maintained through gorilla permit revenue.

The management of this area surely has some issues, but which are in the world doesn’t! Anyway truly successful people see constant room for improvement regardless of success. However this system is as close to perfect as I have seen anywhere else in the world. The area as a whole is thriving and developing. It flies in the face of the African stereotypes of corrupt officials, dysfunctional societies with no or poor healthcare and education systems, non-participatory governance and a general inability to be successful. Please be clear these are not my perceptions but ones I encounter all the time – hence me writing this blog in the first place.

I haven’t even started telling you about our visit to the witch doctor, also an engineer, who is very clear on what he can help with and when not refers people to the local clinic. Or the banana breweries pioneering new products and markets. Or the criminals who, thanks to a local initiative, are made to work on farms that provide food back to the communities they committed crimes against.

And so while I really don’t want to get into a debate about the validity, accuracy or efficiency etc. of Kony 2012 I do want to highlight another side of Uganda. I don’t know exactly who is guilty of what in that whole saga but I do know that all of what I have written above is true because it was my experience. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t issues but it is certainly not (or at least not all by a LONG shot) the war-torn, dysfunctional country of starving gun-carrying children some now believe it is. The country and its innovative and entrepreneurial people are so much more. I do hope people will listen to my personal experience of efficient, fun, safe (yes it was safe, even to walk around Kampala at 04:00 in the morning!) and exciting Uganda but I don’t expect this to sway you on its own – in fact please don’t let it! All facts and opinions should be verifiable by other sources and so my next blog will be an infographic with some good news about Uganda in the form of hard numbers. If you haven’t yet thought twice about the current portrayal of Uganda, hopefully these two blogs will encourage you to…

 
3 Comments

Posted by on March 12, 2012 in Travel, Uganda