THE AFRICAN ACADEMY AWARDS - THE “BEST AND WORST” OF UNGOWA AFRICA 2016.
Welcome to the FINAL POST (number 36) of the blog “Ungowa Africa 2016”!!!
I, amongst my family and friends simply cannot fathom how I survived 287 days (or 41 weeks or 9.5 months) of constant travel in a vast continent that is on the one hand unforgiving and the other hand highly rewarding. I survived the animals, the heat, the cold and some close-shave events involving people and natural phenomena. This post is dedicated to SUMMARISING for you, in five parts, this grand adventure by answering some time-honoured questions like “what was the highlight of your trip” or “what was your favourite country”. I have also included my favourite photos and some valuable people contacts, some truck improvement ideas and a “country ready reckoner” which helped me to differentiate the 30 countries and 1 territory that I visited in total. I hope you have enjoyed reading this blog as much as I enjoyed writing it so that I could capture the Africa that I experienced and bring it to your door step… This is John “Ungowa” Golfin signing off.
PS: The movie spectacular “Ungowa Africa 2016 - The Movie” will be in post production for the rest pf 2016 and will come to a cinema near you (namely my place or yours!) in early 2017. This blog will be updated with a link to the movie at www.vimeo.com/golfco as soon as the film is made and launched.
PART 1 - THE SUMMARY STATISTICS.
I travelled 38% of total days (109 of 287) and 50% of total distance (27,465 of 54,513km) by myself on 18 “solo” trips away from the truck.
PART 2 - THE AWARDS.
1+) Best Overall Country: TANZANIA. It offers the broadest range of experiences: beaches of Zanzibar, climbing Kilimanjaro, the Big 5 plus more wildlife and African iconic scenery of Serengeti, Tarangire and Ngorongoro. Culture of the Masai. I saw 60 species of wildlife in TANZANIA versus 45 in NAMIBIA.
1+-) Runner Up Country: NAMIBIA. It is the Sossusflei dunes and El Dorado food and hunting experience that did it. Not to mention the wall-to-wall desert scenery, Etosha National Park, Swakopmund town and skydiving that added to the resolute African experience.
1-) Worst Overall Country: WESTERN SAHARA. Poor cities, nothing to see, bland food, too hot.
2+) Best Wildlife Country: TANZANIA. Tarangire, Sergenti and Ngorongoro all have The Big 5 and we saw them in one drive!
2-) Worst Wildlife Country: WESTERN SAHARA. No animals.
3+) Best Scenery Country: NAMIBIA. Namib Desert (Skeleton Coast), Fish River Canyon, Sossusvlei Red Dunes.
3-) Worst Scenery Country: DRC. Constant rainforest - no variations, no waterfalls.
4+) Single most impressive scenery: The Limestone Chimneys of Lac Abbe in DJIBOUTI (Days 240-241).
5+) Best People Country: SENEGAL. Friendly smiling, waving people everywhere.
5-) Worst People Country: CONGO. Police want money. Angry people.
6+) Best Food/Culture Country: ETHIOPIA. 85 ethnic groups, Ethiopian Orthodoxy, many spicy dishes, humble people.
6-) Worst Food/Culture Country: WESTERN SAHARA. Poor markets, bland food, no restaurants or street food.
7+) Best Infrastructure Country: SOUTH AFRICA. Well-kept roads, plenty of uninterrupted power, cleanest towns/cities, wifi everywhere.
7-) Worst Infrastructure Country: GABON. Bad roads, lots of garbage, hard to find wifi, constant power outages.
8+) Most Up and Coming Country: ANGOLA. Helpful Police, tourist friendly, great coaches, Lubango.
9+) Biggest Surprise Country: RWANDA. Kigali very clean and modern in just 22yrs since genocide. Friendly people, organised.
10+) Best City: Cape Town SOUTH AFRICA (Days 156 to 160). Stunning backdrop, lots of things to do, great food, cheap, wines.
10-) Worst City: Nouakchott MAURITANIA (Days 31 to 33). Dry, hot, dusty, dirty, nothing to see.
11+) Best Town: Chefchaouen MOROCCO (Days 5 to 6). On side of mountain, colourful, cosy, food.
11-) Worst Town: Bossou GUINEA (Day 48). Just a dirt road with lots of stalls and haphazard shack houses. Nothing to see or do.
12+) Best Bush Camp Site: Kinkon Waterfall GUINEA (Days 42 to 43, Christmas Eve & Day). Waterfall to wash in.
12-) Worst Bush Camp Site: Outside Rabat MOROCCO (Days 10 to 13). By roadside, cold, rained, no view.
13+) Best Facility Camp Site: Camping Azilan, Chefchaouen MOROCCO (Days 5 to 6). Nestled under pines, terrific WIFI, plenty of power, hot showers, clear mountain views, fresh air.
13-) Worst Facility Camp Site: Camping La Baie Ou Levrier, Nouadhibou MAURITANIA (Day 28). No space, no power, no WIFI, limited facilities, shit location.
14+) Best Upgrade Room: Mole Hotel, Mole National Park, GHANA (Day 63). Aircon, TV, fridge, private bath/shower/toilet overlooking elephants with swimming pool, bar and restaurant.
14-) Worst Upgrade Room: Stumble Inn, Elmina GHANA (Day 72). No aircon, no fan, no air, no light, no private facilities, can hear neighbours, single bed on door and milk crates.
15+) Best Solo Room: Paradise Lodge, Arba Minch ETHIOPIA (Day 244): superb views of Rift Valley, immaculate bures & restaurant traditional decor, excellent food.
15-) Worst Solo Room: Itegue Taitu Hotel, Addis Ababa ETHIOPIA (Day 243): flooded toilet/shower with no taps, no water in basin, musty room, old blankets, poor condition building.
16+) Favourite Hostel: Arusha Backpackers, Arusha TANZANIA (Days 212, 215-217, 222). Cheapest single room (USD12) compared to dorm (USD10), very hot high flow showers, good internet, rooftop bar and restaurant with views, simple brekkie included, central location.
17+) Best Night: Bush Camp Kinkon Waterfall GUINEA, Christmas Day (Day 43). Washed in waterfall, ate BBQ chicken dinner, danced until 1am.
17-) Worst Night: Camping/Hotel “Chez Alice”, 17km east of Lome TOGO (Day 80), hot, humid and no moving air - hardly slept in tent, tried to sleep outside under restaurant fan but mozzies would not give up...
18+) Best Run: Deadflei and the ochre dunes of Sossusflei NAMIBIA (Day 165): enormous red mountainous dune with a eerie yellow dead lake in the middle full of dried-out dead tree stumps.
18-) Worst Run: Bush Camp outside Rabat MOROCCO (Day 11). Cold and damp, nothing to see.
19+) Best Truck Dish: Foil Grilled Fish & Rice (Bush Camp near El Mhaijrat MAURITANIA, Day 31). Bought fresh from fishermen same day and lots of it. Close second if not equal first: Grilled Kudu & Salads (Bush Camp at Mowami Mountain NAMIBIA, Day 139). So lean and tender that you could eat it raw. Wonderful texture.
20-) Worst Truck Dish: Fried Spam with Powdered Mash (Bush Camp 10km south of Tianguel-Bori SENEGAL, Day 41). 99% fat & salt.
21+) Best Off-Truck Dish: Traditional Afrikaans Vegetarian (Day 166, Hostel “El Dorado Game Farm”, Etosha NAMIBIA).
21-) Worst Off-Truck Dish: Three pieces of roasted chicken that had little meat and that I could hardly chew at AUD15. A complete sham and rip-off in Mbeya TANZANIA (Day 207).
22+) Best Restaurant Experience: “Ben Abeba", Lalibela ETHIOPIA (Day 258, Beef and Vegetable Bayenetu with Rift Valley Chardonnay in an architectural masterpiece perched on a mountain top surrounded by valleys, peaks and clouds.
22-) Worst Restaurant Experience: Falling in the drain and then having rubbery tough chicken at a street restaurant in Kumasi GHANA (Day 65).23-) Most bush camp nights in a row without washing: 6 through all of IVORY COAST and start of GHANA (Days 57 to 62).
23+) Most nights in one location: 8 nights at Camping/Hotel "Big Milly's Backyard", Kokrobite (30km west of Accra) (Days 67 to 70 and 73 to 76).
24+) Most number of days in a row without rain: 54 from Day 55 to Day 109.
25-) Longest drive: SOLO5: 799km from Swakopmund to Okukeujo Resort Etosha National Park NAMIBIA (Day 143). ON TRUCK: 442km from Tarfaya MOROCCO to Boujdour WESTERN SAHARA (Day 26).
26-) Longest single day kilometres travelled: SOLO9: 1,207km from “Croc Valley Camp”, South Luanga National Park ZAMBIA to “Antelope Game Park”, 12km east of Gweru ZIMBABWE (Day 190): 32km (30min) to Mfuwe Airport, 70min (470km) flight to Lusaka, 45min (413km) flight to Harare, a 4.5hr (280km) bus drive to Gweru and a 30min (12km) car transfer to the Antelope Park.
26-) Shortest Stay Country: MOZAMBIQUE = 1 night (Day 201).
26+) Longest Stay Country: NAMIBIA = 29 nights (Days 136 to 150 and Days 162 to 175).
27-) Longest Solo Bus Drive: 15.5hrs to drive 652km from Nairobi KENYA to Kampala UGANDA on "Easy Coach” (Day 225).
28+) Best (favourite) animal: Male African Lion.
28-) Worst (least liked) animal: Common Warthog.
29+) Best Experience (Highlight): Two hours with Professor (Sir) Victor Uwaifo (MON, JP) in his home and singing with him in his Chapel in Benin City NIGERIA (Day 93).
29-) Worst Experience (Lowlight): Almost drowning in Rapid Number 3 (“The Bad Place”) during rafting down the Nile River in UGANDA (Day 235).
29+-) Runner Up Experiences (in order of merit):
Sleeping outside the Ura Kidhane Mihret Monastery and attending the Liturgical Feast Day of St Betre Mariam in the adjacent monastery of the same name. (Days 254-255)
Hunting Impala at Eldorado Game Park near Etosha in NAMIBIA (Day 168)
Skydiving in Swakopmund NAMIBIA (Day 142)
Gorilla trekking in Volcanoes National Park RWANDA (Day 230)
Solo 5 to Etosha, our own car, close to animals, BBQ game meat every night (Days 143-146)
Day-visit to the village of Agome Sevah, 80km NE of Lome TOGO, (Day 84). Intimate experience of local village life and the benefits of the “Dekamile Project” founded by Mandy & Rod Unger from the UK
“The Elephant Circus Show” at Halali in Etosha National Park NAMIBIA (Day 137)
2hr Morning Elephant Trek in Mole National Park GHANA (Day 64)
Todra Gorge Trek and tea with the nomads (Day 20). Blue sky, perfect temp, unreal views, intimate contact.
PART 3 - BEST LOCAL PEOPLE CONTACTS.
1) Alpha OUMAR, Station Manager, Pita GUINEA who let us use his mobile hot spot: firstname.lastname@example.org +224622620809
2) Dr Aly Gaspard SOUMAH, Bossou GUINEA, Director of the Institute of Environmental Research specialising in Chimpanzees: email@example.com, +224622259829
3) Dethanou (Nounou) LOKOSSOU, Secretary General, Projet DEKAMILE, firstname.lastname@example.org, +22891925510, +22822278889
4) Chief (Mrs) Nike OKUNDAYE, Founder/CEO, Nike Art Gallery Ltd and Foundation, email@example.com, +2348034096656
5) Professor (Sir) Victor Efosa Uwaifo (MON, JP), Musician, Founder/CEO, The Revelation Palazzo Museum, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, www.victoruwaifo.com, +2348034061495, +23423376521, +2347055688880
6) Benjamin (Ben) JAYIN JOMI, Tourist Manager, Limbe CAMEROON, firstname.lastname@example.org, +237677246105
7) Sonia NUNES, Manager, Mirangolo Hotel, Lubango ANGOLA, email@example.com, +244936807947
8) Wessel VAN WYKE, Phillipe, Staff, Swakopmund Car Hire, 6 Deluis Street Windhoek NAMIBIA, firstname.lastname@example.org, +264811248606
9) Dr K G SMITH, Dentist, 27th Floor, ABSA Centre, 2 Riebeek Street Cape Town SOUTH AFRICA, email@example.com, +27214216804
10) Adri and Hanel PIENAAR, Address: Farm Eldorado, Outfo District, 10km south of Andersson Gate of Etosha National Park near Okaukuejo, GPS: S19d41m29s E15d93m49s, Cell: 081 302 2290, Tel: 067 33 3421, Email: Chanel@iway.na
11) Joy MOYO, Manager Sales & Overlands, Address: Backpackers Bazaar, Victoria Falls, ZIMBABWE, Phone: +263 13 45828, Mobile: +263 77 3 930 244 or +263 712 404 960, E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org, Skype: joymoyo, Website: www.backpackersbazaarvicfalls.com
12) Norman & Christine BOURNE, Owner Mangers, Black Rhino Safaris, 43a Napier Street Hillsdale Bulawayo ZIMBABWE, Phone: +263 9 243987, Mobile: +263 712 221 284, +263 773 288 946, Email: email@example.com, Website: www.blackrhinosafaris.com, Took me on day-long safari of the Matobo NP incl Cecil grave, Rock Painting & lunch for USD100.
13) Masiya’s brother Sudza Mobile +263 773 376 259 took me to Khami Ruins for 1hr and back for USD30.
14) Abdulla M KHALFAN, Managing Director of Twiga Tours & Safaris, Stone Town Zanzibar, Mobile: +255 713 321 374 or 762 439 594, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com
15) Peter CHARLES, Managing Director, Bestday Safaris Ltd, Address: Zaramo Street, Near Main Bus Stand, Namvua Plaza, 2nd Floor, Room No.320, P.O.Box 16883, Arusha, Mobile: +255 767 130448 or +255 713 130448 or +255 784 130448, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org, Website: www.bestdaysafaris.com
16) Dr Alfred MULEE, Physiotherapist, Address: Level 9, Ecobank Building, Muindi Mbingu Street, Nairobi, KENYA, Mobile: +254 712 109 886
17) Dr Adrian, Physiotherapist, Address: Kamwokya Street, next to Kanjokya House, Kampala UGANDA, Mobiles: +256 782 303 633, +256 701 078 119, Email: email@example.com
18) Paul M MUIRURI, Managing Director, CLARION Tours and Travel Agency, Belphar House, 1st Floor Door No 17, Kenyatta Avenue off Court Road, Phone: +254 051 221 7500, Mobile: +254 713 287 563, Email: clarion firstname.lastname@example.org, Website: clarion tours.co.ke Organised Lake Nakuru safari on 7JUL16 and took me to physio and back to camp
19) Daniel JEAN, BAMBU Service Touristik, Mobile: +253 77 879120, Email: email@example.com Organised Package in Djibouti
20) Natnael (Baba) HAILU, Owner Tana Hotel Harar ETHIOPIA, Mobile: + (0)921 160 033, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org, helped me book flight from Dira Dawa to Addis Ababa by phone when internet was blocked
21) Olisarali OLIBU, Son of Mursi Chief of Butinya Village, Lower Omo Valley ETHIOPIA, Email: email@example.com, Film website: www.shootingwithmursi.com, hosted our visit and gave interview on 15JUL16
22) Mehari NEGA, Aksum Guide, Mobile: +251 920 040 855, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
23) Midhat MAHIR, Founder/CEO Mashansharti Travel, Mobile: +249 9 1225 3484, Emial: email@example.com, Website: tour-sudan.com
PART 4 - TRUCK IMPROVEMENT IDEAS.
1) BUNK BEDS: replace all seats with double bunks, right up to the beach. May carry less but cost could be the same if both Andi and Grant (for example) could both share driving allowing extra time in evening or night driving resulting in less total time for the whole trip and eliminating cost of tents.
2) SOLAR CELLS: cover the hard roof with solar cells with protective perspex on top for passing branches to enable power during engine off times.
3) A REAL FRIDGE: install a fridge under the floor in the middle of the truck to cool drinks, meat and dairy (including emergency rations). Solar cells and engine could power fridge.
4) SATELLITE LOCATOR: carry a satellite phone for emergencies that emits constant locating signal and allows text messages only - one of our American passengers carried this - it only cost him $200USD with a $20/mth plan and is internationally available.
5) RAINWATER SHOWER: Install a rainwater tank around the edges of the truck to be heated by the solar cells that allows time constrained hot showers when in the bush or for emergency drinking water.
6) PLASTIC CONTAINERS: Supply one square-shaped plastic container per person to fit in the overhead space above every person’s seat. Place snacks and other small items in here for easy access and use container for showering and washing at places with water but no taps or basins. Also prevents personal items from moving.
7) DRINK BOTTLE HOLDERS: Supply one bracket per person underneath the front of every seat to hold each person’s drink bottle. Easy access and prevents loss or rolling around.
PART 5 - THE COUNTRY READY-RECKONER: Here is how I quickly differentiated the many countries that I visited in Africa (key standouts).
1A) MOROCCO (No 2): narrow old Medina’s, tarjines, eggplant, herbs & prices, “Marjan” supermarkets, Atlas mountains, Todre Gorge.
1B) WESTERN SAHARA: strict Muslim, no booze, hot during day, cold at night, dry, sandy, desert meets Atlantic, starchy food.
2) MAURITANIA: lots of sand dunes but aqua green Atlantic coast with beach solution, very poor, run down cities, okra, no booze.
3) SENEGAL: best baguettes, lots of water melon, Saint Louis fishing culture, smiliest, friendliest people.
4) GUINEA: very poor, simple foods, lots of plantains, lots of bush camping, bad dusty roads, stacked up cars with people on top.
5) MALI: rocky ridge formations, better services than expected, crazy Bamako capital.
6) IVORY COAST: cassava, humidity, St Peter’s Basilica Replica.
7) GHANA: English, booming towns, sliced bread, palm wine, Fan Ice, South African wine, “hermata” Sahara haze.
8) TOGO: fetish and voodoo, coloured floor tiles and ornate gates, huge container terminal Lome, Fan Milk, batik & wax prints.
9) BENIN: invented voodoo, slave capital (Ouidan), villages on lakes, breezy Atlantic coast, Fan Yogo, lots of palm spirit.
10) NIGERIA: oil, art, crafts, peppery food, biggest economy & population, crazy drivers, palm oil, kissing sounds, Fela Kuti, Victor Uwaifo.
11) CAMEROON (No 3): dual English & French speaking, millions of tiny flies, Mt Cameroon climb, Campo gorillas, Ben, Wilfred & Pierre!
12) GABON: roadside police checks, strict French, Libreville ministry buildings & promenade.
13) CONGO: two bad police encounters in Pointe Noire, Nescafe street wagons, calm quiet compact Brazzaville.
14) DRC: photography paranoia, noisy busy polluted Kinshasa, police wanting money, tasty tender beer skewers, huge meaty avocados.
15) ANGOLA: best promenade Luanda, friendly police, Serra da Leba winding road, way cheaper than expected.
16) NAMIBIA (No 1): Etosha wildlife, Namib Desert, Skeleton Coast, cheap game meat (kudu fillets raw), Swakopmund, skydive, Sossusflei, Deadflei, Spitzkoppe.
17) SOUTH AFRICA: wineries, Cape Town, Hermanus, Table Mountain, shark cage diving, most modern, Shoprite Supermarkets
18) BOTSWANA: donkeys, beef/steaks, the most elephants, Choppies Supermarkets, Government spends most on Education, Okavango Delta, Chobe River.
19) ZIMBABWE: Vic Falls, US dollars, Antelope Park, Chimanimani Ranges, Bulawayo & Matobo NP & Cecil Rhodes, no change.
20) ZAMBIA: Copper, Maize, Canoe Safaris, Lusaka Malls, hippo heaven, ZAMBEEF, expensive hire cars, Swahili - Ungowa.
21) MOZAMBIQUE: Tete Corridor, cashews, transit - one night only.
22) MALAWI: Lakeside camp sites, swim, calf injury, chook buses, no tourist offering Lilongwe.
23) TANZANIA: Arab/Swahili, Masai, Kili, "Jambo Jambo", “Hakuna Matata", Serengeti, Ngorongoro Caldera.
24) KENYA: Coffee, Matutu (share bus), Nairobi traffic, Masai Mara, Al-Shabab attacks, animated people, roast chicken.
25) UGANDA: Boda Boda (motorbike taxi), Buganda Kingdom, Amin/Obote atrocities, Banana and Honey beer!
26) RWANDA: Clean Kigali, Volcanoes and Gorillas, lush tropical valleys, The Genocide.
27) DJIBOUTI: Hot and looks like Arabic peninsula, Lac Abbe limestone chimneys, cinnamon tea.
28) ETHIOPIA: Chat (leaves), coffee, injera, gasps/back breath, Orthodox, no receipt/no pay, fasting menus, bayenetu.
29) SUDAN: Hot & humid, Nubian antiquity, snuff, Travel & Photo License, Alien Registration, whole BBQ chickens.
30) EGYPT: Dry hot heat, kafta, Kartoush (ancient Egyptian version of a “dog tag”), "welcome friend to Egypt”.
END OF BLOG: This is John “Ungowa” Golfin signing off Houston...