Once upon a time, my like-minded exotic-travel-buff friends and I spun a globe, closed our eyes, and placed our fingers on said globe. The continent with the most ‘pokes’? Africa!…
And the rest, as they say, was history: it was with this highly-scientific method that we chose the destination for our next spot of adventurous tourism. Then, one early morning just after New Year, we were up early, grabbed our packed bags with photo-video kit with fully-charged batteries and empty memory, and headed for the airport. Hours later, we were up in the air; direction: south…
…I wish! I wish it were so simple! But no – it isn’t. It’s a lot more difficult…
First, you need to understand where you’re headed, why, for how long, and on what budget. Next – you need to work out the best season to go in terms of weather, how busy it will be, etc. Then – who exactly is going (general availability of the usual suspects fellow adventurer-friends, what’s the ~optimal number of travelers for the chosen destination, etc.). And that’s just for starters…
And all the planning and organizing begins at least a year or 18 months beforehand. There’s much discussion, arguing, swearing (!), head-scratching, and so on. And you really need to be involved personally to make sure all the fine details suit you just right. Not that you arrange all the logistics yourselves as a group; no – for that you bring in recommended/tried-and-tested specialists – a reliable tour agency you’ve known a long time, or some friends who know plenty about the chosen destination. Finally, you add to all that simple internet searches to ‘ask the audience’ – as you do when checking the number of good ratings when considering buying anything at all these days (I hope you do anyway!). And all of this put together – it takes a long time.
And the more attention to the minutiae of the trip the better: what will we visit and when? How will we be traveling – and which route should be taken? What kind of digs are we going for (hotels, tents, yurts, igloos!…)? What unexpectednesses might we… expect? Yes, it gets a bit mind-numbing at times. But that doesn’t make it any less necessary…
Next, the technical work: booking the flights, car rentals, accommodation and excursions, and purchasing entrance tickets to the various places of interest (if available online). This bit can be delegated; phew!
Which brings me back to us all on a plane early this month (January 2020) Africa-bound…
The more southerly we get – the more Africa-like become the views out the window (logically!)…
Clearly the Nile, at mid-tide:
And all seemed well: steady, calm, picturesque, safe…
When all of a sudden…
…Mega-turbulence and weightlessness!
Oh my gravity-free!
Actually, I’d long been expecting such a thing. Given my active air travel, it had to occur sooner or later – especially given that many of my air miles are above tropical regions. Anyway – it happened somewhere above the Congo: the plane hit a descending flow of air and everything that wasn’t belted in or fastened down went for a rather violent weightless-fly-about!
Such a thing happens very occasionally. There’s nothing too dangerous about it: the construction of modern airplanes can cope perfectly well, autopilot normally manages on its own, or sometimes the pilot takes over to get things back to normal. Of course, passengers are hardly big fans of such experiences – especially those who didn’t have their seatbelt on!
It can get pretty ugly when the weightlessness lasts for several seconds. Mercifully with us it lasted a mere second or so, then the plane banked to one side sharply, then it shook hard for a while, then it was back to normal. Everyone was belted up thankfully so there were no injuries. However, the drinks that had just been served ended up either all over the ceiling – or the passengers; like this one:
Is it a stain? Or is it modern kunst?!
And here’s the source of the trouble: angry dark clouds ->
We land. We consider the 3000 kilometers ahead of us (with me behind the wheel), the walk we’d be taking around one of the most monumental of waterfalls (from both sides – the Zambian and the Zimbabwean), and the 700km we’d be driving around Madagascar in search of its unique unusualnesses. I’ll be getting to all of that in due time, but for now, herewith, an aperitif to whet the appetite.
I’ll start off with a pic showing something that made things a lot easier for me while behind the wheel:
Yes – right-hand drive. So much easier for taking pics: left hand on the wheel, right hand – snapping away!
And another thing that made my life easier – the good quality roads and signage (check out that place name!):
The sky here, the white fluffy clouds in it too – oh my gorgeous:
We arrive. A most reassuring entrance!
Skeleton Coast landscapes:
Our travels weren’t without incident!
It’s called Skeleton Coast for a reason, you know ).
The deserts – oh my grandiose!
Big Daddy – one of the highest dunes in the world. …And of course, we just had to climb to the top!
And the panoramic views were to die for.
Wild horse. ‘Unless you give me food, you cannot pass’!
Sand, sand, everywhere…
How on earth did this happen?
We saw the country from up above too:
Next stop: Victoria Falls (Zambia/Zimbabwe):
Here – a permanent rainbow! Accordingly – they’re called Rainbow Falls:
Actually not quite permanent – only when the sun’s out. We were lucky:
Also… – a moonbow was promised! We got as far as the full moon, but alas, the clouds got in the way of the bow (.
Next stop: the wildlife beauty of Madagascar. It was also off the scale:
‘Let me see the pic you just took!’
Even a spot of ‘beach holiday’ featured ).
Rock formations – reminiscent of those in Shillin in China.
Not all the roads were up to scratch – or the cars:
Exotic animals – practically on every tree!
Reeeaaally wide tree trunks:
Rock formations along the coast:
In short – the holiday went swimmingly ).
And that’s all for today folks – your taste of what’s to come… shortly.