Not all those who wander are lost - but I'll be disappointed if I don't get lost frequently!

Sunday, 23 December 2012

Celebrating New Years Eve.... Twice

Good news people, good news!

Not only will I be bringing in 2013 with the massive Edinburgh street party extravaganza that is Hogmanay, but I will be also celebrating the Australian New Year in style at the institution known as the Three Sisters.

That's right, not one, but TWO new years eve celebrations. Who's excited? Me!

After all, time is relative, so why not?

Bring on the new year!

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Battling Sea Sickness... And Losing


"Look! Can you see the dolphins?" Julia says as she points off the back of the ferry.

"Oh, yeah, there they are. How nice...." I manage to reply before heaving my guts up into a sick bag.


Friday, 7 December 2012

Where in the World is Sammy?

The answer to that, for the time being, is somewhere in the United Kingdom.

At this exact moment in time, I am at Euston station in London, awaiting my train to Birmingham. Over the next few weeks I will be making my way north for Christmas and New Years in Edinburgh. 

That's right - I'm not content with the barely above freezing London weather - I'm heading north to where it is actually freezing already, and is set to only get colder as the new year approaches. 

Monday, 3 December 2012

Christmas Gifts for First-Time Backpackers - Part 2

Struggling to think of gift ideas for a friend who is about to set off on an overseas adventures?

Not sure what you can get a first-time backpacker for Christmas that will have them praising your genius once they hit the road?

Confused about what to get a person, who far from having it all, will only be taking the bare minimum with them, carried on their back?

Last week, a family friend had this exact problem: what to get her daughters for Christmas that would help them out on their travels in the new year.

After thinking about it for a while, I came up with a list of gifts that fit the criteria of being a practical present  with some thoughtfulness behind it, as well as covering stocking stuffers up to the more expensive 'main event' presents. Hopefully Part 1 of the list gave you a few ideas, and here is Part 2 to really get Christmas sorted:

Friday, 30 November 2012

Swimming With Turtles


Today, my fourth day on Zanzibar, I roped myself a couple of sea turtles, lashed 'em together and made a raft Captain Jack Sparrow style.

Well, not quite. I did stand on a turtle though. And give another one a hug.

Hanging out with a turtle, feeding her some seaweed. while she gives Jodie a slap across the face. Thanks Ed, I think you took this great pic!

Monday, 26 November 2012

Christmas Gifts for First-Time Backpackers - Part 1

Today I'm taking a quick break from recounting my African Adventures, in order to address a question which I thought warranted some attention. A family friend has two daughters who will be jetting off on their first overseas adventure in 2013, and yesterday she was asking me for some advice:

"Christmas is coming up, what can I get them as presents that will help them out in their travels?"

Good question.

Friday, 23 November 2012

Stung, Nauseated, Banged-up and Bruised

Breakfast overlooking the blue water, a dhow ride under the sun, snorkelling the Mneba attoll reef and chasing fish through the water, dinner on the sand and sipping cocktails while watching the sun go down. All of this sounds like a lovely island escape. But what makes this 'lovely' but rather sterile-sounding day into an unforgettable one?

Thursday, 15 November 2012

A Word of Warning

When the Consequences of Sex on the Beach are More Than Sand in Unmentionable Places

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

My Ongoing Battle With Boats

So far on my African travels I haven't had much luck with boats. From being thrown out of the raft on the Nile to a very bumpy and extremely wet trip to Ngamba Island that caused a lot of yawning (a warning sign that I'm on my way to getting sea sick), there has yet to be a time when I've been in a boat without there being some kind of mishap or difficulty.

Why then, did I choose to pay $15 for a ten minute ride on a banana boat? Good question.

It's barely even a boat, just a bright yellow inflated tube that silly people sit on top of and get pulled along by a speed boat. And with my above-mentioned record, you would think I might be a little hesitant to hop onto a contraption on which I can barely balance. But that, my dear friend, would be overestimating my good sense and underestimating my enthusiasm to try new things.

Thursday, 8 November 2012


Tom and I get along really well, so it didn't phase me a bit when a few tent buddy shuffles occurred and Tom and I needed to share a hotel room in Stone Town. How many naps together  had we already shared on the truck beach? Men hog the bathrooms less too, so I wouldn't have much competition for the mirror when getting ready. Score. We laughed and joked about 'sleeping together' as we made our way up the two flights of stairs to our room, inserted the key and opened the door...... To find a beautifully made up queen-size bed. Oh.


Sunday, 4 November 2012

Feeling the Heat

Thank the heavens, after a horror of a day yesterday, today I woke up feeling much better. We were off early, eating breakfast and lunch on the run as we made our way to the Tanzanian coast and Dar es Salaam. Despite the packed lunch, we still had a few pit stops for coffee and snacks. One of my favourite things about east Africa would have to be the samosas - they are everywhere, dirt cheap and amazingly tasty. I don't know exactly what is in them (and I think it is safer if I don't know), but they are little triangle parcels of deep fried goodness. At our last stop at a road station not far from Dar, I bought a couple to keep me going until dinner.

It was a classic truck day, with everyone keeping themselves entertained by reading, catching up on their diary entries, watching the countryside go past, playing card games or having a general chat. A few of us were discussing our worst ever date stories. I told the tale of how one weekend I had managed to crash a 'romantic' night in Adelaide for my friend and her sort-of boyfriend at the time: safe to say, it was well and truly crashed. We also played 'Root, Shoot, Marry', and everyone on Jozi was put under pressure by Mitch and Jules to name names. It made for a very interesting afternoon and some very red faces.

Thursday, 1 November 2012

The Day After the Night Before

These are the travel notes that I wrote for myself about the 9th May, 2012:
  • Today was a complete write-off
  • I woke up most likely still drunk
  • Things went downhill pretty quickly
  • Couldn't keep anything down all day 
  • Felt like death warmed up trying to drink a milkshake at the Arusha shops
  • Spent the entire rest of the day on the beach, not moving and wanting to die
  • Tried taking anti-nausea tablet when we stopped at the White Parrot campsite for the night. 
  • Fail. Threw it right back up.
  • On second attempt managed to keep down another anti-nausea tablet and some hydration salts, with a handful of plain pasta for dinner.
  • Went to bed very early

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Sunrise Proposals and Moonlit Hickies

I was missing out, I was starting to get a little peeved that I was missing out, and I was letting our safari guide  know it. Poor Robert, I don't think he quite knew how to handle all the questions I was throwing at him as to why I didn't get to go on the "special" early early game drive.

"Why didn't you ask me? I said last night that I would be happy to get up earlier if it meant we could go game driving for longer".

"Julia, Dave and Jodie went, there was still plenty of room in the vehicle!"

"So, they're not actually on a game drive?"

"They've gone hot air ballooning? Awh, I wanted to go hot air ballooning. Why didn't I get the option of going hot air ballooning?"

"It's a surprise? Dave is surprising Jodie? Oh. Ohhhhhh!"

Monday, 15 October 2012

I'm in the Serengeti, B**ch!

Following the brown dirt track towards the horizon, marvelling at the endless lines of wildebeest and zebra on their annual migration across the Serengeti plains...... It's hard to get much more magical than that. Then a voice pipes up:

'So, when is this going to get interesting?'

...........Uhhh, Jules, I don't know what you were expecting, but how can anything get better than this? (I was wrong, by the way. It gets MUCH more exciting. But more on that later).

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Monkeys Are Evil

When you pass what is supposedly just another settlement along the road, but are told by your safari guide that the entire village is made up of one man, his ten wives and his hundred-or-so children, you know that this is not going to be an ordinary day. TIA.

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Snake Park

Today is the first day of the new leg of the trip, and four new people have joined us: Calum (Brit), Clare (Kiwi), Charity (Saffa) and Daniel (American). Calum seems to be off to a good start already - they had their pre-departure talk at 8am this morning, and I got Calum out of bed at 7.57am, and he was supposed to be fully packed and ready to go. I wonder how he'll cope with all our real early starts? We discovered that an important key had been lost, so a padlock needed to be cut off! Tom seems to be getting the blame for losing it, but he's adamant he gave it to someone else. Sure thing, Tom! Anyway, it was an interesting first morning for the new four joining us.

Then it was finally time to wave goodbye to Vicki, Amy and James as we pulled out of Karen Camp to continue our adventures. We shall meet again (Amy and James, we'll see you in a few days in Arusha!)

Saturday, 30 June 2012

Making Out With A Giraffe

Today is a very sad day. It marks the final day of the Gorillas and Game Parks leg of trip, and it will be our last day with my tent buddy Vicki, Amy and James (James will rejoin us in 10 days). So it was with a heavy heart that we piled into the truck for the final drive back into Nairobi. Our spirits were lifted somewhat by an impromptu singalong on the back of the truck, kicked off by the Glee song 'Don't Stop Believin'. In honour of final goodbyes to Vicki and Amy, Grace and I started singing 'Don't Wanna Miss a Thing' by Aerosmith, unaccompanied, and surprisingly we knew all the words! Unfortunately for us, I'm pretty sure Julia caught the entire out of tune rendition on camera.

We made our way to the Giraffe Sanctuary in Nairobi to get up close and personal with, you guessed it, a giraffe. Here we were given pellets and were able to hand feed a Rothschild giraffe, as well as pat it. Yeah, I touched a giraffe! Not only that, there's this handy trick whereby you put one of the pellets in your lips, and the giraffe gives you a kiss / licks your face to get the pellet! And yes, I did it twice. Giraffes saliva is a natural antiseptic, so it was perfectly clean and hygienic!

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Walking With Game

Unfortunately, Hell's Gate National Park was closed due to flash flooding, and we were unable to cycle through the park as originally planned (sad face). Luckily, Crater Lake Game Reserve was just up the road, where we were able to go for a guided game walk through the reserve. Yep, we got to walk amongst zebra, giraffes, eland, gazelle, olive baboons, and water buck. I even spotted the tail of my first ever mongoose! Before you start to worry, the reserve didn't have most of the more dangerous animals that will either try to eat you or charge you (lions, elephants, rhinos), but it did have hippos (we saw footprints only) and leopards. The largest predators we saw today were a pack of bat-eared foxes. Still, very cool! How often does one get to say they took a stroll with zebras and giraffes?

After a couple of hours traipsing around in the reserve, our guides drive us down to a small volcanic lake, home to a large flock of pink flamingos and lots of hippos.

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Born Free

Dave and Jodie were the lucky couple who got to sleep with my pile of clothes stinking up their tent, but don't worry, Jodie gave me shit about it all day! Unfortunately it meant that most of my clothes spent another whole day wet in my locker underneath my seat. One of my favourite parts of overlanding - the constant battle to wash and dry your clothes. HOT TIP: If you're doing overlanding anytime soon, take twice as many undies as you think you'll need, and make sure your clothes are quick drying.

This morning we had a pretty drive through the mountains, and we pulled over for a photo and bush pee stop looking down into the Rift Valley. As we drove along that morning, we discussed that it didn't look like the typical Africa you'd see in a postcard - you could be forgiven for mistaking the landscape for that of somewhere like Canada.

Back into Kenya

Welcome to a new month and welcome back to Kenya. We had an early start so that we could hopefully get through the border crossing in reasonable time and make it to our next campsite early enough for a swim in the sunshine. But TIA (This Is Africa), and we were stuck behind a long line of trucks blocking the road to the border, due to a few of them that had decided to go for a bit of a roll.

On entering back into Kenya, as if on cue, the clouds rolled in and it started pouring with rain. Despite our best intentions of arriving nice and early mid-afternoon at the campsite not far out of Eldoret, the rain turned the roads into rivers (they haven't yet heard of roadside drainage in Kenya) and it was after 5.30pm and decidedly miserable weather when we arrived. Tom and Amy braved the pool for a few seconds, but it was freezing cold. Fun fact for the day: Bill Gates stayed at this riverside, overland campground and hotel a few years back.

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

I'm In DeNile!

God knows why we had organised a full day of grade five whitewater rafting for the day after the booze cruise, but it didn't seem like that much of a good idea when we had to get up in the morning and be ready to depart at 8.15am. I got out some of my rehydration salts to help kick the hangover.

Relaxation, With a Little Exhilaration Thrown in for Good Measure

Nine of us had signed up for jet boating on the Nile today, so we got up and had a leisurely breakfast overlooking the river while awaiting confirmation of what time we were heading off. We got the news that we'd be picked up at noon, which left us to have a leisurely morning chilling out at the campsite.

Sleeping on the Equator

Luckily for us, today wasn't an early start! We broke camp at 11am, with a lot of people feeling somewhere between seedy and severely hungover.

Today was a truck day, and we drove all afternoon, arriving at the equator for a semi bush camp on dusk. We quickly set up our tents in the remaining light. We had a lovely stir fry for dinner, cooked up by Team Adequate, before and early night. Just as everyone had settled into their tents and quite we down, there was a loud, reverberating fart from one of the tents, which set off a chorus of giggles from all of the surrounding tents. What a way to finish the day!

Lake Bunyoni

Each Oasis Overland truck crew supports a different charity or organisation. Jozi's crew supports an orphanage and school at Lake Bunyoni, so everyone elected to accompany the crew to the orphanage for a day, to deliver donated items and see what is being achieved there. Edison is the director of the school and orphanage, and the community and volunteers run everything themselves without the help of NGOs or charities, as they want to maintain control over their own community.

A trio of minibuses rolled up in the morning to take us to Lake Bunyoni (the road up and over the mountain to the lake is too narrow for Jozi). Vicki, Jodie, Dave, Amy, Tom and John and myself hopped into one minibus, and to our delight discovered that it was hooked up to an awesome sound system and tunage! We had Rihanna (We Found Love), Gym Class Heroes (Stereolove) and some LMFAO (Sexy and I Know It). We christened it the Party Bus and had a little dance party on the drive up.

Monday, 30 April 2012

Anzac Day in Africa

After a rather restless, squished, and snoreful nights sleep, we all hauled ourselves out of bed for a 6am Anzac Dawn Service on the truck. There are eight Aussies on our trip, and our trip leader is a Kiwi, and we were all in attendance. Pretty much everyone else turned up to the service, so Canada, Britain and the USA were all represented.

Ed had been organised and got together some readings etc for the service (thanks Ed), and the service was led by Malcolm, our Kiwi tour leader. The readings were lovely, followed by the Ode to the Fallen, the Last Post and one minutes silence. To round off the service, the Aussies sang the national anthem, mumbling through many of the lines. We all forgot the words at least once! Then Malcolm sand the NZ anthem, all on his lonesome.

Abandon Ship!

We were back to the usual early starts today, up for 6.30am breakfast (scrumptious and more than adequate scrambles eggs with baked rams, provided by Team Adequate) and a 7am departure. This time it wasn't raining, so we redid our equator photos before hopping on the truck.

After a few hours driving around the outskirts of Kampala, we stopped at a supposedly huge (don't worry, there's a map inside!), and decidedly empty shopping centre. It was actually quite spooky to be in a shopping centre without anyone else being there. Everyone stocked up on supplies, then we made the final push before our final destination of the Nile River Explorers camp at Bujagali Falls, about a 20 minute drive downriver from the source of the Nile at Jinja. Bujagali Falls is actually now Bujagali Lake, as three months ago, they completed a dam which has turned the Nile River into more of a lake for that section and drowned the falls.

Saturday, 28 April 2012

Gorillas in the Mist

We were up early at 5am as we were getting picked up for the gorilla trek at 6.15am. As usual, it was raining quite heavily. Everyone hopped into land cruisers and headed for the gorilla trek base camp, where we would be assigned into groups to visit each gorilla family.

Oasis passengers were split into two groups of seven, and my group was assigned to the Sabyinyo family. We met our guide, Oliver, who told us a little bit about the family. There were 13 gorillas in the family, with two of them silverbacks. The alpha silverback, was 40 years old and one of the largest on the mountain (gorillas live to a max of 45 years). There was also a new addition to the family, a two month old baby!

Lake Kivu and the DRC

Today was a day trip to Lake Kivu, on the border with the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). On the way there, out guide stopped the bus and pointed out prisoners convicted of partaking in genocide, serving out their community service in a nearby field. Due to the huge amount of people involved in the genocide and awaiting trial (even now there are still tens of thousands of people awaiting trial), if you admit fault in the community court, you will be sentenced to three years of community service.

Land of One Thousand Hills and One Million Smiles

Today we crossed the border into Rwanda, and made our way to the capital, Kigali. Rwanda is a beautiful country, so green and picturesque. I'm really glad that our gorilla permits are here in Rwanda, otherwise we would have missed this beautiful place.

We rolled into Kigali around 11am, and had a couple of hours to explore the Genocide Museum before a truck lunch in the car park. The genocide museum is well worth a visit. There is some very confronting photos, videos and testimonials in the museum, but what is probably the hardest to see is a room full of photos of genocide victims, and another room full of pictures and info on child victims. One of the pictures that had stuck with me was a picture of a two year old, who was killed by being smashed against a tree.

Monday, 23 April 2012

Early Starts and Late Nights

Talk about early mornings... Today was a 4.20am start so that we could get out of Kampala before the traffic got heavy. Apparently leaving half an hour later results in two hours stuck in traffic.

As you can imagine, the truck was pretty quiet for the first couple hours of driving, with most people trying to get some more sleep before we pulled up at the equator for breakfast. It rained and rained an rained all day, so we had lovely photos taken of us straddling the equator, decked out in our rain gear.

To keep ourselves entertained on the long drive day, the five of us on the beach after breakfast played the Alphabet Game, where you have to go around in a circle and come up with a word beginning with each letter of the alphabet for a given theme. It started off quite tamely (countries of the world), but after a few rounds descended into crudeness. I'll let you use your imaginations for the themes we came up with.

Chimp Island

Today I learnt what the four great apes were:

1. Gorillas
2. Orangutans
3. Bonobos
4. Chimpanzees

It was this last species that I had the pleasure of visiting at the Ngamba Island Chimpanzee Sanctuary. The sanctuary is on a small island in the middle of Lake Victoria, and is the home to 48 orphaned chimps (except for one, called Surprise, who was born on the island when her mother's contraceptives failed). The chimps are brought to the island after being confiscated from the illegal pet trade or bushmeat trade.

Friday, 20 April 2012

Truck Life

These early starts are continuous! There hasn't been a day yet when I've been out of bed after 6.30am! This morning, my alarm was set for 6.15, but I was up at 5.50 in time for the call to prayer from the mosque near the campground. By the time this trip is over I'm sure to be a morning person.

Today was another truck day, and we crossed the border into Uganda in the late morning, parting with another 50USD for a stamp in the passport. Crossing the border seems to take some time, as we first needed to clear Kenyan customs and be stamped out of the country before getting our Ugandan stamp. To pass the time in no-mans land, there were lots of touts selling fruit, soft drink and samosas.

On The Road Again


Last nights cook group was in charge of making breakfast, so I was up with the sparrows at 6.30am. Tonight's campsite doesn't have shower facilities, so I made the most of the showers at Kembu camp. Breakfast was baked beans on toast, and I was in charge of grilling the toast over the gas hob. I didn't think it was the greatest idea feeding everyone up on beans when we would be spending most of the day on the truck, but all good so far.

Lake Nakuru Safari

As many of you may know, I'm not much of a morning person, so a 5am start to the day is pretty hard for me. But when a safari game drive is involved, I'm more than willing to get up before the sun does!

Six people climbed into each of the 3 safari minivans at 6am for the drive to Lake Nakuru National Park for our first glimpse of African wildlife. The tops of these vans lift up, so that you can stand up in the van during the game drive to spot game and take photos. Not quite the open topped Land Rover I'd been picturing, but practical all the same.

The first thing we spotted was the tail end of some lions in the far distance, but I barely saw them for a second so not really crossing them off my list yet. We spent quite some time observing a troop of baboons, fleaing each other, fighting, then having make up sex. I've seen plenty of baboon penis to last me quite some time!

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Africa Bound


I had a morning flight to Nairobi, and luckily enough, two of my truck mates were on the same flight so we organised to meet up at the airport. We exchanged description of the clothes we were wearing and managed to bump into each other in the bathrooms near our gate.

The flight to Nairobi was bumpy but uneventful, and getting my Kenyan visa was a breeze, so I was one of the first at the baggage belts. Murphy's Law though, my bag was one of the last off the plane!

Dubai in a Day

I'm currently at the airport awaiting my flight to Nairobi, where the real adventure begins. This is a quick recap of what's happened so far...

I flew out of Adelaide heading to Melbourne on Friday in business class. That's right - business class. Sadly, it sounds far more exciting than it actually was. For domestic flights, business class's highlights are slightly wider seats and glass cups. For a short 1.5hr domestic trip, not really worth the mula unless you need the extra baggage allocation.

The flight itself was uneventful, as were the 4.5 hours I spent waiting around the terminal for my onwards flight to Singapore with Emirates. I was rather slack this time round and didn't check in online, so the lady allocated my seats for the MEL - SING and SING - DXB legs. Which meant exit row seat on the second leg - yay! But window seat, locked in by two old fogeys for the 8 hours to Singapore. In that leg of the trip I watched four movies - Contagion, Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol, Jane Eyer, and another movie that must have been interesting cos I haven't a clue what it was.

Sunday, 8 April 2012

The African Adventure

In case you haven't heard, this week I'm off to explore Africa. On the way I'll have a short, 30 hour stopover in Dubai to quickly explore the highlights of what I'm sure will be a very interesting city.

Then it's off to Nairobi to begin a 73 day truck trip through the East and South of Africa, finishing in Cape Town. Here are some of the things I am looking forward to most on my trip:

  • Trekking up to see the gorillas in Rwanda/Uganda
  • Safari through the Serengeti & Ngorongoro Crater National Parks
  • The Smoke that Thunders & Mt Kilimanjaro
  • Chilling on the beaches of Zanzibar
  • Wine Tasting in Stellenbosch, South Africa
  • Lion Walks, Cheetah Parks & Elephant Swims
  • Learning about (& tasting) local African cultures & cuisine
If you're interested in what I'll be up to, you can find more details of my trip with Oasis Overland here.

It most definitely won't be a glamorous trip, as for the whole 73 days I'll be camping out in a little tent and cooking meals with the group round a camp fire. But this trip is about experiencing Africa, not hotel rooms, so bring it on!

Saturday, 7 April 2012

Second Time's the Charm?

Ok, by now you've probably realised that I was a little slack at updating my blog last year... And by slack I mean totally incapable of even coming up with a single measly word to post on my blog. It wasn't that I lacked time or Internet access, not at all. Rather it was the sheer volume of sights, sounds, feelings, experiences and historical facts that I wanted to be ordered and packaged into neat little blog entries (all in chronological order of course!). A very daunting task. No wonder I didn't know where to start with it all. But this time it will be different, I promise! Any blog entry, however out of order, rambling and unedited it may be, is better than no entry at all. I'm determined to keep you all up to date on my adventures through the wilds of Africa! So stay tuned folks, prepare yourself for the trip of my life!