Email written on 2nd January 07.
At the end of October we said a sad farewell to Australia and glanced excitedly in to the horizon as we flew towards the African continent!
We landed in Johannesburg late evening and tentatively walked through to arrivals.
Being the brave/crazy travelers that we have become we had not booked an airport pickup or even anywhere to stay!
We made some arrangements with a hostel recommended by a guy working at the airport - possibly a risky move but where’s the fun without a bit of risk!
Our hostel 'Brown Sugar' was actually very nice and we felt very positive about the few months ahead!
We were only flying through Joburg on this occasion - we would finish our trip here at the end of December.
We had the following day to kill before our flight just after midnight that night.
We attempted to walk to a local market, which was a very uncomfortable experience.
We were given strict instructions with regards to the route to take - we were NOT to wander off of this route.
As we strolled through the residential area the high fences, signs advertising 'armed response systems' and packs of guard dogs left us feeling uneasy.
We stuck out like sore thumbs, there was no disguising the fact that we were tourists.
From Joburg we boarded our flight to Nairobi, which for us really symbolized the start of our African adventure!
9 countries over 3 months! We could barely conceal our excitement!
We arrived in Nairobi and headed to the suburb of Karen where we would be staying.
We had 7 days before starting our overland truck tour and we enthusiastically quizzed the staff on how to use it.
Climbing mount Kenya with no training or gear with us didn’t really appeal to me and the overland truck tour was going to provide enough adventure…. Mombassa sounded more like it to me!
But the trains didn’t work in our favor. No worries we’ll get the bus!
No! Was the universal chorus we received to that idea!
The staff dutifully informed us that if we got the bus our chances of arriving alive were about 20%! Adam and I actually put this comment down to the Africans only being used to the wealthy white folk that seemed to be common in the suburb, they clearly don’t realize we are adventure travelers we laughed! However even adventure travelers don’t turn down the advice of the locals!
And so we settled down to 7 days of doing nothing!
Heaven I hear you all cry but believe me it did not feel like heaven!
We had spent the previous 9 months being active, adventurous daring, energetic… not relaxing! We didn’t know how!
But we settled in very nice in our corrugated iron shack and the staff got used to us being around. We got used to the town and even got used to saying ‘Jambo!’ to the locals! The heat was immense, being that close to the equator had me cowering in the shade!
We visited an elephant orphanage and a place where you could feed giraffes!
But eventually the time came and the big yellow 17-ton truck that would be our transport for the following 71 days arrived!
We spent an evening getting to know our fellow travelers and sussing each other out. A good mix of ages, nationalities, couples and singles… yep it seemed like we were all going to get along nicely!
On Friday 13th we boarded the truck (Fanny she was called – unfortunately named by 2 Americans on her maiden voyage) and off we went!
And for those of you that don’t know what comes next Friday the 13th is very significant.
So we headed out of Nairobi and in to the countryside past slums and markets and children chasing the truck through their villages while we threw pens and sweets to them!
We were hounded at the border by the Masai traders to spend our last Kenyan shillings – it was a comical scene! 24 white tourists running through no-mans land with 50 Masai women taking chase!
I bought a traditional bracelet, well after such an energetic sales pitch how could I say no!
And so with another stamp in our passports we headed in to Tanzania.
The landscape was fascinating. Large open spaces with backdrops consisting of rolling hills and towering mountains, beautiful.
We arrived at our overnight stop, a campsite called Snakepark and yes it did have some very big snakes!
We pitched our tent and settled around the campfire to enjoy dinner!
The next morning we got up early and a few of us went to meet a member of the local Masai community who had agreed to show us around the village.
It was fascinating learning about the Masai culture. When we finally arrived at the village we were greeted by a group of 50 children running at us!
It was wonderful!
Adam and I who had got quite used to the friendly children that always greeted us in different countries (note to self – don’t attempt this back in south London) opened our arms and scooped them all up as they ran towards us!
They were lovely! So interested in us and the foreign objects that we had.
My sunglasses were particularly amusing to one little girl.
We learnt that the 50 children that were affectionately attaching themselves to our legs all belonged to one man! One man, one village, several wives and 50 children!
That afternoon Adam and I packed up our tent and selectively packed a small rucksack – we were going bush camping for a few days!!
Then the safari jeeps arrived! Adam and I randomly picked our jeep and headed over to load our gear.
We were joined by a Kiwi/English couple and an Australian/English couple.
We randomly chose our seats and glanced around the jeep that was going to take us through the Ngorogoro crater and the Serengeti!
Our driver Nsoro at first seemed disgusted at the amount of gear we were trying to pack in to his jeep but seemed to warm to us as we set off. He couldn’t believe we had never seen a buffalo before!
Sometimes it is very hard to comprehend culture outside of your own.
The Ngorogoro crater was amazing!
We saw so many animals so close! Zebras, Lions, Buffalo, Wildebeest, Gazelle, Warthogs and Giraffes. We even got to see a pride of 7 Lions preparing to kill a zebra! It went on for so long as they maneuvered through the long grasses and patiently waited for the right moment!
And then we entered the endless plain that is the Serengeti!
We went for a sunset game drive, which was great. The landscape looks like a picture in the setting sun!
We set up our bush camp and gathered around the fire!
We then had our ‘if you need the toilet in the night’ instructions! I decided the best way to avoid coming face to face with a wild animal in the night was to not leave my tent!
In the night we could hear lions roaring!!
The next morning we rose early and set off in our jeep for our final game drive.
We had the pleasure of viewing a mother Lion and her 3 Cubs, Elephants, Zebras, Hippos, and a Leopard!
It was a truly fabulous experience!
We whizzed round the plains as word came over the radio that some fascinating animal had been spotted. We all stood up with our heads out of the top and the view of a lifetime!
Finally the time came to head back to Snake Park and meet our big yellow truck.
The road from the Serengeti is tough terrain and a far from comfortable ride.
It was a few hours of bumpy, dirt roads before we finally hit tarmac. ‘The English Road’ our driver happily declared and as the heavens opened and the rain came down I was tempted to agree!
We all congratulated Nsoro on his fantastic driving skills – there is no way any of us would have negotiated the roads that we had traveled with so much control.
And so the guy behind me decided to have a nap, the couple behind me discussed which activities they would be doing at the different locations, and myself and the others moaned about the weather – putting a tent up in the rain seemed to be the worst thing that could have happened!
And then I saw it… a truck came round the bed towards us at an incredible speed. I yelled out and everyone’s attention became focused on the truck, which had now lost all control, its back wheels had swung out and it was speeding towards us side on.
With amazing foresight Adam grabbed my head and pulled in to the floor.
As the truck hit the noise was immense and a shower of glass rained down on me. Adam had saved my head from being hit by the truck. Judging by the burn mark the truck left on my arm as it hit me and flew on at speed, I am very lucky that the truck did not hit my head. I would not like to think about what would have been, Adam saved my life.
It truly was a horrific accident.
2 of us were hurt – myself and the guy behind who had been asleep with his head against the window.
We were all very lucky.
We were taken to a local treatment centre where the one doctor and resident old women with no resources prayed for us.
Eventually we received word that if we could get to the local airstrip back up the road where we had crashed we would be flown to Kenya where we could receive medical attention.
And so we did.
Poor Adam could not fly with me because it was a small Cessna plane. The priority was Darren, the guy from behind me who was at this point very close to death. He had multiple serious injuries and was losing a lot of blood very fast.
The flight to Kenya was one of the most harrowing experiences – I was in a lot of pain and convinced that the guy lying at my feet was going to die during the flight.
What followed was a series of events including:
Adam hitching a lift on a truck from Tanzania to Kenya to find me.
Me being presented with the situation that you pay cash in advance of medical treatment in Kenya – I had no money… or shoes, or passport, or any belongings whatsoever. Everything was left in the wreck of the safari jeep in Tanzania.
Me being lent money by the most trusting polish man I have ever met who simply left me with his address written on a scrap of paper.
Me waking up with a nun praying by my bedside.
Me making a nightmare call to my parents.
We all survived and we are very lucky.
I underwent surgery in Kenya to fix my collarbone and input a metal plate and 5 screws to hold it all together.
On the 21st October 06, very disappointed but happy to be alive Adam and I flew home to be met by 4 very worried parents.
And so the recovery continues.
I will be having (hopefully) my last operation next week when they will remove the current plate and fix the bone with a bone graft from my hip, and then put a new heavier plate in place, hopefully this will encourage my collarbone to heal!
And so I'm afraid it is quite a depressing note to finish the last chapter of our world tour with – but its not depressing at all.
We are very lucky to be alive. We had an amazing trip and saw the most wonderful things.
And as soon as my arm is better I hope to fly back to Africa to continue!!
I had my final operation in January 2007 to reconstruct my collarbone using bone from my hip, metal and a lot of screws. You can feel them if you run your fingers along my collarbone!
Darren made a full recovery after 3 months in hospital in Kenya and continued treatment back in the UK. He has some very distinct scarring on his face but is very grateful to be alive.
We were very lucky that an Intensive Care Nurse called Sharon happened to be holidaying on the same overland truck as us.
Sharon took control of the situation and I believe that she saved Darren’s life.
As you can imagine we are all still in touch and very much bonded by our experience.