It's good to be home
11.09.2019 - 13.09.2019
Wednesday 11 September 2019
I had a leisurely morning. At 11am I checked out and my transfer to the airport was waiting. The traffic in the city was crazy but it only took 35 minutes to reach the airport, then I had a long time to wait for my 2.45pm flight to Johannesburg.
Although the airport is very small I found it confusing and couldn’t see where to check in. A few people started a line at the unmanned security check so I joined them. Had to put bags through the x-ray first, then check in, then go through immigration, then security again, then a police check of my passport.
No problems with the South African Airways flight leaving and arriving on time. I was back in Johannesburg just after 5pm and made my way back to the hotel where I started this journey on 29 July.
Thursday 12 September 2019
My flight home didn’t leave until 7.10pm. I had a late checkout at 2pm and waited at the hotel until the 3.45pm shuttle to the airport.
Boarding for this Qantas flight was really disorganised, quite chaotic with people being moved out of the gate seating area and lined up for bag checks before being let in again. Then they didn’t even check my bag. The flight home was completely full, so it was very uncomfortable.
Friday 13 September 2019
Finally back in Sydney just before 3pm. I thought I would be held up at Customs and found it strange that I wasn’t checked after I answered yes to the questions about being in Africa.
Then there was a long line at the Qantas transfer and people on my flight were called to the front. At the transfer bus my flight was asked to board first, but that was pointless because we then waited for everyone else to get on the bus before departing. I just made the flight and arrived back in Canberra around 5pm.
I left Canberra after seeing a beautiful sunrise and came home to a vibrant sunset. It's so good to be home. This was a long and tough trip.
The Nomad truck tour was not as good as the one I did in 2017. Nomad have made cutbacks and it shows. We had to buy a lot more meals and there were several problems with accommodation. There were long travel days, which were unavoidable because of the distance between the places we visited – these days were boring and uncomfortable. And East Africa is less developed, making it a harder travel destination than Southern Africa. The start was marred by my fall – I initially thought I might have to go home, instead I only missed a few days of the tour but I was still in pain for the first couple of weeks, which affects my thoughts on this tour.
Would I do this type of tour again? No, it’s better left for younger people. I loved the national parks and they are definitely worth visiting. We realised that most of the national parks have landing strips for light aircraft and this would be a better way to travel … much better than spending whole days travelling on really bad roads.
The three of us booked a couple of extra things: day tour in Nairobi, three day Amboseli tour, and extra time in Zanzibar. We thoroughly enjoyed all these. Amboseli National Park is often overlooked but it was wonderful and Kibo Safari Camp was a beautiful oasis in the dusty landscape. The extra days in Zanzibar was a great way to finish off this part of the trip. We really earned the luxury accommodation after the truck tour.
Jude and I booked our Madagascar tour with Madagascar company Dadamanga. We looked at organised group tours that didn’t go to the places we wanted, so decided on a private tour with our own guide, vehicle and driver, which was no more expensive than the group tours. Brett (an expat Aussie), the owner of Dadamanga, was very responsive when we were planning the tour. He was also kind enough to loan me a camera when my small camera stopped working. A huge thank you to Brett … it was invaluable to have a small zoom camera when walking in the national parks.
If you’re thinking of travelling to Madagascar, be warned that tours and flights are quite expensive. There are cheaper ways to get around but Madagascar has very poor infrastructure. We came across an adventurous young man who was using the local transport – the taxi brusse (bus) leaves when people are crammed into every space and luggage and boxes (and sometime animals) are piled high onto the roof.
It was the uniqueness of the wildlife that drew us to Madagascar and I'm pleased I had the opportunity to experience the diverse landscapes, plants and animals. Of course I loved the cute and furry lemurs, and the geckos, butterflies, lizards and frogs but I was amazed by the weird and wonderful variety of chameleons. While I wasn’t disappointed with our wildlife sightings I didn’t love the country. It wasn’t the poor infrastructure or the poverty of the people because we’d been exposed to those things in East Africa. In Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania the people were really happy, friendly and welcoming but I didn’t get that feeling in Madagascar.
Walking in the national parks was much harder than I imagined. We didn’t do the longest or hardest trails but it was certainly challenging. To make it harder you have to go off the track to see the lemurs … that means making your way through thick rainforest or bushland vegetation, often on very steep slopes. And seeing the lemurs can be really difficult when they are high up in the trees.
Finally, I’m so pleased to be home where I don’t feel under pressure to be constantly looking for money to tip people .... I don't remember having to tip so much from any of my previous travels. I realise that I have just travelled to countries where many people live in poverty and I don’t mind occasionally paying someone a couple of dollars to carry my bag ... I really didn't like it when we pulled up and men were grabbing bags from the back of the car before we could get out. When you travel for a long period with limited funds it becomes very difficult to tip (and to find small notes for tipping) several times a day for local guides, trackers, drivers (car, taxi, boat), restaurants and luggage porters - plus tipping at the end of the tour for the guide and driver.