Thursday, 28 February 2008

Ahhh... Zanzibar

Not a bad beach really...
A nice place for a nap..

Our terrace at our guest house. Not the WORST view we've ever had.

JB's blue bucket! So infamous there's a facebook group coming soon!

Classic Zanizbar. Dhow. Sunset. Beach. Nice.

Char gets ready for Nemo spotting! Check out the colour of that water!

One of Stone Towns thousands of amazingly carved doors!
Jay Says: After our thought provoking but draining experience in Rwanda and our beautiful but tiring hikes through the Usumbaras (as well as six months of very hard work at the orphanage) we deserved some good R&R time!

So after arriving in Dar we caught the ferry across the choppy waters for 9 days in Zanzibar. Arriving in Stone Town is like stepping into another world. Stone Town is an exotic, rambling and beautiful town full of narrow winding streets, grand architecture, amazingly carved wooden doors and a mix of African, Arabian and Indian culture - all set on the shores of a turquoise Indian Ocean.

Getting lost amongst the maize of winding streets of prayer rooms, carts of coconuts and mangos and smells of spices in obligatory and whilst tourism has hit many parts in quite a big way it still keeps in charm
Tourism has also skyrocketd prices - but we still found a nice little guest house tucked away near a local restaurant selling freshly caught muscles and claims in coconut sauce, or spicy beef curry for 1500 TSH (or 60p) - whilst the posh restaurants nearby were selling the same dishes for 10,000TSH.

After a couple of days in Stone Town we headed up to the North coast for some beach action. We stayed for six days at Kendwa's long idyllic beach of pure white sand and even purer warm turquoise sea. Ahh..pure bliss.

After a couple of nights at 'Kendwa Rocks (named after the coral rocks not its bar!) we walked along the beach to a local guesthouse we had spotted and got ourselves a room with a sea view right on the sand! We shared our guesthouse with some really nice folks - a few brits, three Israelis and a Canadian. That night saw Kendwa Rocks host its renound full moon party. Whilst the party itself turned out to be not that great (consisting only of a crappy DJ and not much else) our guest house out on the best pre full moon party-party. Home made cocktails from local gin and sugar cane spirit - all served in our fellow Canadian's somewhat infamous blue bucket!

The beach was beautiful and the sun was scorching - we had a great time relaxing by the water, enjoying our budget breaking suppers at candle lit beach restaurants or reading books lying in palm shaded hammocks!

We finished the week with a superb snorkeling trip out to a nearby reef. And after Charlotte had recovered from her sea sickness we were treated to some amazing under water scenery and marine life - including, excitably, many a character from Finding Nemo (although Crush was no where to be seen)!

All in all a beautiful place and a well deserved rest! And now we head back to our second home of Uganda for the final month of travel!

Until next time..

J & C xx

Tuesday, 19 February 2008

Treking the Usumbara Mountains

Char at the top of the view point - you cant really see from the photo but the view went for miles!
As we neared the top the fog decended! But thanfully lifted soon after

We walked through beautiful lush fertile valleys - not what you expect from Africa

The villagers here made a good living selling there fresh produce all over TZ

Char Says: We left Rwanda on Feb 11th on a Rwandair Express plane bound for Kilimanjaro Airport in Tanzania. We spent the night at budget digs in nearby Moshi but our room still provided views of the grand mountain – not that we realized until we woke the next morning and the clouds had lifted.
A rickety old bus bumped us all the way from Moshi along a very steep mountain road to Lushoto in the Usumbara mountain range. Straight away we booked a three day guided trek, departing the following morning. Shortly into our first day we both felt how unfit we have become after six months of relatively no exercise - other than the odd trip to the well to carry water! But with encouragement from our nice and intelligent young guide, kiki, we fought the pain in our legs and were rewarded with some fantastic views.

The area has a climate unlike the rest of TZ, and as you can see from the photos, this gives the area a beautiful green scenery and provides fertile farming land. The variety of fruit and veg we enjoyed in the mountains was fantastic (making a welcome change) and included crops that we didn’t expect to find in Africa - apples, pears, plums and peaches to name a few!

After a furious morning of trekking - KiKi told us that the Usumbaras are used as training grounds for those wanting to climb Kilimanjaro, on this form we're still a few years off! - We arrived at our second night’s accommodation in time for a late lunch. That night we would stay at a convent. Being the 14th of Feb, it made for a most unconventional Valentine's Day, but the Sisters cooked up a feast for us and it was a lovely peaceful place to stay!

By the third day we were (finally) feeling a little stronger and conversations about Tanzanian politics and other tops of interest with Kiki helped to pass the time as we climbed the slopes. When we reached the peak we were disappointed to find low clouds blocking the view! We were told that on a clear day we could have seen as far as Kenya! By mid afternoon however the clouds had almost lifted and the view was indeed spectacular. Altogther we walked around 35miles over the three days in the mountains, fuelled by a diet of fresh eggs, chapattis and delicious fruit.

We decided to stay in Lushoto for another two nights to rest and relax, although we ended up doing another couple of shorter walks. One of which took us to another convent where the Nuns make and sell homemade Banana wine (yum!), jams and cheese! So you could say we've been eating our way around the Usumbara Mountains!

P.S. KCV update. The kids are still doing very well we hear. The New volunteers are settling in well and we are opening a nursery to the local children of the area within the next weeks. The kids are also getting healthy and healthy. One of our children went to the hospital for her regular monthly check up (as she is HIV poisitiv) top find that she has put on half a stone in just 2 months! Very good news!

PPS Sorry no photos - the computers being rubbish! We'll get them up ASAP!

Monday, 11 February 2008

Oh Rwanda Oh Rwanda!

Some of the mass graves at the Kigali Genocie Memorial Centre. They contain 256,000 bodies in total
A few of the names of the dead they actually know

Green, Clean and Organised! Kigali not like any other African Capital!

Char Says: And so our holiday begins and we board a coach to Kigali – the capital of Rwanda. In spite of the poor weather the city is an impressive place with (amazingly) pot-hole free roads, an efficient and safe transport system and is spotlessly clean! Crazy. Something of a contrast to out beloved but crazy Kampala. Having made a last minute (6am on day leaving) decision to leave our tent in Uganda (we'll camp on the Ugandan leg of our travels) we arrived at the 'One Love Project' to find that they no longer offer camping anyway! The little bungalow we were staying in however cost us about 3.15 each per night, including breakfast and a free laundry service - bargain!

'One Love' is an NGO partnership between Japan and Rwanda which provides orthopedic assistance (prosthetic legs, wheelchairs etc) to those made disabled during the genocide. It’s a really cool place and a seriously worthwhile cause (the number of disabled people in Rwanda is shocking). Check out

Jay and I have been really interested in the history of Rwanda and the genocide for many years now and so naturally we took this opportunity to learn more. Having taken place within our lifetime (1994) and affecting our peers, the genocide seems somehow more relevant to us than other historical tragedies. It came as no surprise then to find that we spent three hours at the memorial centre after being told an average visit takes about one and half hours. The purpose built centre us excellently done and includes sections detailing other genocides the world has witnessed. Outside, the well kept gardens have a number of mass graves which can be visited. The graves contain the bodies of over 256,000 victims of the genocide!

On Thursday we visited the Hotel des Mille Collines which will be familiar name to those who have seen 'Hotel Rwanda'. The film was actually shot in South Africa but the real life events unfolded here. These days however, the place is one of Kigali's top hotels, playing host to East African business people and serving overpriced Cokes to mzungu tourist.

Saturday was a very hard day indeed. We visited two of the churches involved in the mass massacres of the genocide, which are now preserved as they were as memorials. It is very hard for me to describe here what a poignant and chilling sight it is to enter a church where 10,000 innocent people sought refuge but were murdered. Light shines through the bullet holes in the iron roof, blood stains the alter cloth and the bones on display reveal skulls that are shattered and missing chunks through machete blows. Most chilling of all, but not possible to describe, is going down inside a mass grave to see shelves from floor to ceiling 30m long full of skulls and bones. Blogs can’t do it justice, but its something neither of us will quickly forger! It is hard to believe such a massacre could happen here just 15 years ago and that the West just sat back and watched the tragedy unfold!

As if we had not had enough, that evening we returned to the Memorial in Kigali for a talk from a 'survivor'. A fresh faced twenty something told us of the killings of his father and brother and how he spent over a month living in a church - believing everyday would be his last. The speech was followed by the film ' Sometimes in April', a gruesome, by realistic, story of one Rwandan family.

After all we have learned of the genocide, it seems quite unbelievable to see how the country has rebuilt itself. It now is a welcoming, attractive country that is trying to reach its full potential. The politicians talk of harmony and truly seem to fight corruption and plan for a prosperous future for all. Rwanda looks and feels like a great place to live. The people pf Rwanda are unbelievably resourceful and there is very little evidence of its troubled past! And so we really do applaud them!

We now find start a less emotionally draining leg of of trip. We are today in Moshi in northern Tanzania, heading tomorrow to climb the Usumbara mountains... more soon!

Tuesday, 5 February 2008

Goodbye Kiyumbakimu (of sorts)

Evaluation Camp in Kampala with the other VolunteersThe Holy Stone! OOooo Check out the balancing rock!
'African Technology' Digging a Bore Hole by Hand! Crazy Fools! This is only 20m of what will be a 100m hole!
Playing around with the kids on the last few days! They have all got this obession with trying to pick us up!
Sseguya & Jay planted our first Matooke (banana) Plantation!
Last Lunch. Goodbye lunch with Sseguya and Mona at the local Pork Joint.. Mind the food posioning!

Jay & Char Say: So it’s over! We have now left Kiyumbakimu Children’s Village after six months and are about to start off on our travels.

Since New Year we haven’t seen too much excitement - just getting on with the usual business of running the orphanage and playing with the children. There has, of course, been lots of loose ends to tie up, projects to finish and things to get rolling. We have been handing over lots of things to the other volunteers Mona and Anna, who will continue to look after the project for the next six months. They will also be joined by a new volunteer, also from the UK, within the next three weeks. She’ll be staying for a year, ensuring continuity for the place. Our good friend Grace has been volunteering in Kampala for the last six months at a mentoring and human development organisation but wants to experience the ‘village life’ (!) so is also coming to help out for a month or so, and she’s a trained social worker – very useful!!

Work on the website is still continuing slowly as we keep getting messed around by the hosting company; a child sponsorship scheme with ten families is nearly finialised and an interview for a project manager fell through after the candidate wanted three times the salary we were offering! One of the few major new developments is that the contact in Italy who is helping us with the child sponsorship has also raised some money to pay for us to have our own bore hole at the orphanage. This is great news as we currently spend a lot of money paying for water collection from the well. The well for our community is very hard to access and causes many problems. Therefore a new bore will solve our problems, but we will also have the well open to the community at certain times, helping them also. The 100m hole is being dug completely by hand! Crazy – ‘that’s African technology’ as our boss said – but its very impressive – they’ve dug 35m down in two weeks already!

As our leaving date fast approached we realised that we had not visited the one ‘tourist attraction’ near our village – so an hour and half walk later Mona, Ssekulima and us got to ‘the holy stone’ – a big stone balancing on another big stone! Holy because it’s a traditional ancestral religion site. Doesn’t sound that great, but its pretty impressive and has some beautiful views. Also Ssekulima climbed a tree on the way and got us a bag load of free mangos on the way! Sorted.

Our last few days were spent saying goodbye to various people and as a result eating good food (and some not so good..! see below!). It was strange as it was goodbye but not really as after our travels we are coming back for a final week of real goodbyes. We had two mini parties – one with the children and all at the orphanage, where we bought a chicken and some pork (from a supposedly Muslim butcher!). That was really nice, but got a bit emotional, and it finally hit home to the kids that we would actually soon be going and not coming back! That was hard for them and us - as we’ve been through a lot together – from living in terrible conditions to coming to us for school and now living with us for the last few months. We also had a small party at the house of our boss’ family, where we stayed for the first three months. It was also Mona’s birthday so double celebrations. All was good fun, but that was a real goodbye to a couple of the kids as when we come back they will be away at boarding school. They’ve been great fun and good friends since we’ve been here, so was sad to say goodbye. And finally we had our last lunch at the brand new ‘restaurant’ in our village. The new Pork Joint (basically a room in someone’s house) was where we said farewell to Sseguya, our legend of a best friend.

So then after our sad semi-goodbyes we headed to Kampala for evaluation camp with all the other volunteers from around UG – our time has been a real mix of highs and lows and we obviously had some critical words to say (mostly about lack of management) but also many positives.

Unfortunately on Saturday night Charlotte became really sick and was up all night. We headed to the mzungu doctors on Sunday and after being charged an exorbitant price he thankfully told us that it wasn’t malaria – but very bad food poisoning! She has been pretty sick the last few days and laid up in bed. We have therefore had to delay our start to the holiday, but only by one day. Not the best timing – and that good food clearly wasn’t all that good.

So now we’re off. Leaving all our worries behind! As we said, it was sad saying goodbye, but we are coming back and really we’ll never be able to leave the place properly behind. Its made too much of an impression on us. We’ll always be staying very much in touch, especially considering how attached we’ve become to the kids and we know we’ll be back here as soon as we can afford! The last six months has been an incredible experience and something we will never EVER forget. Whilst it has definitely been the hardest thing either of us have ever done we have not regretted it for one second and, being cheesy, made us learn so much about so many things! Its been one hell of a six months! Thanks to everyone who has stayed in contact and kept us involved with life in the UK – its meant a lot!

So now here’s to beaches and mountains and hours squashed in small sweaty minibuses! Bring it on!
Take care, and see you all fairly soon,
C & J xx

p.s. we’ll try and blog as much as we can when traveling but we don’t know how much we’ll be able / how much we’ll be arsed! J love you all x

p.p.s. we both have new mobile numbers, drop us an email if you haven’t got them yet.