Our Travelationship in Review: October 2015

By: Heather

Doorway and alley in Zanzibar

The month of October started out on a high note, sank to the deepest depth and slowly climbed back upward. We spent our first day of October touring a Spice Farm in Zanzibar. The tour was interesting, and our fellow travelers were fantastic. From Zanzibar, we headed to Dar es Salaam to get some much-needed work done. We didn’t see much of Dar es Salaam because we were holed up in our hotel working and researching where to go next.

From Tanzania, we headed to Malawi because it was the cheapest flight out of Dar es Salaam. We just missed the Malawi free visa by four days; instead we had to pay the new $75 visa entrance fee, which started on October 1. Luckily, the visa was obtainable at the airport because it would have been a hell of a loss for us to arrive and not be able to enter.

Malawi was a bit of a mixed bag for us. Matt didn’t connect with Malawi and felt it was one of his least favorite places. His negative feeling fed into an overall blah energy, which led to a dark cloud hanging over us for most of the time. On the other hand, I found Malawi reminded me of an older Rwanda. The reminiscent feeling tugged at my heartstrings leading me to want to see and experience as much of Malawi as possible. We spent most of our time on Lake Malawi, which was beautiful and made for some fantastic swimming, boating and snorkeling.

From Malawi, we decided to head north to Ethiopia instead of west to Zambia. We needed a break from the African dry season heat and didn’t want to force our time through Zambia, Botswana, and Namibia. We had already completed a dry season safari in Tanzania, so we thought we would wait and safari ZBN during a different season next year. Matt was pretty confident in this decision, me not so much. As much as Ethiopia had to offer I am regretful that we missed ZBN.

We arrived in Addis Ababa with about a week left in the month. The weather has been much cooler, and it has rained a few of the days, which has been a nice chang. Our first week has absolutely wowed us. We had no idea the country had such beautiful mountains and hiking trails. Our Ethiopian plan takes us into about mid-November. While here we will tour a few of their northern region UNESCO heritage sites and trek to see an Ethiopian wolf only found in the southern region Bale Mountains.

* Update: My cousin’s foot is broken not sprained. She had X-rays done when she returned home, and the docs confirmed the break. We wish her a speedy recovery!

The Stops

Tanzania: Stone Town, Zanzibar; Dar Es Salaam

Malawi: Lilongwe, Cape Maclear, Thimbe Island, Nkhata Bay, Zomba

Ethiopia: Addis Ababa, Gondar, Simien Mountains, Aksum

The Great

Spice tour on Zanzibar Island. We learned a lot about the different farms and types of spices on Zanzibar. If you find yourself on Zanzibar island, the tour is a must do and can be booked through your hotel. We had a fun group of travelers on our tour, so we all met up later for a night of dining, drinks and a bar crawl between 3 different “clubs” in Stone Town. Unfortunately, the nightlife was quite underwhelming, but we still had a great time swapping stories and hanging out with the group.

Spice Tour in Zanzibar

Snorkeling off the rocks at Thimbe Island in Cape Maclear, Malawi. The number of colorful cichlids had to be in the thousands, and they swam all around us. The water was clear and shallow enough that at times we could just stand or sit and watch the fish go by. We have never had a water experience with so many fish.

A tiny sample of the cichlids we saw in Lake Malawi

A tiny sample of the cichlids we saw in Lake Malawi.

Cliff jumping in Nhkata Bay with Mayoka Village. The resort offers a free snorkeling, cliff jumping and beach games boat trip on Lake Malawi. There were about 20 of us the day we went. We jumped off 8-10 m rock cliffs, learned how to play Champion (a local Malawi jumping game similar to long jumping x 3 jumps), met some fun people; Matt played some volleyball on the beach, and I walked around meeting some local fishermen and children.

Travelationship Review October 2015

Kids playing in Lake Malawi

We continue to meet wonderful people at all of the stops. In Malawi, we met several inspiring people. A couple of our favorites were Ross and Midge, who are traveling the world for the 2nd time. They had some inspirational travel tales. Charis from the UK not only drove us from Nhkata Bay to Zomba, but she also kept us laughing with her fantastic storytelling.

Our 2-day hike in the Simien Mountains in Northern Ethiopia. Even the afternoon into evening rain didn’t put a damper on the trek. The views were stunning. Some of the landscape reminded us National Parks in Utah and other parts were uniquely Ethiopia.

Simien Mountains in Ethiopia

The Not So Great

The 90-minute ferry from Stone Town, Zanzibar to Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. I am not one to usually get sea sick, but Matt suffers from motion sickness. The first 30-40 minutes of the journey was not so bad but after that it was all downhill not only for Matt but about 100 other passengers. I was able to fight off getting sick, but I had to blast my music in my ears to keep from hearing everyone else around me gagging and coughing.

We didn’t do a damn thing in Dar es Salaam except work on editing photos and writing posts. We wasted an opportunity to discover a new city because we needed to get caught up on the blog and research where to go next.

The public transportation in Malawi was rough. We tried a private taxi, public large and small buses, and the ferry. Except for the Executive AXA bus from Blantyre to Lilongwe, the public transportation seemed chaotic and on the expensive side. Matt pretty much judged his entire view of Malawi on our 6-7 hour bus ride from Lilongwe to Monkey Bay. The bus was 2 hours late at arrival; then we waited an additional 1-2 hours to depart, and the ride itself took 6-7 hours (we were told it would take 3-4 hours). The bus was overcrowded, the weather was hot with no wind, and the smells were excruciating – It was a day we hope never to repeat.

The Internet in Malawi was frustrating. We were able to get sporadic service depending on our location and if electricity was on or not. When we did get service, it was incredibly slow, and sites such as Facebook and Gmail did not work correctly. We did finally get a working sim our last few days and were able to plug in for a few hours.

Matt experienced his first travel meltdown (as expected, I had already experienced a few meltdowns) in Malawi. It took us by surprise because he isn’t one to lose his cool over little things. He did not connect with Malawi at all, and he wanted to leave after the 2nd day. It took him over a week to get out of his funk. Matt rarely needs coaxing to do anything but during this time I had to come up with some super motivational tactics to keep him going.

Our GoPro has died. I dropped it in the water in Zanzibar, and we have not been able to get it to turn on since. We tried rice and all sorts of tricks to fix it but no luck. We do have an extended warranty for it, but we have to get it to and from the US to take advantage of the warranty. Of course, I am kicking myself over and over every time we go snorkeling, diving or hiking!

We continue to miss our dog and cat. This month seemed especially hard because we came across so many friendly cute dogs and cats in Zanzibar and Malawi.

The Oops!, WTF?, LOLs – Lessons learned, head scratchers & hilarities
Oops! Let’s not do that again lessons

When lodging at a smaller type establishment always ask what time the front door is locked and how to get in after hours. We found ourselves locked out of our hostel in Stone Town and spent about 10 minutes knocking, banging and yelling to get in. We tried to call the front desk but no answer either. Turns out there was a light switch about 7 feet up on the left side of the door that served as a doorbell. Who knew?!

We are all for cheap public transportation, but when the ride is several hours and no bathroom in sight it gets to be uncomfortable. We had read and been told that the buses in Ethiopia have bathrooms. Lucky we asked at the time of ticket purchase because the new buses in Ethiopia have traded the bathrooms for additional seats. A 13-hour bus ride with only 2 scheduled bathroom breaks could have been a disaster. We learned always to ask no matter what the signs, books or fellow travelers say.

For the first time, Matt and I disagreed on our views about a place. Our opposite feelings caused a few arguments and forced us to create a plan for future similar situations. If one or both of us dislike a place, we can’t just give up on it. We have to give each place a fair chance. Also, we can’t allow one’s bad attitude toward a place to affect the other’s experience.

WTF? Did that really just happen?

This didn’t happen to us, but it happened to a gentleman we met in Malawi. He was working at a French restaurant in Colorado, and a family came in for dinner. Mind you this was a French restaurant in the US not in France. The parents thinking they were in a French restaurant in France asked to have a new waiter who spoke English with a French accent. Wwwhhhaattt?! There happened to be a waiter who was French, so they did switch tables, but who does that? To make matters even more unbelievable, the family came into the restaurant again later in the week. The waiter recognized them and greeted them with his best French accent, and they did not recognizing him as the “not good enough waiter” previously, fell for his French act as he made up an elaborate story about his French home, French family, and French education.

LOLs our laugh out load hilarious moments

Matt HATES snakes. When he sees a snake he usually screams like a girl, flails his arms about while jumping around or running for the hills. At Mayoka Village in Nhkata Bay, Malawi we had two funny snake moments. The 1st snake sighting was off a trail during a hike we took into town. He only freaked a little bit, and I was impressed. BUT when it came to the cobra in the bathroom, he and about six other grown men were squirming, convulsing and eeking in high pitch voices. Of course, I wanted to go in and have a peek at it, and as I did, Matt was jumping, flailing his arms and screaming at me outside the door. Soon after, another gentleman came and wrangled the snake back to the lake. We later found out it was a cobra, and Matt about fainted just hearing the word cobra.

One of the nights in Nhkata Bay a group of 5 of us found ourselves at a bar having a pint and chat. The place was quite busy, and there were a few locals getting knackered. Matt went up to the bar to get some drinks and didn’t return for quite some time. We all noticed he was at the bar gabbing away with three guys. After about 30 minutes or so he appeared at the table completely exasperated and mad because not one of us went to save him. Apparently, he couldn’t steal away from the crazy drunk gentlemen at the bar and kept looking to all of us for saving.

Features

Inner Compass Travel included us in their Home Away from Home collaboration

We had a few photos featured on the following Instagram accounts

The Posts
Our Ears and Eyes
Heather
  • “A Child Called ‘It'” by Dave Pelzer
  • “Blessed the Autobiography” by George Best
  • “Down Under” by Bill Bryson
  • Undisclosed: The State vs. Adnan Syed Podcast
Matt
  • “Smugglers Moon” by O.J. Tonks
  • “All the Light We Cannot See” by Anthony Doerr
  • Adele – Hello
Up Next

We are currently in Ethiopia discussing plans to visit Djibouti. We also have booked a ticket to head to Thailand from Ethiopia on November 19th.

Heather with our rangers in the Simien Mountains.

Heather with our rangers in the Simien Mountains.

Have any suggestions on where we should go next? Let us know in the comments!

See More Photos on Flickr and Please look for us on FacebookTwitter and Instagram!

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