The Great Wall of China

Earlier today I went on a hiking trip to the Great Wall, or as Karl Pilkington once said “it’s not a great wall, it’s an alright wall. It’s the Alright Wall of China.” It was better than alright.

The visibility wasn’t great, though it meant that it wasn’t sunny as it was quite a difficult walk. Some of it was sloped steep enough to warrant me climbing up on my hands and feet – unfortunately, no photographic evidence as that would be quite amusing. Some of the wall is original and actually quite dangerous to climb on, so it’s surprising that tourists are let loose on there.

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Zimbabwe, Botswana and South Africa: My Final Thoughts

I booked this trip in December last year and I think this is the trip that I’ve had the most questions about – like travelling through Europe, Asia and Australia is somewhere people would expect me to go, but not Africa.

Honestly, the trip was a lot of driving hours to places to spend around half a day doing an activity. Putting the tents up and down almost every day didn’t take too long but was a pain in the arse. With that said, what we did on the trip and what we got out of it was fantastic. I’ve been up close to the animals, learnt a lot about them and what measures are being put into place to try and prevent the rhinos from becoming extinct.

For me, the highlights were Hwange National Park; watching the elephants cross the road in particular, the day spent at Matobo National Park and the safari trip through Kruger National Park. One night in Kruger all but three of us had gone to bed, so I came up with the idea of finding lion sound effects on YouTube and parading it around our area of the campsite. I don’t think anyone was fooled, especially with us laughing, but it was funny nonetheless.

I’d love to visit Africa again. The group I joined were halfway through their tour and had been to Okavango Delta in Botswana, judging by their photos, videos and stories it was fantastic so I’d love to go. I’m intending to go to Egypt at some point this year, but I’d like to work something out starting in Botswana or Zimbabwe going into Botswana, and the surrounding area. This will have to wait a few years, until I work and save money to spend on another trip again.

After Africa comes China. I’ve never been and am not too sure what to expect, but it should be fun.

Kruger National Park, South Africa

Once again, we took our tents down in Blouberg and had an early start for a long drive to Kruger. The National Park is larger than some smaller countries including Brussels, home to a lot of species including the big five.

Upon arriving, we put up our tents to get ready for an evening game drive. Honestly, I don’t know how I feel about doing it as we were driving around at night, shining spotlights at wild animals. There’s so much said and put into practice about not disturbing the animals, yet shining light onto nocturnal animals is apparently ok.

During the drive we saw hyenas, elephants, owls, potentially zebras but probably impalas, a hippo out of water and a civet, which I had never heard of prior to the tour. There were two cars used for our group, and the others saw a family of leopards which I’m gutted that I missed – they’re the only ones I didn’t see out of the big five.

The following morning we took our tents down again to go on a safari. I took one of my favourite photos that I’ve ever taken of a giraffe, as well as heaps of elephants, impalas, zebras, buffalo, a couple of ostriches and species of birds.

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Getting towards the end of the safari, the one animal that we wanted to see, the lion, had not been seen, until someone shouted that they could see some. It was from a distance so the picture is not great, but still. They were around a watering hole and it was interesting to see the other animals drink from it in at least pairs; one keeping an eye on the lions.

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After the lions, we had around half hour left in which we did not see many animals. Once again, we set up camp ready for the following days 8+ hour ride to Johannesburg to finish the tour.

Moremi Gorge, Botswana, and Moving Onto South Africa

During the trip there were a couple of days put together to cover a lot of land on the bus. We went into Botswana as it’s easier to cross the border into South Africa from there as opposed to the Zimbabwe one.

Honestly, these couple of days weren’t that interesting. Moremi Gorge, we just went for a walk which was pretty dangerous; we were more or less bouldering at some points to get to a waterfall.

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The next day we went off to Blouberg in South Africa – the name translates into Blue Mountains. It’s the third Blue Mountains I’ve visited, with the first being in Canada, and the second in New South Wales.

We went for a walk that was not as dangerous as Moremi Gorge, then went to the pub with the locals. There’s a beer made locally where they’re not too sure of the alcohol percentage and to drink, you have to spill some at the start and end of your drink for your ancestors. I chose to have a lot of ancestors.

I am waiting for pictures to be sent to me, but we were also made to dance with the locals with only a beer or two in us, and after we were off to have dinner at a homestead. It was pretty decent besides the caterpillar that I tried, and chatted to the local woman.

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The next day we took our tents down once again, and headed for Kruger National Park

Hwange & Matobos

We took down our tents in Victoria Falls and went to Hwange National Park, which took a few hours. We were told that if we needed to get up in the middle of the night, to get our lights around to absolutely make sure there were no wild animals, such as lions and hyenas, as we were camping in the park.

After lunch we were picked up in safari cars to spend a few hours going around the National Park. We saw heaps of elephants, giraffes, hippos, baboons, impalas, as well as a lot of birds, though not a lot of animals were up close. It was my first time seeing wild elephants up close, and saw a herd of them crossing the road behind the car which was amazing.

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We left the National Park in the dark, then went back to the campsite and sat around the fire until it started to get late. The next morning we took down our tents and went to Matobos which took the best part of a day to get there, then we put the tents up. In the evening we went for a walk/hike in an area near the campsite.

The following morning we set off for Matobos National Park, where we set off to find some rhinos. Once in the park, our guide took us to an area where he told us about the challenges that are being faced by the parks to stop the rhinos being poached for the horn, to the point where there are armed guards in the park who are instructed to shoot to kill any potential poachers.

The rhinos are being poached for their horns, which are wrongfully assumed to have medicinal purposes. Despite the fact that the horns actually grow back, they are being killed, and sometimes left to die whilst their horns are being cut off. It seems as though the parks in the country want to be able to sell the horns that they have collected in order to prevent poaching in order to bring in profit to help prevent the animals from becoming extinct.

After this, we got back in the van and drove for around fifteen minutes, then we got out and went on foot to get nearer the animals. We ended up getting around ten meters away from them.

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Afterwards, we were taken around the park, had some lunch and stopped off at a locally-run souvenir market, then we went to climb up one of the big hills in the park. Afterwards, we were taken to a cave where there are paintings from the Bushmen over 30,000 years ago still marked on the walls, which is painted the same way as the paintings in Ayers Rock. The animals painted are thought to show the animals in the land, to show others what was available to eat, as well as the dangerous animals in the area.

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It’s interesting to hear about the similarities of the Bushmen to the Aboriginals in Australia: they both treated everything, and each other in their environment with respect and only took what they really needed from the land. For instance, they wouldn’t kill an animal that they could not finish eating, and were resourceful as to how they would use the inedible parts of the animals. It is also thought that they had the same beliefs as to how the human race started, despite being thousands of miles apart.

After, we were taken to a local village to meet the chief, and then back to the campsite.

Victoria Falls

Last Friday I left Australia, after having spent two years (minus four days) in the country. It took 36 hours to get there with two layovers: both in Perth and Johannesburg. First stop was Victoria Falls, to start nine days of camping in Africa, in Zimbabwe, a night in Botswana and to finish off two nights in Kruger National Park in South Africa.

I was under the impression that visiting Victoria Falls would be similar to visiting Niagara Falls, however this was not the case. There is a US$30 entrance fee, and takes the best part of an hour to get around if you’re rushing it. Apparently, the view is better from Namibia, though I was quite done with going through border security and didn’t fancy paying extra for a visa.

For me, it took around an hour and a half to get around and got soaked from the spray. Over the past two and a half years I’ve seen quite a few waterfalls, lived in Tasmania for a couple of weeks and seen nature that is simply stunning, and Victoria Falls tops the list.

In terms of the town, I couldn’t walk a hundred meters without someone trying to sell me something that neither want nor need, and I did get a few men giving me unwanted compliments. Another thing that I hadn’t expected was to see so many baboons in the street; I went to buy some water from the supermarket and on the way there saw one drinking from a puddle in the middle of the pavement.

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Phillip Island

On Monday I hired a car and drove to Phillip Island. I visited in my first week in Australia with a friend from back home, but it’s quite close and the weather is still pretty decent. I caught the train to Frankston instead of driving through the city as I wanted to miss rush hour traffic and there’s a lot of dickheads on the road in the city.

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I’m (apparently) a grown up now

Once I’d gotten into the car, I’d already established my first world problems:

  • The WiFi in my flat is pretty bad and didn’t download the Spotify playlist properly
  • I was probably going to run out of battery on my phone, for which I was relying on the GPS, and my portable charger wasn’t fully charged
  • The indicators and windscreen wipers are controlled on the different sides of the wheel than in the UK, and I have to overthink which side they are on. This was the first time I’ve driven a car in Australia and not used the wipers instead of indicating. Go me.

An hour or so later I reached an animal sanctuary and petted some kangaroos.

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Half hour after leaving the kangaroos behind, I drove to the Nobbies Center, which is a boardwalk on the coast. Really nice views.

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The weather was still clearing up, but after reaching Cape Woolami the sky was blue. Bearing in mind that I work on my feet all day and had done around 15km of walking just a few days before, I opted for the shortest walk.

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Next week or the week after, depending on my shifts, I’m going to go to the Mornington Peninsular for a day. At the moment I’m working not a lot of hours with two jobs, this week it’ll be around 30 hours and am expecting the same next week.

 

Wilsons Prom

Not really done anything that amazing this past week. Had my first day off in 15 days and think it was only one piss up.

As I’m quite conscious of the fact that I don’t have that long left in Australia, I’d quite like to explore more of the state that I have lived in for most of my time here. Wilsons Prom is a three hour drive away and I just don’t want to spend six hours driving, so again I used the tour operators Hike and Seek.

We did a couple of hikes, both with amazing views. The second one the view was just so worth walking uphill for around 40 minutes in the weather that we were lucky enough to get. The pictures don’t really do the view justice, but they’ll have to do.

This coming week I don’t have a lot of work, so tomorrow is my sort-my-shit-out day, depending on what time I wake up. Monday I’m thinking of hiring a car and going somewhere, but that is dependent on the weather and if I can find a really good playlist.

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Back in Melbourne (Again)

Last Wednesday I arrived back in Melbourne. Technically, Thursday as my flight was delayed by three hours – one of the budget airlines that crack the shits when your bag is 150g over the weight limit, but it’s fine for them to be delayed most times I fly with them.

My last day in Perth I didn’t really do a lot – I was going to go to the Pinnacle Desert but they day would’ve cost me around the $300 mark and a five-hour round drive, which I didn’t think it’d be worth it. Instead, I chilled in the Botanical Gardens.

Around five hours after going to bed I had a job interview, and was requested back on the Saturday to do a trial and got the job. I just got in from a shift and it’s nice to finish when it’s light outside, but I think I need to try and find a part time/evening job to get my hours up so I can put off having proper adult responsibilities for that bit longer.

The flat that I’m going to move into isn’t ready as the person who’s moving out has extended their stay, so I’m in a hostel for a week and a half or so. Once I have my shit together I’m going to plan out what I want to get out of living in Victoria before I leave here (including a couple of road trips) and start getting myself ready for the next continent to travel through.

 

Fremantle Prison

No, I didn’t go out on the lash last night and end up here, though if I lived in Western Australia a couple of hundred years ago, I probably would’ve. As well as being drunk, another “crime” a woman could’ve committed at that time also includes using offensive language so I’m happy that I live in this day and age.

The former Prison is a UNESCO site, closed down in 1991 for a breach in human rights. It took a prison riot to begin the process of closing it, during which the prisoners started a fire and found out that the gates of the prison were too small to fit a fire engine through.

I stayed for two tours: one that covered the last 100 years of the prison, and another that went through former inmates and some of the more famous escape attempts. We heard some pretty shocking stories about why prisoners were there, executions and how the prisoners smuggled contraband in.

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