Tag Archives: africa

Incredibly life-like drawings of animals

Yes, that is a life size painting of an elephant – the next best thing to having a real life elephant in your apartment I’d say. Oh, and yes, that’s a pencil drawing below. Pencil.

If you’re a regular reader of this bloggy blog, you may have guessed that I love art. You may also have guessed that I love Africa (and travel in general). So when you put the two together, you get an enormous amount of love for Richard Symond‘s incredibly life-like drawings and watercolours of predominantly African (minus a Bengal Tiger or two) art.

If you love these paintings and drawings as much as me, you’ll love the fact that you can buy signed and hand numbered large prints for as little as £115 including postage and packaging. If you’re stuck for what to get me for Christmas *hint*…

Via the ‘Africa, this is why I live here‘ Facebook Page.

ROA’s African animal street art in Johannesburg, SA

One of the top 10 street artists in my opinion is ROA, he’s one of my all time favourite’s with his distinctive style of painting sketch-like black and white animals. Check out this collection of big pieces on the side of a building in Johannesburg, South Africa.

Via Colossal.

Travel Photo: Cow herding at dawn

Very nice shot of a cow herder at dawn. The horns of that beast are almost the same size as the kid looking after it!

Photographer & subject unknown. If you know, share the love.

UPDATE: Thanks to Robert in the comments for the photo name and credits… “Dinka Boy Photograph” by Carol Beckwith and Angela Fisher. It appears the boy is part of the Dinka tribe of Southern Sudan. See more info on the photographers here.

Via Design Dautore.

5 things you should bring to Africa

I’m not an expert on Africa but whilst I was there for a couple of months travelling from Nairobbery (as my taxi driver affectionately called it when he picked me up from the airport “Thomaaaas, welcome to Nairobbery, trust no-one” and then he drove me to my hotel with his head out of the window because the windscreen was too cracked to see through) to Cape Town I did learn a thing or five about what useful things to bring with you…

1) Boobies.
Yep, you read it right, I said boobies. Otherwise known as tits, jugs, breasts, bouncallies (as my friend Fre$h J calls them) or melons, these things proved to be terribly useful on more than one occasion – and I suggest you bring some.

If you don’t own any yourself, or if you’d rather not use them as a bargaining tool, then bring along some lads mags that are full of them – such as Nuts Magazine, Zoo Magazine, FHM, Loaded, Maxim, etc.

Just in case you were unfamiliar with what boobs were, see above.

Why? Because the gents manning border controls love them. During my two and a half month trip we got stopped at a border patrol on the middle of nowhere when the ford-like pit that had once contained foot and mouth disinfectant for you to drive through had run dry. We were told that we’d have to wait up to 4 hours (in Africa this translates to more like 7 hours to a day) for replacement disinfectant before we could pass.

Fortunately, perhaps with boobs on the mind, the driver grabbed some of the lads mags from the back of the truck and gave then to the boob hungry guys manning the border control. Moments later, our truck was plucked out of a line and ushered through the border and we were soon on our way. Coincidence perhaps? I doubt it.

2) Pencils & Paper.
Anytime and anywhere that you stop along your route, no matter how remote and desolate, you’ll soon be surrounded by local kids that saw you coming. Sometimes they’re just interested in who you are and what you’re doing, and sometimes they ask for (or demand) money, clothes and more. If you give them money, like I’ve seen and heard lots of Americans do, then it’s likely that it’ll get spent on Africa’s favourite drink: Coca Cola (which was frequently cheaper than bottled water, I kid you not) and hence leading to problems with their teeth.

Kids playing up to the camera at the side of the road.

Rather than money, give them a pencil and a few sheets of paper (which you’ll have brought with you after reading this post) and tell them to take it home and practice their English. You could sit with them there and then and teach them something by writing a sentence such as “Hello, I’m Tom. You should read the Bloggiest Bloggy Blog, it’s really bloggy. No really, it’s so bloggy it’ll make your eyes bleed” on the paper and getting them to copy it. Kids in Africa aren’t like many of the kids in England as they actually want to learn, rather than watching Cartoon Network or making paper aeroplanes like English ones do.

In fact, I even traded pencils for items at market stalls owned by parents. Alternatively, one of your old t-shirts will probably be in considerably better condition than theirs and will make a better gift than money.

3) A football.
After getting lost down a dirt track in Zanzibar, one of the group also managed to break down. Given that we were in the middle of nowhere, with no idea where we were and with fake driving licences (I was middle aged, black and called Matthew), we had no choice but to try and fix it ourselves.

A confused child rolling up someone’s sleeve to see if the skin on their arm is black or not.

Understandably, this was going to take a while. So, in true Musketeers style, we all stuck around rather than leaving part of our group behind.

About an hour later, some young kids appeared from behind some of the trees. They peered through the bushes inquisitively, investigating our every move whilst being wary and cautious too.

As they got less wary and more inquisitive, they came closer where we tried speaking to them in English and terrible Swahili. They didn’t seem to understand us, even with our exaggerated body language, so one of the guys had an idea…

He grabbed a football from the back of the Land Rover and kicked it across the road towards them. This was a language they COULD understand, so we thrashed them about 8 – 2.

Picking teams for our football match against some inquisitive kids whilst we were fixing the bike.

4) Postcards of your home town.
I know that you probably remember what your home town looks like without having postcards of it but they have another use while abroad…

You’ll be meeting a lot of locals who’ll be very interested in you, your travels and where you’re from and postcards are a great tool for making conversation about where you live. I befriended anyone from children asking for change to national park rangers and owners of swanky-balls resorts by using postcards to show and talk about.

When I showed postcards to the owner of a bush camp in the Maasai Mara National Park he asked some genuinely interesting questions that I did not expect. For example…

“What is the most dangerous animal in England?” (My reply was honestly… “Errr… A fox? Or actually maybe it’s a Badger) followed by me trying to explain what a badger is.

A highly venomous snake in our camp – more dangerous than a Fox?

“What types of monkeys do you have?”

A Lioness scanning the horizon for prey in the Serengeti National Park – more dangerous than a Badger?

“Are the Houses of Parliament next to the River Thames so the crocodiles keep invaders out?”

5) Patience.
No, not the card game (although cards might help with this thing), I mean you have to have patience. Be prepared to be patient.

Upon arriving in Africa you’ll quickly learn that the pace of life is not quite up to speed with Western countries and not nearly like a city like London. In London people trample others to get on the train first, then they’ll fight you to get off the train first. Then they pretty much sprint down the platform to get through the barriers and buy a tall-skinny-frappe-grande-american- mocha-with-an-extra-shot so they can live life even faster.

In Africa, a taxi driver will tell you the ride will take 20 minutes, but once he’s picked up his laundry, avoided the toll road, leant some money to his mate and dropped his kids off at school on the way then you’ll eventually reach your destination 60 minutes later. Getting the car’s engine fixed will take more like 2 days, rather than the quoted 12 hours. Sending one e-mail home that simply says “Having a great time, wish you were here” will probably take an hour or two. Firstly the computer is probably one of the first ever made, secondly it’s likely the keyboard has letters missing, and lastly there probably won’t be fibre-optic super fast broadband on tap – you’ll be lucky to find dial up, so get used to it!

Workmen filling in hundreds and hundreds of miles of potholes so tourists like you spend less days at the side of the road with flat tyres. As a courtesy, we’d fill up empty water bottles for any of these guys we passed.

You get the point yet? Yeah okay, you get the gist. Things move slowly in Africa. The quicker you get used to and come to terms with that, the more you’ll enjoy yourself. Africa is so freaking amazing it’s unreal, so leave that grande-frappe-capaccino-latte-americano attitude at home and enjoy.

Recycled tyre sharks, bulls, zebras and more by artist Yong Ho Ji

Pretty neat recycled tyre art by Yong Ho Ji.

It reminds me of the incredible craftsmanship that goes into local people’s shoes in some of the more rural parts of Kenya, Tanzania and Malawi. Locals use old tyres to make sandals (or ‘thongs’ as the Aussies amongst my trip called them) for wearing and selling/trading in the markets.

Thanks to Lost At E Minor for the heads up.

They only noticed the lions were there when the flash went off…

The photographer only noticed the lions were there when the flash went off…

Via Ashanti Lodge, Cape Town (who I stayed with at the end of my 43 day trip with Acacia Africa)

Exploring the Okavango Delta in Botswana by Mokoro

Day 31 of my 43 day trip was spent crossing the Zambian border into Botswana and preparing for our adventures in the Okavango Delta – the largest inland delta in the world.

After a great deal of driving, we arrived at our camp in Sitatunga, Maun, and put up our tents and got scrubbed up in the refreshingly cold showers. We were warned that the camp had recently had thieves who even stole from inside people’s sleeping bags!

Their method was to carefully slice open the canvas tent and side of people’s sleeping bags to pinch belongings that people had securely stuffed into the foot of their sleeping bags. Added to this, when one person woke up and chased after a thief, they were naked and covered in oil so no-one could grip onto them!

Needless to say, we all opted to leave our valuables locked up in the Acacia truck that night. Plus, Edd and I thought that we should make doubly sure that Ian and Rachel’s tents were safe by hoisting it up to a tree top using a rope slung over a branch. You should have seen the look on their faces when they came back from the shower block to see an empty space where their tent was- hilarious.

Anyway, the Okavango Delta… It’s pretty much a massive marshy expanse of land and water with thousands of inlets and lagoons separated by the odd piece of land and reeds. This obviously meant no 4X4s, so instead we hopped on some Mokoros to explore the delta by water.

What the hell is a Mokoro I hear you ask? It’s like a punt or a canoe that’s carved by hand from the trunk of a sausage tree. What the hell is a sausage tree I hear you ask? It’s like a tree but with massive sausage shaped seedpods hanging off it. They really do look like sausages!

Edd and I were still feeling mischievous from the morning so we jumped on a Mokoro together and were joined by a local guy of similar age (and mischievousness) to us. His name was Heaven, ironically, and he was our ‘poler’ or ‘punter’ or ‘captain’ as we called him and we set off.

The next couple of hours were spent meandering our way through a brain like labyrinth of  waterways, inlets and pools. We saw plenty of scary looking fish and Heaven pranked us by telling us to watch out for the jumping pihranas and deadly snakes that often jump into Mokoros – fortunately this didn’t happen but we were scared all the same. At one point though, we did see a MAMMOUTH python curled up amongst some reeds, warming up in the morning sun. It was HUGE!

Heaven made poling look easy so once Edd and I got bored of splashing Ian and Rachael, we had a go at it ourselves. It turns out that it’s not easy, and a Mokoro is not all that buoyant. Needless to say, we were crap at it and Heaven wobbling the vessel in an attempt to knock us off balance didn’t help our efforts!

At one point we passed William, the giant of a driver with a thick German accent, in a Mokoro on his own. He was obviously standing too far back on the Mokoro and we could see the problem but he was unaware! He continued on and on each push of his pole he let on a little more water untill the back end gradually got lower and lower into the water. Eventually it was up to his knees, then his waist and then his chest but he kept on poling that Mokoro until it grounded at the bottom with water at shoulder height!

Check out a guest blog post I wrote for the Acacia Africa blog too, who are the company I did my trip with in 2006. Photo credits go to Ian & Rachael Patterson because my camera got stolen a week later and I lost all my shots!

The biggest slum in Africa, Kibera, gets mapped for the first time

Slumming it.

In 2006 I spent over 2 months travelling from Nairobi (or ‘Nairobbery’ as the taxi driver called it) through Southern Africa to Cape Town. I was picked up from the airport by a very smiley man in a taxi with such a severely cracked windscreen that the Driver, Matthew, had to either stick his head out the window or lean over to the passenger side to see through the screen.

Anyway, Matthew wanted me to see where he lived on the way so he drove us past Kibera, the biggest slum in Africa, where I took that shot above. The shot is taken from the Mbagathi Way and as you’ll see from the map below, it only show’s a tiny bit of the very edge of the slum – which Matthew said had over 1 million residents, although I’m unaware of any official figures.

Since my visit, some young Kiberans have managed to put together the first digital map of Kibera which details most of the streets, aid clinics, newly built toilet blocks and even bars and clubs. Their goal isn’t to provide a useful map for Kiberans to find their way around, it’s to provide basic knowledge of the area and community to help the decision makers have more informed discussions about the future of Kibera. Very impressive.

Check out Map Kibera for yourself where you can find more details on the project if you wish. Thanks to PSFK for the heads up.