Whether it’s the goose-bump inspiring theme to the Lion King, a stunning photo of an acacia tree at sunset or the voice of David Attenborough as he describes the behaviour of wild African animals, there is something about Africa that always captures our attention. For me it is the raw, unique beauty of its diverse landscape, the incredible melting pot of cultures, the people and most importantly, the animals.
Africa stole my heart during my first visit to Tanzania ten years ago. I always knew that I’d return, but what I didn’t know, was how much more difficult it would be to leave the second time! And what I had always hoped but didn’t dare to expect, was that Wade would fall in love with this wild continent, just as much as I had!
When we arrived in November 2015, fresh off a plane from Sri Lanka, we had no idea of the incredible experiences awaiting us. Within our first week of arriving we had one of the most memorable days of all when we met Deo, our sponsor child at School For Life in Uganda. Only days later we were tracking Gorillas in Bwindi National Park and by the end of our initial week on the continent, we had spotted our first elephants on the side of the road, towering over our suddenly miniature hired Rav 4!
And to think this was just the start of an incredible five-month journey through East and Southern Africa, you can begin to appreciate all that this incredible continent has to offer!
During those five months of travel we met up with old friends, travelled with new ones and drank more than our fair share of beers around a campfire. We trudged up sand dunes for sunrise, watched elephants drink from waterholes at sunset and fell asleep under a sky full of stars, hundreds of kilometres from the nearest town. But neither one of us could have anticipated the love, fascination and respect we would gain for the incredible creatures that once roamed this continent so freely. Wade’s not even embarrassed anymore to admit his newfound passion for bird-watching and yes, once again, I cried on more than once occasion at the sight of animals. We spent our days searching for new species and our nights reading up on the fight many of these animals face to survive in an ever developing world. It has been an educational experience to say the least.
When the time came, leaving Africa was the hardest move we’ve had to make throughout our travels thus far. But knowing that there will always be more to explore, experience and marvel at, leaves us yearning to one day return.
So without further a do, let’s get down to business.....
Here are the Stats, Facts and Figures from Wade and Sarah’s 5 months in Africa!
UNESCO World Heritage Listed sites = 14
(click the blue links to see our corresponding photo albums)
Photos (clockwise from top left): On top of the huge dunes of the Namib Desert at sunset; Salt Pan in Kalahari Basin; Sahara Desert in Morocco; Berber man leading camels through the Sahara Desert
Number of days spent on Safari = over 25
Number of bribes paid = 2
Value of Bribes = One bottle of Pepsi + one bottle of Coke
Total Value = $2 AUD
Reasons for bribes:
1) Driving without shoes in Lesotho and
2) For reduced price entry into a South African National Park at resident rates
Now to the important stuff.
Our love for nature and wildlife grew exponentially during our time in Africa. During our five months, we took tens of thousands of photos so culling it down has been difficult. but here are a few of our favourites - From days spent on safaris, to quick road side toilet breaks and everything in between. We spent most of our time scanning the environment for all creatures large and small. These fantastic birds, mammal, reptiles and insects made every day an adventure, every sunrise a potential documentary moment and every tree someones home.
They're what it's all about!
THE CREEPY AND CRAWLY:
Photos (clockwise from left): West Usambara Two-horned Chameleon, Tanzania; We had to swerve across the roads through Addo Elephant Park to avoid these endangered Dung Beetles, South Africa; Lion Spider, Uganda; the incredible iridescent Blue-Yellow Agama in Matopos National Park, Zimbabwe; this Boomslang was raiding a weaver nest for it's latest prey when it fell merely metres from a group of us watching below!
OUR FEATHERED FRIENDS:
Clockwise from top left: African Penguin at Betty's Bay on the South African Garden Route; White-backed Vulture clawing at an old carcass; we watched as this tiny Golden Palm Weaver created this nest by shredding strips of the palm leaf and weaving them into this intricate little nest, Tanzania; the beautiful Lilac Breasted Rollers were bountiful throughout Kruger National Park; White-fronted Bee eater, Kruger National Park; One of my personal favourites, the yellow-billed Hornbill always looks angry and yet playfully hops about the ground searching for food; the tell-tale sign of the Black-winged kite are it's striking red eyes.
THE BIG FIVE:
Photos from top: African Buffalo stares us down; the family relationships between African Elephants is always so evident when observing them in the wild; these fantastic lions were a pleasure to watch as they growled and bickered at one another; One of the greatest experiences of our travels was walking right up to these sleeping Rhinoceros in Matopos National Park; the elusive Leopard, finally spotted (haha) on our second last day in Africa!
THE WEIRD, WONDERFUL & GRACEFUL:
So there you have it, five of the most fantastic, mind blowing and real months of our two years of travel, summarised down to a bunch of numbers!
I hope these figures have been entertaining and give you all some idea of the incredible experience we and in Africa.
We learnt so much during our time there and I'd love to write about Africa all day, but instead hopefully one day we can share a few of our stories in person.
For a while there I wasn't sure I'd ever be writing this blog. Not because I thought anything tragic would happen to us, but because I thought we might actually never leave South East Asia! Compared to our time in South America, we took it suuuuuper slow along the old "Banana Pancake trail" weaving our way across borders and meandering down the Mekong.
We lost whole weeks chilling on islands and exploring hill tribe villages, and we ate enough delicious food to sustain a small nation! We witnessed wild elephants grazing in Thailand and trekked for hours to find the largest flower in the world, which actually turns out to be a stinky fungus.... booooo! We watched the sun set over hundreds of ancient temples in Bagan, Myanmar and woke to the sunrise over Angkor Wat in Cambodia.
So, as we depart this incredible region of the world for our next destination, here are a few facts, figures and statistics from our travels through South East Asia. I hope you enjoy it and if you have any suggestions for stats we should be keeping as we head towards Africa, please let us know in the comments!
Also, for anyone who missed our "Stats, Facts and Figures from 6 months in South America" blog, you can find it here!
Photos: (clockwise from top left) Fish Amok - Cambodia, Pork Pao - Malaysia, Spicy Seafood Salad - Thailand, Cao Lau - Vietnam, Char Kway Taow - Malaysia, Hue Style Pork Soup - Vietnam, Local breakfast goodies in Myanmar, Khao Soi - Northern Thailand
Well there you have it! We could rattle off statistics and numbers all day but we're trying to keep it interesting so like I said, if you have any you think would be a bit of fun or interesting during our time in Africa, let us know in the comments below!
In the meantime, if you missed our last stats blog, don't forget to check out our "Stats, Facts and Figures from 6 months travelling South America"!
As a child, I loved nothing more than looking through old photo albums. I would spend hours flicking through the pages, asking my parents to tell me the stories behind the pictures and all about the places they had been. I remember listening to my Mum telling me about their holiday to the island of Penang in Malaysia, and about the wonderful foods they tried, in particular my Mum's favourite, Ais Kachung.
I had created such an image of this place in my mind that I almost felt a sense of familiarity as we stepped off the ferry and into Georgetown, the main city and UNESCO listed region of Penang.
Penang has an eclectic mix of cultures, religions and cuisines that all combine to create the wonderfully diverse melting pot of Georgetown. Georgetown is renowned for its food. The combination of Malay, Thai, Chinese and Indian cuisines is a recipe for one hell of an incredible food scene!
Hawker markets and street-side stalls can be found just about everywhere in Georgetown. It is almost impossible to walk even 50 metres without being tempted by the sight or smell of some wonderful edible delicacy.
Photo: (L) There is some excellent street art around Georgetown and (R) one of the many beautiful mosques in Penang
Being the food-obsessed travellers that we are, I made it my mission to spend the week trying as many different foods as I could fit into my growing waistline. My aim was to avoid eating the same meal twice, which is ridiculously easy in theory but was made much more difficult when my first meal was the most deliciously tantalising Char Kway Tao I have ever laid lips on!
We began our stay in Georgetown by wandering the streets, exploring the area and it's rich history with the help of a tourist map given to us by our hostel. Amongst the hustle and bustle of this small city, we saw some beautiful old buildings, ornate temples and a wonderful blend of cultures in everyday life.
That night we headed to the nearest open air "Food Court" where live music plays while vendors set up stalls around hundreds of tables. After doing the rounds checking out what each stall has to offer, you order your food, quote your table number and hey presto, 5 minutes later, food appears in front of you!
Photo: The wonderfully delicious food stalls at Red Garden food court had us returning night after night to sample new dishes!
Tables were scarce so I took a risk and minded the table and told Wade to go and order for me. He knew my plan for the week and as he walked away something inside of me forced me to yell out "take a risk!". Wade hates being let down by food so he often chooses the same safe and well known favourites so asking him to "take a risk" was a risk in itself! I had no idea what he'd come back with!
When he sat back down, he looked unsure. All he wanted to do was tell me what he had ordered for me and all I wanted was a surprise when my meal showed up! Right on cue 5 minutes later 3 fresh looking dishes were set down on our table. A noodle soup for Wade, a plate of mixed veggies to share and a boat shaped dish of meat, bean sprouts and fiery hot chilli sauce for me.
I was impressed. It was a simple looking meal but had enough interesting elements that made it a new and exciting dish that I probably wouldn't have chosen for myself. We’re both still in doubt as to what type of “meat” it was and I definitely left my fair share of questionable “bits” but it was tasty enough so I just enjoyed my meal without too much thought! Thanks Wade.
Over the following days, we continued to explore Penang first by visiting the Snake Temple south of Georgetown. This temple is literally filled with deadly pit vipers on almost every surface. When we first arrived we didn’t know what to expect but after spotting one, two, three of these deadly snakes we were well and truly dumbfounded!
The temple was built in 1850 and legend has it that the snakes took up residence in the temple of their own accord! Apparently many have had their venom glands removed for safety reasons but the monks stand by their story and say that none of the snakes are collected or brought to the temple and rather have all made their own way there! Either way, it was an awesome and terrifying experience and there was more than one occasion when we almost leant on a deadly snake by accident!
Photo: There are literally deadly pit vipers EVERYWHERE in the Snake Temple!
We also spent a day trekking through Taman Negara Pulau Penang National Park chasing monkeys for that perfect photo and chilling on the stunning white sand beaches. The park is an excellent place for wildlife spotting and without even trying we managed to spot Monitor Lizards, Squirrels, Long-Tailed Macaques and the cute faced Dusky Leaf Monkeys. With all the wildlife, Wade struggled to drag me out of the park just in time for it to close for the day!
Photo: The wildlife in Taman Negara Pulau Penang is so varied and easy to spot that it makes for a great self-guided day trip from Georgetown
As our food journey continued we were more and more impressed by the variety and quality of the dining options in Georgetown. We ate Yum Cha at Prosperous Dim Sum Restaurant, Wonton Mee Goreng at Red Garden, Chee Chong Fun from a street cart and of course my Mum’s favourite, Ais Kacung sitting on plastic chairs down a small, dark alleyway!
I also sampled the famous Penang Laksa which is very different to traditional Laksa in that it is made on a spicy lemon fish broth and tastes more like a tom yum than a normal coconutty laksa.
Photo: (L) Incredible scallop dumplings at Prosperous Dim Sum and (R), this bizarre looking dish is Chee Chong Fun. It's basically a plate of rolled rice noodles doused in sweet soy sauce and sesame seeds. Absolutely delicious!
On the last day I did something I have wanted to do throughout the last 6 months of travelling. I booked myself into a half day cooking class and where better to do it! Than Penang I chose to go with "Pickles and Spices with Nazlina". The classes had great reviews, the kitchen was within walking distance of our hostel and the price (while expensive for Malaysia) was very reasonable compared to other schools.
You can read our review of Pickles and Spices Cooking Class here!
Our morning started at 7am with a breakfast of delicious Roti Canai and coffee to fuel us up before strolling through the markets learning all about the local produce, traditional cooking methods and a bit of the history of the area. We sampled some pickled fruits, which are very common in Malaysia as well as one of the most incredible taste sensations, a peanut pancake. For around 30 cents you can buy a freshly made pancake complete with crispy base and fluffy centre, all topped with sugar and chopped peanuts forming a gooey delicious layer of yum!
Photo: (L) The taste sensation that is the Peanut Pancake and (R) delightful Nazlina did a good job of pretending that my Roti Canai-flipping-skills were passable but I think the look of amusement on her face (and the huge hole!) says it all!!
After an hour scouring the markets for everything weird and wonderful, we headed back to the kitchen to start the real work. We spent three hours kneading dough, pounding spices and frying coconut to create some of the most wonderful aromas I have ever contributed to! Each time we lifted the lid on a saucepan, an incredible smell escaped tempting us to speed up our cooking so we could move onto the eating!
By lunchtime we had created the following:
- Roti Canai mixed, kneaded, flipped and fried from scratch
- Chicken korma
- Lentil Dahl
- Pickled Onions
There was easily enough food for twice as many people but we all enjoyed the foods of our labour and oohed and ahhed our way through as much delicious food as we could possibly stomach.
Photo: The delicious meals cooked and prepared by yours truly at "Pickles and Spices" cooking class in Georgetown, Penang.
Click here to be redirected to "Pickles and Spices" website where you can book classes or contact Nazlina to make an enquiry!
On our last night in Penang, we decided to try a new night market that we hadn't visited before. Unfortunately a few of the best known Penang delicacies were missing from this market so I was unable to try Fried Oyster Omelet or Fish Head curry which were both still waiting on my list. I instead opted for a Tom Yum Bee Hoon Noodle dish (I had no idea what that was either!) and continued on my mission to conquer the many foods of Penang.
After four awesome days, our time in Penang was over but I had successfully stuck to my mission and in the process tried over 20 different local dishes! I also left with some invaluable knowledge and cooking skills that will hopefully allow me to recreate this incredible fusion of cuisines again in the future.
The little town of Georgetown in Penang was not only everything we had hoped for, but so much more. My Mum’s stories lived up to every expectation and while I’m sure we left with a few extra kilos under our belts, hopefully our next destination, Langkawi will give us a chance to work some of it off!
With our South American adventure sadly coming to a close in November, we also reached our first of many milestone dates….. six months on the road! This got us thinking. We keep track of so many facts and figures during our travels that we thought it would be worth sharing some of them for anyone who's interested.
So here it is, a brief compilation of a few fun and interesting trip statistics, facts and figures from our first six months of this indefinite adventure! Enjoy!
Overall Favourite Destinations = Galapagos Islands and Easter Island (Rapa Nui)
(Click the photos below to see our complete Photo Albums from these mind-blowingly awesome destinations!)
We visited the......
Stay tuned to www.wadeandsarah.com for more Stats, Facts and Figures blogs as we continue our travels around the World!
Enthusiastic but Useless Traveler.