A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: LizDykman

Catching up on the latest 3 countries in the grand adventure

Zanzibar, India and France

My blog posts have definitely not been very frequent of late, and for that I apologize. Here's what I've been up to since my last post.

After my safari I spent another week in Tanzania on the island of Zanzibar. I explored Stone Town, went on a tour of a spice plantation and enjoyed the white sand beaches and sparkling water of the Indian Ocean. After finding the only pair of contact lenses in (approximately) my prescription that were available for love or money in Stone Town, I managed to go snorkeling as well. I also got to know some locals, drank quite a bit of beer, and learned to eat ugali.


From Dar es Salaam I flew to Delhi, India. After a day or two in Delhi, during which time I managed not to get ripped off by the tour operators despite their best efforts, I took the train to Shimla to the north. There I went on numerous walks in this mountainous region until my knees insisted that I visit the local hot springs for a soak and a massage to celebrate my birthday on June 3. On the way back to Delhi I took the narrow gauge Unesco World Heritage 'toy train' which has lovely views. It also goes through 105 tunnels and when passing through tunnels it is customary for the children on the train to scream at the top of their lungs, which was pretty fun.


Back in Delhi I met up with some other travelers and we set off to see the sites together. We toured Delhi, saw the Taj Mahal in Agra, visited a wildlife sanctuary and toured Jaipur. The first leg of the journey from Delhi to Agra was by 'local class' train, which although it wasn't quite a scene out of Slumdog Millionaire, was quite an adventure. Trains in India are really very good, with the bonus of hot samoas and other treats available from vendors at every station and masala chai for about 10¢ per cup. Two of us continued to Ajmer, Pushkar, and Udaipur and then on to Mumbai. Highlights were the Taj and Udaipur. Although it was incredibly hot (47 degrees at some points) we had very good weather.


Mumbai however was another story, where the monsoon was in full force. It was pretty soggy, but we managed to get around and see some things. Mumbai has an interesting assortment of colonial era buildings in various states of repair or decay.


On my own again I experienced what was definitely a low point of my time in India when I missed my nonrefundable flight from Mumbai to Kerala through a combination of incompetant or dishonest rickshaw and taxi drivers. I took the next flight and made it to Cochin. Kerala has a history of communist state governments, far less of a gap between rich and poor, very high literacy rates, and really good food. I toured Fort Cochin and then headed for the hills in Munnar, where I visited the gorgeous tea plantations in pretty much continuous but relatively light rain. Travel to Munnar and back to Cochin was by 5 hour local bus which careened around the corners honking to avoid collisions on the narrow winding roads with blind corners every 500 m. Even the driver was holding on to the edge of his seat with white knuckles.


I then visited Alleppey where I spent a day and a night on a houseboat in a region that is far more water than land and everyone gets around by canoe. The experience was only slightly marred by the presence of a bachelor party on the boat moored next to mine.


I flew back to Mumbai and spent one more day there before catching my red eye flight to Paris. I am now on a farm in the South of France, trading my labour for food, lodging and gorgeous views. I had my first lesson in English riding and swim in the spring-fed swimming pool daily. La belle vie!


Posted by LizDykman 11:08 Archived in India Comments (0)


Highlights of a week in the parks of Tanzania

sunny 25 °C

The following list of animals seen on safariis partial because there were also many birds, but I did not identify them all. Lion, gazelle, baboon, wildebeest, vervet monkey, giraffe, ostrich, warthog, buffalo, zebra, mongoose, hyena, leopard, ibis, crocodile, elephant, hippopotamus, vulture, blue monkey, flamingo, jackal, topi, hyrax, hartebeest, impala.

I spent six days exploring Tanzania's parks with Ezekial, my guide. We started off by visiting Ngorogoro Crater where like every safari neebie, I was excited to see the first zebra and wildebeest we passed. By the end of the safari, one becomes a bit desensitized and the animals have to be really doing something special or number in the millions to get one's attention.

Here are the highlights
- Being in the midst of a group of elephants when two bulls, one on either side of the landrover started to make menacing moves toward each other. Ezekial navigated us out of their way but seemed a little worried. I figure when someone has been working as a guide for seven years is worried, I should be too.
- Hot air balloon ride over the Serengeti at dawn. We saw lots of animals, including hippos running, which I had otherwise only seen wallowing in a pool, as they feed at night.
-Being smack dab in the middle of the Great Migration. A million wildebeest surrounded the vehicle in every direction.
-Spending time chatting and throwing spears with two young Masai warriors at a lodge on lake Manyara.
- Hearing a male lion at night about 15 meters from my canvass tent.

A really amazing experience.


Posted by LizDykman 21:42 Archived in Tanzania Comments (2)

Last post from Cameroon!

Various tidbits as I prepare for the next leg of my journey.

sunny 28 °C

My stay in Cameroon has come to an end, and this post combines some information about health and sanitation here and a bit about my volunteer work. I will definitely miss the people here, but some aspects of Douala ne vont pas me manquer!

Douala cannot be said to be a beautiful or healthy city. As I have said before, getting around is a risky business because of the traffic and frequent accidents, but also because being in the midst of traffic means breathing in the exhaust of some seriously polluting vehicles. My colleagues working on air quality in Canada would be horrified at the number of ‘black smokers’ belching out foul emissions. In addition, there is garbage everywhere. Thankfully it is collected fairly regularly, but it doesn’t make for a very visually appealing environment.

The power outages are accompanied by frequent cuts to water service as well. At the orphanage where I am living there is no running water except for very rare and brief periods, usually in the middle of the night. All of the children that are able to carry even a small container of water take daily trips to ‘the forage’, a public tap about a block and a half away. The adult women carry amazingly large containers of water at one go. The bucket I am able to carry on my head is not so impressive. The toilet is flushed with a bucket and showers consist of pouring cups of water over yourself. I have become quite adept at cleaning myself with a minimum of water but the toilet is difficult to flush without using at least half a bucket of water.

While the orphanage has a fridge and freezer, not everyone has these appliances and of course there are the frequent power outages. I was amused at the label on the mayonnaise jar which advises to keep cool if possible. This is could be general advice for food and people alike.

So far I have been very lucky and have just had a cold. I have managed to avoid the nasty bouts of diarrhea experienced by some of the other volunteers. Abby, the volunteer from Alabama spent two nights in a clinic after experiencing severe dehydration and essentially kidney failure after climbing Mount Cameroon. Ideas about health causes and effects are a bit different here. When I told someone I had a sore throat they said it must be something that I ate. Abby was told to eat oranges and get some exercise to get over her kidney failure. People tend to avoid hospitals until things are very dire.

I have been accused by some of my readers of spending all my time visiting the beaches of Cameroon and not doing any actual volunteering. I assure you that Abby and I worked very hard at Youth Business Cameroon. The small office pictured below is where I spent my days. It was luxuriously air-conditioned though the very small space was sometimes occupied by up to eight people, which made for some cozy seating arrangements. Abby and I wrote some grant proposals for the organization and I created a new bilingual website which can be found at www.youthbusinesscameroon.org.

The picture of Cameroon's countryside is the picture I will keep in my mind when thinking of this country. I leave tomorrow for a brief stopover in Nairobi before starting my safari in Tanzania. I’ll keep you posted as internet access allows!



Posted by LizDykman 01:39 Archived in Cameroon Comments (0)

Modes of Transport in Cameroon

Transport is cheap in Cameroon, and you get what you pay for!

overcast 30 °C

There are various modes of transport in Douala, all with their pros and cons, but on balance - more cons.

Taxi – In Douala there is a sort of public transit system based on shared taxis. A taxi will slow down or honk while passing people standing at the side of the street and based on the destination and price you call out, will decide whether to pick you up or not. Five people cram in with the worst situation being sharing the passenger seat with a large sweaty stranger. It is a fairly intimate arrangement and it is customary and polite to say hello to your fellow passengers. The cabs are mostly dilapidated old Toyotas with lots of dents and dings from the frequent fender benders that occur in the crazy traffic. Cab rides within the same neighbourhood are 100 CFA or about 20 cents, with longer rides being double or triple depending on distance and time of day. If for reasons of safety or comfort you want a cab to yourself you can pay 2000 francs or about $4 and the taximan will take you to your door.

The highest number of people I have personally experienced was either 7 or 8 passengers plus the driver in a 5 passenger vehicle. I am not sure of the total because I was sitting in the front and could not turn my head. The driver was reaching between the legs of the woman to my left to shift gears.

Moto - Motos are slightly more comfortable in my opinion and much faster as they weave through traffic when there are embouteillages (traffic jams). They are just a bit more expensive than taxis if you haggle a little but one also has to calculate the risk involved. Motos will get creative and take to the sidewalk, boulevard or lane of oncoming traffic to make progress. Motos are used to transport a wide variety of loads such as a family of five, fifteen foot long lumber or a full sized couch. And I don’t mean the ‘tractor’ motos pictured below, but a regular motorcycle.

Bus - Buses between local towns are reasonably comfortable and $3-7, though the last one I was in had no air conditioning and only two small operable windows in the roof. When we were stuck in traffic for an hour it turned into a sauna on wheels. Everyone was in surprisingly good spirits despite the extreme sweatiness of the situation.

Vehicles here inevitably tombent en panne (break down) but people are very resourceful. When the moto I was on in the middle of a huge palm plantation broke down the driver removed the spark plug, adjusted the gap by banging it with a wrench and we continued … though we repeated this process several times. A shared van was a less successful repair though the vehicle in question was in sadder shape with the gas tank having been replaced by a jug under the hood, and a fuel hose wrapped in old inner tubes to stop the leaks.

Some days the traffic seems a bit like a dance the way the vehicles weave in and out, but other days it just seems like a terrible noisy congested mess. I think I must be getting used to it because yesterday I ate my lunch while travelling by moto.

For all who are travelling by any mode of transport - be safe and bon voyage!


Posted by LizDykman 03:31 Archived in Cameroon Comments (1)

Cameroonian Cuisine

Is the cuisine a contributing factor to shorter lifespans in Cameroon?

rain 24 °C

First, I need to respond to questions about whether I do any actual volunteering or just take trips out of town … yes, I am working for an organization called Youth Business Cameroon that promotes and supports youth entrepreneurship. I would direct you to their website, but I am currently creating a new site for the organization, and it is not yet live.

That said, this is a post about food. I have been eating well despite the difficulties of being a vegetarian in Cameroon. At least they are familiar with the concept here. I am very fortunate that two of the other Humanity Exchange volunteers in Douala are also vegetarian so I’m not the only one! We are quite lucky at the orphanage because Maman Simone is a very good cook. The children usually eat only once per day, and I’m not sure how they manage but it seems to be the norm here. The volunteers are provided two meals per day – breakfast and supper. The other vegetarian who lives at the orphanage (Sonja) and I both eat fish to make it easier for our family. I have eaten more fish in the last six weeks than in my entire life previous to this trip. A common way to prepare fish here is poisson braisé – grilled whole. I have become quite adept at eating the whole fish without choking on any of the bones but have not (and will not) eat the head.

Other typical Cameroonian dishes I have eaten are ndole, which is a stew of African spinach, ground peanuts, onions and dried fish; batons de manioc and the smaller version called miondo; plantain prepared various ways but especially fried; and macabo, which is a tuber that is grated and then steamed in banana leaves. Escargot on skewers (very chewy), brochettes (meat skewers), and poisson braisé are commonly sold in bars.

The diet is pretty heavy on palm oil. Beignets (doughnuts) are a common street food, either sweetened, eaten with spicy baked beans, or, my favourite - made with banana in the batter. In summary, if the motos don’t kill you the saturated fat will eventually do the job.

Beer is sold in enormous bottles for about $1.50. There are several big breweries here. You can buy small plastic sachets of cheap whisky at the side of the road for about 30 cents but in nightclubs imported whisky is purchased by the bottle for around $70 per bottle.

I just paid a guy in the street 10 cents to weigh myself using the bathroom-type scale he was carrying. Who knew that such a service existed? It seems I have lost a couple of pounds but alas, I attribute this to the constant profuse sweating.

Here are some photos of the food here. Bon appétit!


Posted by LizDykman 02:19 Archived in Cameroon Comments (1)

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