Raphael Kessler

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South East Asia 1999

  1. Vietnam - February 1999
  2. Thailand - April 1999
  3. Malaysia and Singapore - May 1999
  4. Indonesia - June 1999
Africa to home, the long way
- Africa
  1. South Africa
  2. Namibia and Botswana
  3. Zimbabwe, Zambia, Malawi, Tanzania and Kenya
  4. Uganda
  5. Ethiopia
  6. Egypt
- Middle East and Balkans
  1. Jordan, Syria, Lebanon and Turkey
  2. Balkans
  3. Turkey
  4. Iran
- Asia
  1. Pakistan
  2. China
  3. Tibet
  4. Nepal
  5. India 1
  6. India 2
  7. India 3
  8. Sri Lanka
  9. Bangladesh
  10. Myanmar
  11. Thailand
  12. Cambodia
  13. Laos
  14. China, Macao and Hong Kong
  15. Mongolia
- North America and Caribbean
  Caribbean, USA, Mexico and Canada
- Scandinavia and Eastern Europe
  1. Russia
  2. Sweden
  3. Baltics
  4. Poland and Czech Republic
South America 2002
  1. Brazil
  2. Argentina
  3. Chile and Easter Island
Central America and Mexico 2002
  1. Panama
  2. Costa Rica
  3. Nicaragua
  4. Honduras
  5. El Salvador
  6. Guatemala
  7. Belize
  8. Mexico
South America 2003-4
  1. Trinidad and Tobago
  2. Guyana, Suriname and French Guiana
  3. Venezuela
  4. Colombia
  5. Ecuador and The Galapagos Islands
  6. Peru
  7. Bolivia
  8. Argentina
  9. Uruguay and Paraguay
  10. Bolivia 2
  11. Peru 2
Specific Pacific
  1. California to Fiji+ French Polynesia & Cook Islands
  2. Samoa, Niue and American Samoa
  3. Tonga and New Zealand
  4. Australia 1
  5. Australia 2

Namibia and Botswana


Well greetings from Swakopmund, Namibia. To bring you up on the events of the past ten days please read below. After e-mailing you last Wednesday I went up table mountain as I said I would it was quite an odd experience as a number of the delegates from the parliament of world religions were also there at the time, ranging from Greek orthodox priests to Shinto monks to druids, swamis, Hare Krishnas, native American shamans, various sorts and obviously an assortment of complete nutters. It made the experience rather different. There were spectacular clouds over the top (the table cloth) that added to the dramatic sunset.

The following day I did the cultural thing, went to the national gallery and national museum and wandered about a bit. Then in the afternoon a few of us went down to Kirstenbosch (the botanical gardens) where the Dalai Llama was making an appearance at the opening of the Festival of World Sacred Music. I managed to blag my way into the press enclosure and was only a few feet from the big man himself, it was very cool, he was both funny and poignant. He managed to imply that the queen mum has been around a lot, at which point everyone cracked up, he asked his interpreter what he'd said and ended up giggling like a little girl for a couple of minutes.

The following day I went down to the beach with an Irish girl who worked at the hostel I was staying in, got accosted by time share reps and had a good laugh making out we were a couple that had been together for years, so that we could get a gift. Ended up with vouchers to stay in a decent hotel in Cape Town for a long weekend gave them to Emma as she's going to be there for another couple of months.

On Saturday I left Cape Town on the truck. The group is made of 3 Swiss (Martin, Franziska, Thomas), 3 Kiwis (Fern, Maureen, Michelle), 3 Brits (Wayne, Ivan and me) 1 Canadian (Sue), 1 German (Susan), 1 Swede (Nina) and the driver / project leader Richard another Brit. On the first day we essentially just drove North past nothing spectacular. The following day we crossed into Namibia and stayed at a place on the Orange River for a couple of nights, Kayaked about 20kms saw a beautiful fish eagle and other bits and bobs and saw stunning scenery. Also managed to have a few beers which helped settle the group a bit and get people chatting more.

Tuesday we went onto Fish River Canyon, the second largest canyon in the world, very nice beautiful sunset etc. Then onto Luderitz in the centre of the forbidden diamond area (Speergebeit), We had a wander around Kolmanskoppe a ghost town with very atmospheric buildings filled with sand etc. Then since then Wayne and I cooked dinner for everyone, it wasn't that bad actually, had funny scorpion (black body, yellow legs) in my tent. Went to Duwisib where a nutty German built a castle in the middle of nowhere just before the first world war, then went to fight and died. Yesterday we were in the middle of the Namib desert, surrounded by huge red sand dunes. Apparently some of the biggest in the world. On top of Sossesvlei (a particularly big one) we buried some of the girls then had a water and sand fight. It's strange that sand can find orifices you didn't previously know existed. Anyway it was all good fun.

We've also seen springbok, oryx, pelicans, flamingos, ostriches, beautifully stunning scenery. Changing from mountains, ravines, sand, pastureland and just endless savannah.


Just to keep you posted as this will probably be the last opportunity for e-mail before Maun in Botswana (New years time). It has been rather nice here in Swakopmund - Namibia's second city with a population of a staggering twenty thousand. Talk about overcrowded.

Anyway, got my laundry done which was a good thing as we were all starting to smell a bit. The launderette covers just about all vices. There is a bar, casino, pool hall, brothel, ice and firewood shop. So if your hot you can cool down, if your cold you can warm up, you can go get drunk lose all your money and your dignity and at least when they get the shirt off your back they can clean it. There should be more of these things around.

Anyway, whilst doing washing myself Ivan and Wayne started drinking which was a good thing as the pool table we were playing on was L shaped, with seven pockets. Very odd but somehow addictive, especially if you're a bit paralytic. The whole group then went out for a nice meal, it was Fern's birthday so a good excuse for a piss up (some of us were already warmed up). To cut a long story short, the group slowly dwindled as we went from bar to bar and then onto a club when only half a dozen were left. Richard the driver made a complete tit of himself (elephant impressions and the like(if you don't know don't ask) and we eventually rolled back to our tents at four. This morning just wandered around town a bit, then Nina and myself did a tour of the local brewery, it was free and so was the beer, as good an incentive as any I reckon. It was also a good opportunity to meet one of the locals at least a bit. Anyway, I'm off shortly to resume the drinking at a place called the lighthouse, appropriately enough next to the lighthouse, apparently a good spot for a sundowner or forty-six.


Since Swakopmund we went north to Cape Cross on the Atlantic coast where there were literally tens of thousands of seals, what's more it was the end of the pupping season so there were thousands of tiny baby seals, really cute (no I haven't got any shipped home for pets). It was amazing to see these things for as far as the eye could see. Only drawback was the decomposing placentas on the beach didn't half stink. From there we headed north to Twyfelfontein where there are rock paintings and carvings the bushmen did thousands of years ago, to be honest most four year olds could draw better than these folk but at least they tried and it was interesting none-the-less. From there we went to the petrified forest, (not a bunch of trees standing around scared) fossilised trees and that lying all over the shop.

We continued to head north to Etosha Nat. Park. At the watering hole on the first night a white rhino turned up at about 11p.m. incredible, as these are on the endangered species list. Saw a whole load of jackals and the like various birds and heard lions. The following day on the game drive we saw Gemsbok, Wildebeest, Springbok, Impala, Giraffes and zebras. We were then incredibly lucky and saw two cheetahs just chilling out, very rare to see as they are very shy and solitary. We then saw a couple of hyenas tearing apart a wildebeest carcass and using vultures to do some of the work, incredible. The following day (Chrimbo) we went on another drive and saw the usual bits and half a dozen lions chilling out at a water hole which was good. That afternoon I was well and truly knackered as after lunch a few of us played football for four hours with a bunch of other folk. Then played volleyball for two hours. Too much exercise. We had a really nice dinner barbecued Gemsbok and steaks etc. From Etosha we went onto Grootfontein, just as a stopover before going through the Caprivi strip to Botswana. It was quite funny as Wayne was stung by a scorpion and to stop the stinging told to stick an onion on the sting. Wayne seems to be a walking disaster area (nice guy though), as a result there is a new phrase within the group, when things go wrong, "they've gone a bit Wayne".

As you may be aware (It has been in the press) Sam Nujoma the Namibian premier (and a bit of a plonker) decided to allow the Angolans to fight the Unita rebels in Namibia a bit, some tourists and Namibians were killed basically because this idiot thought he'd invite a bit of a war. Anyway we went through the strip in one go, not stopping where we were going to, saw army activity and were even buzzed by an airforce plane flying at treetop height. Still, we lived to tell the tale.

After getting to Botswana we chilled the first day then went to the Tsodillo hills, really little mountains. More rock paintings including the unforgettable "dancing penises". Tsodillo is the last outpost of the pure San tribesfolk, but they were hiding.

On to Maun and the Okavango Delta - the worlds only inland delta (it disappears into the Kalahari. It was also New Years / Millenium eve, enough said on that apart from merry new year everybods and it was nice that amidst the fireworks going on all around us just after midnight a great shooting star crossed the clear, starry night sky.
The Okavango Delta (sometimes known amongst us as the okywongy, okichongy or hokey pokey delta) was really something special. We went to the campsite via Mokoro (dug out canoe) and saw really beautiful birdlife. Susanne thought she saw a snake, Ivan and I went to investigate and returned with a freshly shed black mamba skin, all eight foot. Scorpions invaded as did flying scarabs, we were getting to real Africa.

The following day we trekked four hours - seeing en route - zebras, giraffes, warthogs, impala, baboons, lechwe, rhebok, tsesebe, wildebeest, dead buffalo, fish eagles, and kingfishers. We then came across a hyena and Mothogela (James), the leader / guide was working things out in his head, found a bit of lion fur, and then just said "there must be a dead lion". We went around a little hillock and found quite a fresh lions carcass with vultures pecking away at it. They buggered off when we walked over. Mothogela was able to work out, like a detective, exactly what had happened. He said told us which bush the lion would have sprung from to attack a buffalo. The buffalo realised and managed to stop it with its huge horns and kill it, the hyena then came to eat it, leaving some for the vultures. It was all very surreal standing over this once powerful freshly dead thing. Mothogela managed to pull some of the claws off, one of which he gave me. The head had gone with the hyenas. It made the whole experience much more genuine. We were essentially very vulnerable, just walking around this area with all sorts of things that could so easily kill us if they wanted.

Journeys end was a lagoon with about twenty hippos in great big buggers and good fun to watch. We then headed back through the midday sun, the same way we came. Great stuff but bloody exhausting. The following day we got the mokoros back to the picking up point. It pissed down all morning but we survived. That afternoon I almost trod on a great chameleon crossing the path by the swimming pool, we just stared at each other. I just looked, he did the funny eye thing they can do and lightened his skin from green to yellow, crap camouflage for a red brick path. From there we went to Nata, just a stopover Ivan and I were watching the top 40 of the 70s on VH1 when we noticed Wayne had been missing for a couple of hours, nobody else was particularly concerned despite the fact that he was a bit disaster prone and it was getting dark. To cut a long story short, he turned up at 10.30 after having gone into town to make a phone call, not realising how far it was it took a lot longer to get there and back, to add to the problems he had a bit of a dodgy stomach and he ended up shitting his pants, after that several people offered him lifts but he declined for obvious reasons. It was all very amusing and typical Wayne. I ended up drinking the night away with an interesting Sith Ifrican, another late one. Next stop was Chobe N.P. did a boat trip and saw hippos, elephants, crocodiles, waterbuck, various birds including more bloody fish eagles. It was nice at first but these things seem to be as common as pigeons back home. Back at the camp there were Iguanas, nice little squirrels, mongeese, warthogs, vervet monkeys, Jakma babbons and hippos running around. By this point I was not doing so well on sightings of the big 5. To clarify the big 5 are: Lion, Leopard, Elephant, Rhino and Buffalo. Yes, buffalo. It might not seem right but that's the way it is. At this point I had seen Lion, Elephants and a Rhino. I decided that a dead buffalo didn't count. The next day we went on a game drive with a really nice guy called Reggie and his huge fast Sarmel (south african army truck). Saw more lions, birds, hippos, lizards, impala, and even a lioness with a couple of cubs walking around - so cute. There were also huge numbers of elephants including tiny, tiny babies.

In the afternoon we had Reggie take us around the park again, saw more lions, Puku (very endangered), elephants, hippos and he found some buffalo for us. Great four down one to go. Then the heavens opened so we went to this really nice lodge / hotel for a coffee (it was where liz taylor and Dicky Burton went for a honeymoon). We then asked Reggie to find us some leopards to complete the set. It was really bucketing and there was no canopy, we saw elephants rolling around in the mud having a ball, but then the bull elephant decided that we were a bit close as the was a tiny calf. He did a mock charge and was about to do a real one when we drove off. As dusk fell we were lucky enough to see Kudu, Sable and owls, a dead snake and then reggie suddenly swung the truck for the lights to point in the bushes where there was a leopard, it was dark but you could see the thing moving. It looked straight at us and stopped with the light glaring from its eyes. Very cool indeed. Now I have the whole set. And a couple of cheetahs to spare, marvellous. Botswana is so much better for game than Namibia, Namibia is more of a zoo, Botswana is much rawer.

This brings us to yesterday when we drove to Zimbabwe and Victoria falls, been doing not a lot since arriving, will be going on a flight over the falls and to see more game in the morning and then the falls later on. An early night tonight I think as last night was a bit late and I was pretty ratted again. Oh well.



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