The day we camped in Spitzkoppe and only had long drops by Mariam Harraz

It was very difficult to get out of bed today as we had to leave the hotel and get back on the road to continue our travels. We were all so exhausted and 8 hours of sleep felt like nothing at all to us. Bags packed and in the truck and right after breakfast we headed with a local township tour to see Mondesa. Mondesa is another world compared to Swakopmund although right by each other and only separated by a few KM’s, it highlights different ethnic groups in Namibia. 

We first stopped at a school where we met the Herero ladies. The Herero tribe are one of the biggest tribes in Namibia, are cattle herding who rate each other by the number of cattle each one owns. The women are said to be married only with their uncle’s approval, and a man could have up to 4 wives, if the man wishes to marry another women, the first wife decides on who he is allowed to marry and who he isn’t. He can only marry with her approval of the second wife. The Herero ladies traditional clothes are inspired by Germans a constant reminder of their history and that they are indeed the powerful ones now. They are to wear it from the moment they are married. Their hats are representing the horns of the cattle which is important to their tribe. They wear it in all seasons even when its over 40 degrees. 

Later on after learning more about the Herero ladies, we then sang to the kids who sang back to us, it was really sweet.

We continued on to meet women who are said to be doctors because of all their herbs they collect that cure them from different diseases, there was one herb for everything you can imagine. We saw on our way how people cook their fish, which is left seasoned outside for days to dry up in the heat before they could eat it.

It’s a real eye opener to see how it’s like, I avoided taking many pictures of the kids although they enjoy it because for me there’s a bigger picture and it almost felt like what people always do when they see dark skinned kids in rough areas.

Our second last stop was trying these black bugs *vomit* along with a local drink, I refused to even think about trying one, I'm scared of these things how am I going to eat them. Beth was hilarious and gave it a go and regretted it later. Wouter had two of them!! Apparently Namibians eat them quiet a bit.

The last and best part was these beautiful people singing to us, no instruments of course just them and their beautiful voices and it was so good listening to them. Before they started singing Lion king to us they told mentioned we would know this song and to sing along so when they started singing, Andres and few others started singing and ruining the song so I had to tell them to stop which came haunting me back for the rest of the trip: “they told us to join in and you made us stop.”

Basically because of their voices ruining it, no offence to my amazing friends! 

We got back to the lodge and hopped on the truck to make our way to Spitzkoppe. One of the most fascinating campsites we stayed at. Spitzkoppe is group of granite peaks and is about 1700metres above ground. It is said to be about 150 million years old. Also it was in David Attenborough’s ‘Africa’ series which makes it even more special! It was the first time there would be no showers and when we got there I wasn't surprised. We set up camps and me and jaz set up right by Wouter, Jo and Lynsey under one of the few trees available. For some reason I decided that today was the day to catch up with my water intake considering how hot it’s been and how little water I drink. Unfortunately I decided that before we saw the toilets or shall I say long drops at our campsite. They were horrible. No one believed me except Lynsey but there were bumble bees flying up your bum while you were doing your business and the place wasn't even properly covered, there was obviously no door on it but not only that people can see a bit of you when they're coming towards it. 

Bless Anna, a very kindhearted Austrian nurse who took care of everyone’s injuries or when they were ill, she took it upon herself to clean the seat and wiped it with tons of antibacterial hand gel and we still refused to sit on it. It stunk so bad, and considering how small my bladder is, I visited it more than 10 times. 

That was the day that Fabulous Fabby decided to take her mattress out of her tent and under a tree and start reading to cool off, such a brilliant idea that none of us wanted to follow just so we don't get dirt on our mattresses, so we squashed on hers. We had a game of monopoly where we cursed each other the whole time because of how stressful it was, Andres made fun of me for never winning a game (which was slightly true) and right before sunset a game of cricket. Lulu loves cricket and she was probably the only person who could throw a ball. Chris and Andres had a competition of course of who can hit the ball most, chris won.

Dinner was great and right after we all gathered around to sing our national anthems, all the British girls had no clue what it was after the first line..

 

The day we did nada by Mariam Harraz

Literally not much to report other than a nice brunch at an English breakfast place and a walk around town before heading to bed for about 5 hours and waking up, panicking that I could no longer get cake anymore because all the bakeries and coffee shops have closed by now. We had dinner at a restaurant where not many people were happy with their food then headed back for an early night sleep. Best day ever.

 

The day I jumped off a plane by Mariam Harraz

Yesterday night was so magical, I woke up to the stars and beside people I really enjoy being around and it just felt like it was going to be an extraordinary day, considering we were finally going to have wifi and beds! The day started of really well with not having to take the tents down or pack our bags, we had breakfast and off on the road again.

It was Colleens birthday today so there was lots planned. Lulu had organised to surprise her with a sky dive. Yes we were going sky diving, it was an optional activity which 12 of us had planned to do, Lulu told the company to tell Colleen there wasn’t enough space for her to sky dive so she could surprise her. She also organised cake at the sky dive place and drinks. 

I had organised a text for my family of all the things I have been up to this week, and was just so excited to press ‘send’. On our way to Swakompund we stopped at Tropic of Capricorn. Tropic of Capricorn is one of the places in the whole world where the sun is directly overhead, it’s the southernmost latitude. It was pretty cool, but then we also stopped over at the worlds largest open Uranium mine, also the most natural radioactive places in the world. Now that was cool. We carried on driving and when we got closer to Swakompund we were greeted with the 10 most amazing driving minutes of my life, the salt pan. It was the smoothest road I have ever been on but also quiet scary because it could be very slippery, and the truck needed to be cleaned from underneath because the salt ruins it. We stopped at the Atlantic ocean which was a nice change of scenery and saw all the pink flamingos. 

When we were getting back on the truck Beth didn’t realise Bob was opened and fell into it, bruising her knee pretty badly. I was mostly worried because I wanted Beth to be around for sky diving but clearly nothing was going to stop her. So many inappropriate jokes were made about that later. We finally got to Swako and stopped first to book our activities and get cash out/ exchange. This took us forever but I was more keen on getting to the pharmacy on time to get my Malaria tablets, ya I got the wrong ones before I left to Africa, the ones that give you nightmares and anxiety.

This story of what happened in the pharmacy stuck with me for the rest of the trip and was even recorded on one of the most popular campsites we stayed at. Here it goes - I went into the pharmacy to buy some malaria tablets and after I was given them I was directed to a cashier, the lady says to me while serving me “I like the colour of your scarf” I will quickly mention here that Namibians are one of the most friendliest people I've ever met. Carrying on, being completely out of it and slightly confused I reply back saying “I like the colour of your skin too” she looks at me confused and says “What?” in a shocked tone then says “I said I like the colour of your scarf.” She was dark skinned. Me being awkward and slightly embarrassed I smiled and said “oh I still really like the colour of your skin.” 

Ya I think that combined with my mosquito net allowed everyone figure out my personality. We got to Amanpuri lodge and because we were staying in two dorms we had to rush to get the best spots, oh and it was the first time we can do washing so bags half open we were all running to get into the best spot. When I came in the Dennis’ realised I was wearing a scarf and was going to have to sleep with it on if I was with everyone else so they were about to leave the dorm room when I came in but I told them there was no need because me and two other girls took the smaller room to have our privacy which I really respected them for. 

After settling in we all spent a while on the wifi before we were told to sign papers and pay for skydiving, I didn’t want to tell my parents so I told my sister and brother which I got two very different responses from. After that we spent a while on wifi before heading off. It was Beth, Andres, Anna, Woulter, Hannah, Jo, The Dennis’, Ulli, Sybille, Lynsey, Collen, Lulu and me. We went in two separate cars and the moment we got to the place it was just such an amazing vibe, Andres, Anna and Beth are ready to go so we wish them luck and all our hearts are racing. 

We were all so pumped and every time someone went into the plane we cheered them on and every time they were coming down we all waited in a line to high-five them, good music was playing, the sun was out, the weather was so much cooler because we were by the ocean, it was all just so much fun. I’ve wanted to skydive for years now, I always try and save up but can never afford it and I wanted it to be somewhere beautiful, it was my turn and as I was putting on the suit my instructor mentioned to take my scarf off, so I replied saying there’s noway that’s going to happen, all the instructors were convinced that it was going to fly off, so I went outside to my group because I was worried and it was one of those moments were I really appreciated having people I’ve only met 5 days ago be so kind and understanding, they stopped what they were doing and tried to figure out a plan of how to keep it on. Finally it was my turn and as I got on I was pumped but the plane ride was sooo extremely long, my instructor who’s skydive name is ‘Jackass’ (yes it really is) kept making sure I was ok because of how quiet I was, but it was a combination of being tired and sitting in a weird cramped position. Lynsey dived off first and I just couldn't stop laughing, we had instructions on how were supposed to have our legs positioned, chest and head, and she just said ‘fuck’ right before she jumped haha. 

Suddenly it was my turn and I had to keep reminding myself the position, I wasn’t scared till the moment I had my legs underneath the plane and looked down, it was literally a fuck it all moment when we jumped, the best most exhilarating thing ever, we’re free falling for 3 minutes which at one point I think 'right we're going to be tomato paste in a few minutes' but then he pulls the parachute open and it takes us back up. At that point you can talk to your instructor normally and it was one of the most peaceful places ever, so high up with nothing surrounding you and amazing views. Seconds later my instructor jackass decides to do all these crazy turns with me and before I knew it we were back down again. Best 13 minutes of my life, literally.

We then had cake and sang happy birthday to Colleen, took some group pictures and it was time to head back and get ready for dinner. The ride back to town was hilarious we raced with a stranger and cheered him on every time he came next to our car. Back at Amanpuri we had about an hour to get ready for dinner and celebrating Colleen’s birthday, the sky divers joined us later which was hilarious because they kept cheering me on about managing to keep my scarf on. It was all in all such an amazing and special night, our true selves came out and we all bonded so well. 

At one point I was physically exhausted and it was time to head back and so I headed back with the Dennis’ and had a funny conversation. I’ve never truly appreciated a bed as much as I did that day, I had such an amazing sleep.  

The day we climbed Dune 45, went to Deadvlei and slept under the stars by Mariam Harraz

Today our day started a bit earlier than normal, we woke up at 4:30am to pack up and head out deep into the Namib desert. The plan was to get there before sunrise and climb dune 45, barefoot because it’s easier. Colleen mentioned it takes 10 minutes to walk up the dune, so we headed there prepared with fully charged camera’s, my go pro on my head, camera on my neck, and silly me forgot to get a bottle of water. Thankfully it was quiet cold when we got there but we got the timing all wrong and had about 20-30minutes to sunrise, so colleen rushed us to head up quickly, we decided to run up the dune, I've never seen anything as pure as it, it glittered and felt so nice on our feet. Before I knew it I was the last one from my group going up, everyone except Anna rushed by, she realised how much I was struggling, it was so bloody difficult and we made the mistake of running up rather than taking it slow. My Go Pro video consists of 30 minutes of me breathing loudly, looking down and saying “I can’t do it anymore” and stopping to take a break while a few old people walk by (not being agist just saying they're healthier than I am.) The dune was about 90 metres high and theres a foot path at the side to go all the way up, every time you think you’ve reached the highest point you find out there’s still more.

I can’t describe the sunrise, if you’ve seen pictures or read articles on why it’s amazing to photograph and see the Namib desert it’s probably because it is 100% true, none of it is exaggerated. I didn't reach the top when the sun was rising but from my point I could still see while the sun was rising the different shadows and colours it creates with the sand from red to orange, I know I say this word a lot but it is truly incredible or let’s say magnificent. 

We are told that only 4% of the desert is sand dunes, which is amazing considering how much we saw of it, anyway without a doubt that has to be on your bucket list, at the top it’s just absolute serenity and considering how amazing my group was it was so nice spending sometime there with them overlooking the desert. 

Eventually we had to come down and that actually took 10 minutes but only because we stopped for photographs. Breakfast was put out for us so after eating we were now heading deeper than ever into the dunes, we got in the truck and because of Augustus’ weight he can only take us to a certain point and then we have to get 4x4 land cruisers. By that time it was only 9am and it was already 40 degrees and being in the desert it was even hotter than normal. The sand was way too hot for us to walk barefoot so our hiking boots were back on and you can imagine how it feels, the intense heat combined with boots and backpacks. As we were walking Colleen spotted out spiders and trees that open up once every few years. Apparently the bushmen in the desert have to leave the youngest and oldest when they have no food or water and they don't look back, they leave them and just keep walking, the reason is they can always have a baby and if they found food or water they can come back from them. 

We walked up and down small sand dunes and small salt panels until we can see Big Daddy, yup that’s the actual name of the biggest sand dune in Namib Desert, it’s about 300metres high, then there was a dune which is shaped like a lizard, and then Big mama. All these names made me crack up, but then there was Deadvlei it’s the most place photographed by National Geographic and I am not surprised. 

Dead Vlei is a clay pan which is surrounded by Big Daddy and mama, they are considered the highest dunes in the world. It was formed after rainfall when the river flooded creating shallow pools, Namib desert has seen drought for years and the sand dunes slowly moved towards the pan which didn't allow water from the river to flow through. The trees have been there for almost 900 years!! Yes holy shit, they are completely dried out. They are quiet haunting but really cool.

I honestly don't think any picture of mine does it justice but I will still share these to encourage people to go there despite how sweaty it gets ha. I met two girls from London chilling on the trees which we were specifically told not to do because of how old they are but they looked so cool and they were from my area in London. It felt like a bit of home was there for a second.

Afterwards we met up with the rest of the group to get back on the 4x4’s, we kind of pushed in which backfired and got us waiting another hour and a half or two to get back to the truck, not a proud moment but it was all quiet funny. After everyone was on Augustus we hit the road again to get to our campsite.

On the way we stopped at a small town called Solitaire, this bit is hilarious, the population of this town is only 92, Colleen told us they have the best brownies and Apple pies ever and considering we haven't had desert in a while we all couldn't wait to treat ourselves. I thank god I went to the loo because when I came back I found out that Jo and Beth have already bought a brownie and it was literally as hard as rock haha. Also this bakery has a picture of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie when they came to visit the bakery, as their daughter Shiloh is from Namibia. After our hilarious stop and hard rock disappointing brownies we got back on to drive to our campsite.

This is a campsite that for the first few hours I was wondering why we were there, the heat was so unbareable and we were all so tired that us girls spent ages in the truck rather then sitting in the heat outside, we just lay down there joking about the silliest of things but it was just so funny because of our condition. The campsite was literally in the middle of nowhere so it can only pump in 500 litres everyday, and considering there are 24 of us who want to shower we had to be really careful about when we choose to shower and when showering. 

This is the one night Colleen said we would be able to sleep outside, under the stars, even though there was a water whole next to us where Zebras would come to drink and fight, it was still safe. Lulu made her mums recipe of Kudu steak, I am so picky with my meats, I hate trying anything new I just feel disgusted but today I didn't have a choice, she made me try a piece when everyone was away and I have to admit it was super tasty. It was the first time I have properly spoken to Beth, she asked me lots of questions about my religion and I knew this was coming sooner or later but it didn't feel weird or uncomfortable, it felt like she actually wanted to learn and was very understanding of it. It was really nice but I have to admit slightly awkward, just because I am awkward at times. When everyone got back we had a really nice dinner, Colleen briefed us on tomorrows events driving up to Swakopmund a town in Namibia which was founded by Germans before, she mentioned we will see a lot of German architecture and possibly a lot of Germans, I then said in a sarcastic tone (not meaning it) “Yay more Germans” everyone cracked up, only a joke because of all the Germans on our trip, and I have no hate for them, I was born there. 

After dinner and a yummy desert we lined up 20 mattresses side by side, I made sure I was sleeping in the middle because I didn't want anything to climb on top of me although insects and animals don’t really have a route. I laid out my sleeping bag and put my mosquito head net, which then really made everyone crack up they couldn't believe I was actually sleeping with it and because of my fear of insects I wasn’t going to risk anything touching me while I am sleeping, it was enough I decided to not put a tent up haha. We all got in our sleeping bags and watched the shooting stars and the sky. There was not one bit that wasn't filled with stars it was the most magical thing ever, I couldn't sleep for ages because I just wanted to keep on watching it. 

 

The day we went to Sesriem Canyon and saw our first mountain zebra's by Mariam Harraz

Today we drove towards the Namib desert, a long and bumpy ride until we got to our campsite. On our way there we stopped over to see the Sesriem Canyon, a smaller canyon which has been carved by the river which used to have a river flow through.It was boiling hot today, the hottest it’s been so far and here’s me thinking we’re only going to look at the canyon from on top and leave, but we went down into the canyon as you're allowed and they have carved steps there to allow people to walk in and out. I have never sweated in my life as much as I have today. It sounds disgusting but that’s why our shower later was so bloody beautiful! 

Sesriem means six belts as when people had to get water they had to attach six belts together to reach the bottom of the canyon to get water. The river has dried up because of the heat and lack of rainfall in the area. It was incredible to go down there and walk around, I have such a balance problem and walking down there was so funny because I kept thinking I am about to fall and I was more worried about my camera then I was about myself. Colleen found a snake for us and we took a really sweaty group picture which I wonder who it is with at the moment. 

Collen and lulu amaze me, they aren’t just tour guides they don't take their job for granted and take the easy way out, every time there’s an opportunity to see something they stop and this was one of the times. As we were driving we made a stop on the highway and were told to get off and we walked to a massive tree which is a social weavers nest, it’s one of the biggest Colleen says she’s seen, it was incredible watching the weavers make their nest just so many of them bringing stiff grass to make this, they go one for ages. They are the largest nests made by birds and can last for ages, until the weight becomes extremely heavy that the tree cannot hold itself up anymore. 

Carrying on to our campsite we spotted zebras for the first time, they are mountain zebras which are only found in three countries in Africa and there aren't many of them left so it was very special and of course seeing one in the desert was just.. no words for it.

We made our first toilet stop that had no toilets today, of course I refused to go down waiting till we get to proper toilets. I am just so worried something bites me and also I have never really done it before, weird I know. Someone calls it bushy bushy and we all giggle at the new name for going to the loo in the out and open.

When we finally reached our campsite it was one of the most beautiful ones, we were literally camping in the middle of nowhere in the desert, the showers and loos were quiet far and we were warned about walking into an Orxy horns at night because they're very sharp. The shower blocks were just new and were perfect seeing as we had sweated so much and all felt so disgusting, a fresh pair of clothes have never felt better. The sunset was a typical African sunset those that you see in movies and pictures. Later after dinner and a briefing about tomorrow’s plan we put up a massive fire and planned on playing mafia. 

 

The day we swam with snakes and jumping fish and hiked the fish river canyon by Mariam Harraz

My body clock has woken me up at 5am, I am getting used to it already but decide to sleep a bit longer while I can. By the time I get up at 6:30am Jasmine has already gone swimming in the river, showered, changed and writing her diary. 

We're not having breakfast today, just brunch right before we head off to our next campsite and to see the Fish river canyon, so Jo, Anders, Wouter, Ulli and I decide to go swimming in the river and cross to South Africa again (they didn't do it yesterday, I mostly just wanted a swim.) I have the most embarrassing go pro video of that swim which I do not want to share haha! But the moment we were about to go in we saw a massive snake in the water and for some reason we continued to challenge ourselves to cross over. I hate things touching me so I instantly panicked but carried on. Now let me describe Anders to you, he's this quiet big guy who's been travelling a few months with his girlfriend he seems annoying in the beginning but actually has a kind heart who enjoys meeting new people and going crazy, he looks very different to how he's like. Everything he says just makes me laugh, he speaks english well but his accent is funny and the way he describes things to you is hilarious, he’s basically a child inside a big body.

This is the first time I actually speak to him when we are swimming and I am not that good of a swimmer, I panic because the current is strong and you need to be strong enough to push away from that current and reach the other side. A minute or two later all of us are laughing and slightly worried about all the things that are touching our feet we decide to continue. They’re all pretty great swimmers and quiet fast, Anders realises I'm slowly panicking in the back not being to catch my breathe so he stops and decides to pull me when i couldn't touch the ground. I finally run out of breathe and say 'guys I'm going back I did this yesterday' and Anders almost turns back with me but is convinced by the others to carry on. I swim and turn back by myself only to be attacked by jumping fish and weird things I can't see touch my feet, I’ve never swam faster out a river then I did that time.

After having a swim, I spent some time writing my diary and before we knew it it was time to pack up, have brunch and head back on the road again. Today we’re heading to Hobus a campsite by the Fish river canyon, we had our last bit of tarmac road before hitting dirt road for a few weeks. You can imagine how bumpy the ride was, on our way into the campsite Colleen tells us that some old people took the area she likes to camp in so Jake says jokingly ‘It’s ok they're old we can take them down’ but we’re all secretly holding a grudge against them. We put our camps up and have a bit of a break before we head for our first hike! It was incredible, Lulu was driving what felt like it was quiet fast towards the edge of the Canyon and all our faces went pale thinking we were driving off and at the last minute she made a quick turn and stopped. We first make two stops at the Fish river canyon to take some photo’s and we take our first group one. 

We are dropped off at a point and we’re shown were to meet Colleen and Lulu and told to get there before sunset, some of us are really worried about time so start making their way, whereas a few of us take our time to hike it and of course I was one of those people wanting to take my time and take good photo’s.

It’s boiling hot, and at times i feel like I'm about to faint, it takes us over an hour to get there and when we do we are greeted with cheese and wine (juice for me) for sunset, Colleen and Lulu set it up at the finishing point which also has an amazing view of the canyon and a really nice long table where we have all the cheese we can right before the sun sets. It was so beautiful and we were all in such high spirits. We got evils from everyone who reached that point and was greeted by the tour guide with no food or drinks haha.

Of course Anders took up a challenge of being the first group that Colleen and Lulu had to finish 10 litres of wine before sunset, so he constantly went around topping up everyones drinks and before we knew it everyone was slightly tipsy before sunset. It was so serene and peaceful watching the sun set in such a magnificent place.

On our way back to our campsite Denis and Denis decided to run back to the campsite, they want to try and stay fit while on holiday and so we cheer them on when we drop them off about 10 or 20km from the camp.

The ride back was hilarious, I think it was at that point that I realised how well we all get on and even though everyone had a few glasses of wine we were genuinely happy to be together. We kept making videos of us cheering for absolutely no reason until we got back into the campsite we realised the old people were all sitting together and not talking so someone suggested we should cheer so much and act like we’re having the most amazing time to annoy them, mean I know but it was still hilarious. 

Dinner was nice and then we went off to bed,  we were warned about all the baboons at the campsite and to be careful if we were to go to the loo at night. 

 

#TIA - This is Africa 

The day I questioned why am I still here. It's only day 2.. by Mariam Harraz

I am not mentally prepared for this, I have prepared for insects and animals attacking me but not 5:30am starts. I wake up feeling sick again and almost frozen to death from last night. I take a quick shower but it doesn’t seem like anyone else woke up to get ready, is it not normal to get up and shower before you start your day? I feel like I need to be sick again so I spend ages in the bathroom thinking what did I just sign up for?

Jasmine and Hannah, help take the tent down because I’m too ill, the rule is wake up, get ready, put the bags in the truck, have breakfast, clean up and pack everything into the truck and leave. 7am is our leaving time and today we’re crossing over to Namibia, our first border crossing. I manage to nap a bit and feel a lot better. The landscape has changed from South Africa’s greenery to Namibia's desert and rocks. The moment we reach Namibia’s border and get out of the truck you feel the temperature difference hit you hard, woooooh it’s hot!! 

We’re given border papers to fill out and I realise it asks my occupation, do I write recent graduate but travelling for a while? What do I say that would seem less pathetic? I get to the passport control and the lady shouts lady “What is your occupation?” I quietly mumble “unemployed” “What?” she screams back. I say it louder “I’m unemployed” the whole group hears and just bursts out into laughter, it’s not in a bad way most of us are unemployed but it’s the first time we ever have to write it and get questioned about it. 

We drive about 30km from the border post to the campsite which is right beside the Orange river. The Orange river separates Namibia from South Africa and our campsite is just incredible! We have to put the tents up again and I list the many reasons I decided to camp to get me through it. Once they're up everyone is doing different things we’re told to meet at 5pm for a game of flunky ball and then dinner. A few people decide to go swimming in the river, “lets be immigrants guys” I hear from someone. I contemplate putting on my full body swimming suit I bought specially for this trip, it’s embarrassing and almost too tight to do it’s job (I ordered it from a Malaysian website and the size was 3 times smaller then me but I had to do with it.) 

The thing is it’s mentally challenging to encourage yourself to swim in a river when you hate fish and generally sea life, when you’re scared of swimming and when you look like shit in your swimming suit. I force myself to do it anyway ‘Mariam you’re pushing boundaries, get in your swimming suit’ Hats off to my inner voice telling me to do stuff like this. I get into my swimming suit and run from my tent to the river trying not to get anyone’s attention. Jasmine and Anna are there and we decide to swim to South Africa, the water is beautiful but just annoyingly rocky.

A quick shower and we’re ready to play a game of flunky ball, we’re put into two teams and there’s a bottle in the middle half filled with water and everyone has a drink in their hand. I obviously don't drink so I grab a can of sprite and think how hard could it be? Harder than drinking a beer apparently. The aim is that your team finishes the drink as fast as they can when the ball is hit, everyone has a go at throwing the ball and when the bottle topples over we all drink until someone from the other team puts it back right. Let me also point out if you finish your drink you leave your team you can no longer throw the ball. We’re 15minutes into the game and there’s only me and sybil left, neither of us can throw a ball and neither of us can finish a can of sprite/beer. Eventually we win and laugh about how it took me longer to finish a can of sprite to a can of beer. woopps.

Fabby, Jasmine and I head out to walk around and take some photo’s at sunset, there are mountains from a distance and the beauty and peacefulness of it all just makes me appreciate being here. I suddenly realise the difficulties of waking up early, packing/unpacking a tent and dealing with all sorts of insects is well worth it when I get to travel and experience all this craziness even when I’m sick.

Grilled chicken is for dinner, I go for a second round making up for missing food the day before (who said I was going to loose weight in Africa?) I am still so shy of everyone and picking a seat is somewhat difficult, we are briefed for the next day and after dinner, some of us are playing games and some of us are chatting. I get into a deep conversation about the Syrian war and the refugees with a few of the Germans, they tell me that they understand Islam isn't ISIS and they are proud that their government has taken on refugees but it is taking a toll on their city. I appreciate hearing it from a different perspective, and just a few weeks before I was on this trip I was protesting with thousands of others for the UK to allow more refugees in. 

Conversations like these with people from all over the world is one of the reasons travelling opens up your mind.

The day we met Augustus, travelled for 5 hours and set up a tent by Mariam Harraz

Up at 6am to have breakfast and hit the roads, we were warned that this is the only time we would be waking up at 7am and we're lucky! 

Bags need to be in the truck at 6:45 latest and done by breakfast by 7:30, me and Jasmine struggle with closing our bags it almost feels like I wasn't the one who packed it. It's slightly weird but fun sharing a room with someone you only just met a few hours ago. When the struggle is over we head out to meet Augustus, our truck that will be driving us through 7 countries and carrying all the goodies. He is HUGE like I didn't expect to be in an overland truck that big, but then again I didn't expect anything but just not that. 

We have breakfast with two boys named Dennis and Dennis, I know, they even have the same job! And we hop into Augustus we alternate seats everyday, the first day we sit by the table in the front, little does everyone know, it's really not fun sitting where the tables are. You are squashed for 5 hours of driving.

We stop for a few minutes on the way to our first campsite at the beach, this is the last time we see the sea for a while. The Atlantic Ocean, it's cold but beautiful.

Our first stop is 5 hours away we head to the Highlanders Vineyard which is run by Sparky, his wife and their two sons. The scenery was incredible on our way, just miles and miles of untouched landscape and when you look out the two windows facing where we are driving to it's just never ending. 5 hours later we are told to hold on as we leave tarmac road for a few minutes to get to where the campsite is. 

For the first time, we are taught how to set up our tents and boy are these things heavy, it takes us time to get it right, thank goodness we are camping on grass for the first and last time apparently. I find it weird I am the only one wearing my hiking boots in this heat, I am not really into walking bare foot on the grass but the least I can do is put on some flip flops and I have to admit it feels so much cooler.  After lunch a few of us decide to go on a hike, midday when it's boiling hot and I totally regret that decision later. On a better note the showers are absolutely beautiful, there's a sort of window but with no glass while showering that has the most amazing view of the mountains and scenery it's incredible, I even end up showering twice just to feel better and have that view. We were briefed the day before about being sick on holiday it's bound to happen I just didn't think it would be that soon, I am jealous when dinner is served I can't eat much. Colleen and Lulu our tour guide and driver set up a fire for us as the temperatures drop and give us a briefing of what is going to happen the next day. You guessed it 5am starts from tomorrow! After dinner we get closer to the fire and have marshmallows we now have to say something funny or weird about ourselves so we can break the ice a bit! 

I panic over what to say, everyones stories are hilarious and very personal and when it comes to me I panic a little and say "Hi my name is Mariam, I hate camping, I hate the heat, I hate insects and to be honest I am terrified of animals, but here I am in Africa for 60 days." I am slightly embarrassed but I hear people burst into laughter which is always good news. Frankly that line couldn't be more me. After talking for a while Anna runs up to us and says "Andres wants to beat the world drinking challenge at this campsite and he needs your help to encourage him, lets go to the bar and help!" 

I'm too unwell to move, I look up to the sky and realise this is the first time I see this many stars, what have I been missing out on! I head for my first night in the tent in my sleeping that was meant to keep me warm in 0 degrees which I can point out it doesn't keep me warm in 10 haha.