12 June 2014

A taste of Africa and a slice of England

It’s almost a year since I returned to New Zealand from two years living abroad, intending to take care of some property issues then depart again – ha! As the Scottish bard said ‘The best laid schemes o’ Mice an’ Men, / Gang aft agley’, though I was much luckier than Burns’ ‘wee, sleekit, cowran, timorous beastie’, who lost his home to the plough. Instead, I sold my one-bedroom apartment and bought a studio apartment, in the same building, so downsized my home but, luckily, didn’t lose it.

The property exchange was done and dusted by the end of August so I could still have headed off quite quickly. But, by then, I was teaching business English in the afternoons with one of my previous employers, and had taken on temporary office administration work in the mornings with another. I thought I could settle down again so one of those temp jobs soon changed to full-time and permanent, something I quickly realised, for several reasons, was a big mistake. However, the six months I stayed in that job did allow me to save the money to pay for my next adventure.

On 17 June I head off for a rather extravagant 76 nights’ holiday, with 3 days in Madrid, 19 days in Morocco, 38 days in England, 2 days in Dubai, 10 days in Tanzania, 2 more days in Dubai and a couple of nights on planes. My itinerary includes 13 flights: an initial long haul from Auckland through Sydney and Dubai to Madrid, and after a short stopover there on to Casablanca; then from Marrakech to Manchester; later from London through Madrid to Dubai; a wee break there then on to Kilimanjaro via Nairobi; later the reverse journey from Kilimanjaro to Nairobi to Dubai; another very short break there, then home to Auckland via Melbourne. Phew!

Apart from the short stopovers, the trip breaks into three parts: a tour of Morocco, 5 weeks visiting friends in England, and 10 days in Tanzania.

Morocco has been on my list of places to visit for many years. My ex and I planned to go there during a 9-month trip half-way around the world way back in 1983 but didn’t quite make it – we had a couple of weeks in Tunisia, but that’s as close as we got. The idea for this part of my trip was hatched back in May 2013 when I was living in Cambodia and treated myself to a 5-day birthday break in Kuala Lumpur. My cousin Julie, who lives in Singapore, flew up for the weekend to help me celebrate and, during one of our many long conversations, we discovered a mutual fascination with Morocco. As she’s a teacher, she has her long break in June–July so the idea of a tour of Morocco in June 2014 was born. A friend of hers, Andrea, will also join us for this adventure.

To avoid the hassle of organising the trip ourselves, we’ve booked with Intrepid Travel. I haven’t travelled with them before but they have a good reputation so fingers crossed it goes well. Our tour is quite comprehensive and includes a taste of Bogart’s Casablanca, Roman ruins at Volubilis, a camel ride into the Sahara for a desert camp, a night with a Berber family, lunch in Ouarzazate (where Lawrence of Arabia was filmed), a couple of days in the pretty coastal fishing town of Essaouira, and we’ve tacked on a few extra days at the end to explore the medinas of Marrakech.

From Marrakech I fly to England to begin a series of visits with women friends, in a small village south of Manchester, in Kent, in Devon and in East Sussex. I haven’t been to any of these locations before so I’m very much looking forward to long countryside walks, visits to country houses and historic places, and spending time with each of these wonderful women, as well as having a few nights in London for some sightseeing there too.

For the last part of my trip I return to Africa, to Tanzania for a 10-day adventure with The Giving Lens, an organisation that uses the medium of photographic workshops to bring volunteers and much-needed funds to local NGOs at the same time as providing their participants with photographic training and a more genuine, less touristy travel experience. I first got to know the folks at The Giving Lens when their leader, Colby Brown, brought a team of photographers to the NGO I managed in Peru.

In Tanzania, we’ll be volunteering with an NGO that fosters the artistic development of the local children, we spend 3 days in a Masai village, and also volunteer with families struggling with AIDS. For the final 3 days we’ll be on safari in the Ngorongoro crater and the Serengeti. To see wild animals roaming free on the plains of Africa is a long-held dream of mine so I know everything about Tanzania will be sensational.

I have a new camera I need to learn how to use (a Canon 100D) and new luggage to try out (an Osprey 75L Sojourner, a hybrid backpack with wheels). I’ve had my rabies jabs (not pleasant) and bought my anti-diarrhoea meds (the traveller’s friend!). I’ve booked all my accommodation and most of my transport. And I’ve been enjoying farewell get-togethers with friends, some of whom seem to think I won’t come back … but, as the man said, I’ll be back, if only to earn the money to do it all over again or to pack up my belongings and head back overseas to live and work! Time alone will tell which of those scenarios pans out. 

In the meantime, five more sleeps …