Africa Favorite Tips by DAO Top 5 Page for this destination
Africa Favorites: 200 reviews and 351 photos
I met Haile Gebrselassie! He is one of the greatest long distance runners in history, This amazing man has set 27 World Records! At the age of 35 he managed to record the fastest Marathon in the Berlin Marathon - beating his own World Record of course. He has also won 2 Olympic Gold Medals (different games) and 4 World Championships. He is also a very nice man and he even signed my Ethiopia Guidebook (last photo). And no, he did not drink the champagne he opened. He drinks milk and has to maintain a very good diet to keep turning in amazing performances. It was a real please to meet the most famous Ethiopian in the world and a real champion.
LARRY THE LEMUR
When my guide told me at we were going to a place called ‘Lemur Island’ after a whole day trying to view different species of Lemurs several miles off at the top of trees - I was not excited. It wasn’t until we arrived that I realised I would not only see the Lemurs close up – I would get to feed them! Yes, we had bananas and these little guys went nuts. They climbed on posts, trees and anything they could – especially me! This was a chance to not only see these little guys, but also to really interact with them.
AHMED MAKING A MAGICAL KEBAB
I arrived in Algiers on a warm night and was greeted by the van driver form my hotel. He began the drive to Ain Taya, a suburb of Algiers blessed with miles of beaches. As we made the final left turn for the 3 blocks to my hotel, I saw a gentleman grilling kebabs in the middle of the street. After a long day, that looked like a good quick snack option before bed and I thought ‘I will throw the bags in the hotel and walk back up the hill’.
We went a few meters past and parked at the hotel. I duly checked in and threw my bags in the room. Then I marched back up the hill, still in my work clothes from London, and said hello to the man grilling the kebabs.
That’s when I realised that the grill in the street was nearby a large speed boat on a trailer. And in between in the shadows were 5-6 men over various descriptions. Ahmed introduced himself and asked if I spoke Spanish. No, I didn’t and not a huge amount of French either. Never mind, he began to joke with me and his friends joined in. “The German!” he shouted at a (sparsely) blonde haired man. Ahmed was telling me that Algeria was a crossroads of cultures over the millennia. “The Greek!” he shouted at an olive complexted friend. Then mobile calls were made in Arabic. And 2 English speakers arrived.
Rafik was a muscled bodyguard specialising in protecting oil workers in places like Nigeria. Karim was married and lived in London for 14 years until the good weather called him home to Algeria. They interpreted for Ahmed who, more than being a kebab man in the street, also sometimes worked in Spain on unspecified contracts.
The conversation turned to ‘Why have you come to Algeria – a job?’ to a bit of disbelief that an American would come here for a vacation. They were so please and amazed that I had, as a tourist, come out of my hotel and sat in the street with them and was making new friends.
At one point they pulled a man of about 30 around the corner of the nearby boat and, holding him from seeming to pull away, pointed at him and said ‘Do you see this man?’. I said from about 8 meters away ‘yes’. ‘He was a rebel. He has never seen an American.’
I was suddenly very awake. I was looking at a man sworn by his faith and a religious law to kill me on sight. And he was looking at me.
He never came near and disappeared quickly. He was the only man never to greet me and shake my hand in all the time I was in Algeria. Nor smile.
As soon as he was gone, I asked if he just might be going home to get a weapon. ‘No. He handed in his gun with the other rebels when the peace agreement was signed’. It still made for a few moments of reflective thought.
So back to my kebab that was now ready!
Ahmed made sure it was just right and it was delicious. And only about $1.
After several hours of conversation I said my thank yous, goodbyes and goodnights.
The next day, something magical started to happen.
It seemed at every corner was one of the guys I had met.
And every car ‘DAO! Get in!’
Yes, for the next 3 days I could not walk anywhere. And oddly everyone I met sitting in the street – on the road or in the dirt – had a car in daylight.
Then the 3rd day.
I had gone to a ‘4 star’ hotel to use the free pool overlooking the beach. Afterwards I sat in the grass of their restaurant garden for a late lunch. As I finished I saw a man acrobatically riding his speedy Yamaha Waverider jet ski nearer and near to the hotel landing just past a tall locked metal gate below.
As I videoed and photographed the choreography of the jet ski and its driver I kept thinking something was familiar here. As the man came nearer I though ‘he looks familiar’. Finally he pulled up to the hotel and shouted at the hotel staff member he knew on the other side of the hotel.
Then it clicked!
“Ahmed!” I shouted. He looked over and said “Americaine!”. And motioned me down.
So I actually handed over my rucksack with all of my money to a hotel I wasn’t staying at and climbed over a high locked fence and gate. And handed Ahmed my boots to put inside the Waverider and hoped on the back.
Off we went!
2 hours of jumping waves and out to see some of the small rocky outcrops in the sea.
It turns our Ahmed owned the pizza restaurant opposite his grill in the road and that he ran tours for a business he owned. And his friends? The middle class backbone of the town with good hearts, nice cars and a new friend.
So next time you see a guy in the street making food – you might want to make a new friend.
Favorite thing: When I arrived in Windhoek, Nambia by car I travelled from Botswana on paved roads. I bought this map, the only road map of - and in - Namibia. A few miles outside of Windhoek the ‘road’ ended and I began to travel on dirt, rocks, gravel, sand, and salt for the 800 miles. This map was a life saver. I fuelled up in places only on the map when I could see no road signs. That’s not the cool bit.
I took the map home to England. Then member ‘Travelchili’ from Estonia needed to borrow it to plan. So I posted it to Estonia and she took it back to Namibia! Wait! Member ‘grlmopz’ from California, USA needed the map. It was sent from Estonia to the USA and arrived just a few days before he went to Namibia. So the map returns home again! Then it went back to the USA and now it is with me back in England.
This map really gets around!
Anyone going to Namibia?
Favorite thing: Now this is a Braai! While I was staying at the Thakadu Bush Camp in Ghanzi Botswana, Chris the owner shot a Kudu. Then the staff prepared the largest animal I have ever seen on a spit. It took all day and into the evening with a huge open fire, but the result was magnificent. The meal was served with different accompanying dishes, but meat was the centrepiece. Because there was so much meat, it was all you could eat! At one point I found myself with a huge knife cutting off hunks of tender fillet meat from the centre while it was still over the fire. A few mouthfuls of that and an ice cold Castle Lager – absolute Heaven!
Favorite thing: Within minutes of arriving in Botswana I was confronted with this terrifying huge man-eating monster. Scared me to death! Then a South Africa guy behind me said “Shongololo” and braved death to pick it up and put it outside. Actually this is just a very gentle African giant millipede. Absolutely harmelss and kind of cuddly once you get over their size. Shongololo comes from the Zulu and Xhosa word ‘ukushonga’ which means 'to roll up'. Please don’t step on them! Just pick them up genty and place them out of the way.
NOW I AM JABULANI
When I travelled across South Africa I was ‘adopted’ by 2 fantastic families who shared their home and food with me and made me feel like a family member. I also received a great honour – I was given my African name. This is done when local people get a chance to know you and like you. My name? My name is JABULANI. It is a Zulu word that means happiness. I love my African name. Every time I have the opportunity to travel to this fantastic continent I feel at home.
(There is even a charity called Jabulani ).
Favorite thing: I found this fantastic sign in Kang, Botswana at the main fuel point. How many times has someone driven past you in a car with music suicidally loud? The worst part being that it always seems to be really bad music played by complete idiots who just look stupid. Why do they feel the need to PROVE how stupid they are? Well, not here mister! Turn it down and roll up the car windows!
Every town in the world should have this sign.
Favorite thing: I came across this colourful and interesting scene in the Entoto Mountains above Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Emperor Menelik II founded a large church up here before going on to create the capital of Addis Ababa. It’s a very important church for Orthodox Christians and the priests hold large ceremonial processions here and in Addis itself. The priest (draped in yellow) is trying to choose a ceremonial umbrella that is to his liking. He is assisted by another member of the church. I watch the priest try just about every umbrella over several hours. When I left he was still out there trying umbrellas!
Favorite thing: How do you stop an Elephant from charging? Take away its credit card. OK. That’s an old joke and the 3-ton Mother Elephant pictured did not have a sense of humour. So what happened? I had just picked up 2 hitchhikers on the Botswana Border on my way to Victoria Falls. The guys spotted these 2 elephants and suggested I stop and take some pictures. The mother and baby where happily strolling away from me. I stopped to adjust me camera when I heard my 2 passengers shout “RUN” at the same time. That was enough for me! I ran back to my still running car and sped off laughing with my guests. Luckily for me there were a few trees to slow down what could have been a good trampling. Now that would not have been fun.
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