Sun, Safari & Serundeng
A spicy travel account by Anders and Marianne Lennqvist

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Red Sea under the surface

The alarm clock is ringing and we are suddenly awake. We stay in Na'ama Bay, not far from Sharm-el Sheikh and have chosen one of the many diving centres here. On the way out to today's dive site a school of dolphins appear in front of the boat. Their presence awake great excitement among the divers and we watch how they play in the water around the boat until suddenly they are gone. When we have anchored at the mooring everybody is eager to get into the water. With all the equipment adjusted, we can jump in and after a final check we go down.

Under the surface everything is different. The contrast between the scorched desert and this underwater world is tremendous. First we encounter George, a large napoleon fish who usually hangs around here. This huge, slow fellow follows us lazily at a distance. He wathes us with curious eyes and looks like he asks for something to eat. To the right, a coral pillar reaches almost up to the surface. It is inhabitated by soft and hard corals in the colours of the rainbow. Next to the pillar a large school of red reef perch have gathered. It is hundreds of small fish swarming so intensly they almost make the water simmer. Below them, a smaller school of little black and white fish.

We look for a moment in the cavities of the reef and finally find a morray eel. She or maybe he, stares at us from it's hideout. We are not intimidated, we only hover around to watch it and at the same time enjoy just being alive here and now. The feeling of total weightlessness, the salty water in the face and the silence is overwhelming. No needless talking can disturb the feeling and the only sound is the rhythmic noice from the regulator. A string of air pearls rise to the surface in the crystal clear water. Back on the boat captain Mohammed and his assistant already have our lunch ready.

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Safari in Masai Mara, Kenya

The following morning we get up very early. When the safari truck leaves the camp, the air is almost chilly. This is the best time of the day to watch the animals, since they are still active because the heat hasn't yet forced them back into the shadow.

We are surrounded by an outstandingly beautiful landscape. Vast green undulating plains, acacias spreading their tops towards the sky, giant cactae, mellowing mountains in the background and entire herds of zebra, buffalo and wildebeest. This is the first time we are on a safari and we are stunned by what we see. Slowly we pass a few giraffes peacefully munching acacia. They turn their heads surprised, looking as though they wonder what we want. When we have been standing for a while watching an elephant herd, the leading matriarch seems to have had enough and decides to charge the car. We have a very wise driver who quickly reverses: he knows that an angry elephant can easily demolish a safari car.

Now the heat is coming and on the way out of the park we stop by a large pride of lions dozing in the shadow. It is about twenty animals including cubs. The young roll around in the grass, someone bites his mother in the tail and is seriously scolded. We stand by the animals for a long time, watching them with respect and admiration.

During the afternoon we suddenly see that several safari vehicles have gathered in one spot. Afterwards we get time to reflect about what happened: someone had caught sight of a cheetah behind a bush, and more than ten safari cars quickly surrounded the place where the poor shy animal tried to hide. A cheetah can only hunt during daylight and this one probably had to starve because we all deprived it of peace and quiet.

 


Trekking in the north of Thailand

From Bangkok we take the night bus to Chiang Mai in the north of Thailand. We have decided to join a trekking tour in the Golden Triangle, something that has been popular amongst travellers for a long time. The track up to the starting point is slippery and very narrow and it is already a bit cooler. We are six persons on this trip and together we will go the four-day walk with Mr Singh as a guide. He belongs to the Karen tribe who actively fight for independence.

After walking a while, we come to a coffee plant in the middle of the forest. Here an extra guide is waiting for us to lead the way to the Lisu village where we will spend the first night. We pass rice paddies on the steep slopes. It is late in the afternoon when we discern the village in a small valley below. Entering the village we are welcomed by children, chicken and young pigs. The children offer small bracelets to us. We go for a walk in the village, have a look at the school built by the government. Way back in the history, the main crop in this area has been opium. Through education, the government hopes to put focus on other things, for example cultivation of rice. People now return from the day's work in the fields. An old woman gives us her best "betel smile". Chewing betel-nut is very popular here. Apart from giving the user a light intoxication it causes an intensive red colour to teeth and lips.

We return to the house and the food cooked by Mr Singh. Today it's midsummer's eve and we celebrate by eating his very tasty vegetable soup with rice, sitting on low wooden stumps around a very low table. The floor of the house is trampled earth, has no electric light and we spend the night on top of a low bambu structure. The family sleep in another corner of the room on a similar bed. During the night, fierce dog fights rage outside the hut. Cocks call all night and pungent smoke penetrates through the thin bambu walls.


The wilds in " The red Centre", Australia

The next morning we head for Leigh Creek to ask the police about the condition of the roads further north. The officer is due back at three o'clock, but on the door he has attached a message telling that our road should be passable without problems. In Lyndhurst, where the asphalt surface ends, we ask in a petrol station and have the answer that our road should be OK. Now, we have 500 km of gravel road on the "Oodnadatta Track" ahead of us, and it is a challenge to carry it through with our two-wheel drive. Stored in the car, we have filled a 25 litres can of petrol, a spare fan belt and a few extra water cans.

Mile after mile, we pass through the arid landscape. The soil is reddish-brown and there are hardly any trees, only small bushes here and there. In fact, there is nothing to look at, yet we feel something suggestive and magic in the emptiness. Even the few people we meet on the road are different. You wave and feel acquainted with everybody. We drive towards Maree without meeting one single person. There is plenty of time to twist and turn the name and make us a picture of what the place can look like. Antiklimax when we arrive to find out that the village only consists of a few houses, a petrol station and a pub. Sometimes there are warning signs that the road crosses a creek, a dry river-bed. Each of them having it's own name that gives us a hint of the lives of those who built the road. We drive through "Breakfast time Creek", "Disappointment Creek" and "No name Creek".

A tractor tyre by the road with an oil drum in the middle serves as a mailbox for one of the inhabitants of the desert. We guess that the substantial size is handy when the postman delivers his mail. All of a sudden, we find a wooden sign telling about a camp nearby. We pitch the tent and stay by the fire until the night falls, sipping on some wine from Barossa Valley.


Papua Nya Guinea, a piece of the Stone Age

This night, we have stayed in Noah Vaskum's hut in the village of Kimbangua. Noah awakes us when lighting his kerosene burner to heat the rice left over from yesterday. After breakfast, we are eager to have a first look at the village in daylight. It is early, but most of the adults have already left to work in their small plantations in the jungle surrounding the village. All there is left is burning coal in the fireplaces, a few old woment and some small children. Most of the huts in this village are made of bambu with a roof of palm leaves.

In the Maprik area there are many beautiful Haus Tambaran, holy houses with very special architecture. They are a model for the house of parliament in the capital Port Moresby. Noah takes us to the Haus Tambaran of Kimbangua so that we can closely admire the paintings and the carvings. Along the path we meet people on the way to and from their gardens. Everybody is cheering and many of them want to shake our hands. An old man, dressed in just a loin-cloth comes towards us. He has his spears on his shoulder and when we ask to take his picture he uses pidgin english and the language of signs to say that he, who is so big and brave is a better guard for us than little Noah. Before the photo can be taken, we gently have to take away the plastic thongs he holds in his hand, saying "nogat bilong PNG" "these don't belong to Papua New Guinea".

A new Haus Tambaran is being built in another part of the village. Outside, a group of men are knitting long chains of bambu that will be used for decoration when the building has got it's roof of palm leaves and is ready. We take the path back to Maprik where we must try to find a truck to Pagwi in order to get out on the Sepic river. It happens from time to time that people are robbed when walking on the path without an escort. Along the way, we meet a lot of people who all stop to talk to our host.