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Socotra Day Two

27th October 2010
I was up at ten to five which was perfect as the sun rose 15 minutes later over the ocean. I’d taken my pen and pad down to the beach and wrote a few pages before the sun got too hot and I returned for breakfast.

Sunset over Omag Beach

Cheese, honey, jam and bread. Yemeni honey is as sweet and delicious as its reputation

Camel and crab tracks

Soon we were packed up and on our way eastward along the southern coast to Dagob Cave, a huge cave in the cliff in which a family lives and raises sheep. Apart from the overpowering stench of guano, it seemed very agreeable. And their noses probably packed up generations ago.

Medicinal plants on the coastal plain

Cave from a distance

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Socotra Day One

26th October 2010

It’s early morning on my first full day in Socotra and I’m sitting on the crest of a sand dune watching the waves roll in on a long sandy beach.

Sunrise at Omag Beach, Socotra, Yemen

Sandstone and limestone cliffs like those throughout the Middle East run behind the beach into the horizon. Unlike those other cliffs, these are alive with life from the recent rains.

More Sunrise at Omag Beach, Socotra, Yemen

That’s the scene set, now for the journey. The flight from Sana’a was uneventful. Passed over the terraced mountain farms where qat and occasionally food is grown.
Then down across the Arabian Sea until Socotra came into view. the first sight is of the cloud-shrouded mountains, then the coastal plain.
I caught sight of what looked like a huge lagoon behind an enclosing sand bar. Ameer, who we’ll meet soon, tells me we’ll be visiting there later.
Banking steeply, we descend heading back towards the sea and land at the charmingly ramshackle Socotra International Airport.
It’s at the airport that I meet Ameer, my Socotri guide for the coming days, and wait by an amusing baggage carousel which is actually just a conveyor belt. If you don’t get your bag in time it is unceremoniously dumped in a pile on the floor.
Bag secured, we head out to the carpark and meet Salim the driver and all get into a flash newish Landcruiser which is to be my base for the trip. Ibn Battuta I ain’t.
We immediately start up into the hills behind the airport and onto the plateau above. It isn’t long before I spot my first Dragon’s Blood Tree, lifting it’s umbrella like canopy above the scrub.

Dragon's Blood Tree above wadi Dirhur, Socotra, Yemen

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Sana’a, pearl of the Middle East

or so my tour guide tells me. It is a pretty special city and I’m sitting here stuffing my face with mezza, samboush and an exquisitely marinated mixed grill of goat and chicken, while uploading today’s photos. Another lazy gallery

Contrary to expectations, internet here is fine so at least the beginning and end of my Yemen stay will see me well connected.

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One last shot from Cape Maclear

left around on the camera. Sunset with Thumbi and Mumbo Islands in the background. I had such a good time in Cape Maclear. Sorry to Zaneil and Pa and all the others I didn’t manage to catch up with but it didn’t seem in keeping with the spirit of the Cape to spend all my time running around like a mad thing. And I’ll be back a lot sooner next time, possibly dragging a few more with me.

Thanks to all the old friends and also to all the new friends I made at the festival and at the Cape. You made my disorganised return to Malawi an absolute delight.

Cape Maclear sunset with Thumbi and Mumbo islands

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Off to Yemen tonight

No pictures today sorry, Last night I flew up to Cairo from Lilongwe via Nairobia (Kenya), Addis Ababa (Ethiopia) and Khartoum (Sudan). Tonight I fly to Dubai via Doha and tomorrow morning I fly to Sana’a in Yemen where I’ll be until early November before flying home via NZ. I have no idea about the state of internet in Yemen, but I imagine it’s not great, particularly from Socotra.

Never fear though, I’ll be taking lots of photos and will scribble a few notes while I’m there so in a week or so there should be something more up here.

I’m glad I got all that camping in while in Malawi as it will stand me in good stead for all the camping on remote beaches I’ll be doing next week. It’s going to be hard returning home after all this adventure but it will be good to see everyone again.

See you from the other side…

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More Cape Maclear pictures

from my wanderings over the last few days, not much description this time, and again some of it may only be of interest to those who have lived here. There are some pretty pictures of fish though.

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Cape Maclear photos for old hands

This post is for those of you who have been to Cape Maclear before and is a bunch of photos I took to show how things have changed, particularly at Fat Monkeys. I will be taking more of these kinds of photos to show you how much the Cape has changed and it has changed a lot. First Fat Monkeys
The old bar has changed shape
They have a couple of boats
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Lake of Stars Festival – Nkopola Lodge, Malawi

I spent my afternoon in Lilongwe sorting out a sim card and buying a towel, stopping at Ali Baba’s for a kebab before falling asleep on my hotel bed at about 5pm. Something about the four flights that morning I guess. I woke up and packed my stuff then headed out to get the bus to Nkopola. It was laid on for all the timid first-time in Malawi festival goers but I opted for the luxury over the local bus.
A lot of the punters were having trouble adapting to Malawi time and were getting particularly frustrated with not getting a straight answer on how long it would take to get down to the lake. I did lots of quiet chuckling to myself when I heard “But you said it was an hour away two hours ago”. After stopping at Sun ‘n’ Sand and Boadzulu on the way, we finally made it to Nkopola about 9 at night and I threw on my pack and trudged the 2km down the beach to the campsite. There weren’t many people there so I pitched my tent down towards the beach. Time spent practising putting up the tent came in handy and I was impressed with how it looked in the morning.

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Wadi Rum – Lawrence of Arabia country

After a quiet night spent watching bad action movies in my hotel (shout out to the Edom Hotel in Petra, a great budget hotel) I set out again the next morning for my second day in Jordan at Wadi Rum and Aqaba. First stop was back up the hill for a scenic shot looking down at the beginning of the Petra Suq.
then back in the car for the drive to Wadi Rum where I swapped the air-conditioned Landcruiser for a covered pickup for the drive out into the Wadi. Leaving the town behind we quickly found the desert.
The Wadi is huge and I only had time to explore a small section. It’s a stark but beautiful lanscape of sanstone cliffs rising high above the wadi floor.
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Nabatean Monkey Men of Petra

The day is done and the beers are in so it’s time for an update from my few days in Dahab and Jordan. At Mayfair the evening after the pyramid jaunt I ran into Ahmed who I met last year. He showed me some of Cairo’s more interesting nightlife last year so I returned the favour by booking my Dahab travel through his fledgling agency.

So the next night I flew to Sharm el Sheikh on the Sinai Coast and was picked up by Hassan, the insanely grinning qat-chewing taxi driver for the 80km drive up the coast to Dahab. Apart from giving a cat a bit of a scare the drive was uneventful and swift and within an hour I was happily sleeping in my room in Dahab. And apart from occasionally shifting from my bed to the piles of cushions by the Red Sea, that’s where I stayed for the next day.

Thoroughly rested, I set out at 4 the next morning to catch the bus to Taba to catch the ferry to Aqaba in Jordan. Border formalities out of the way I got on the bus to Petra. On the way we passed many Bedouin settlements. While they mostly have a couple of pickups hanging around, each camp had a healthy herd of camels grazing nearby.

We stopped at a fancy hotel for lunch, after which I wandered outside to check the scenery and the hotel’s “Bedouin Camp” outside.

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