Great Ocean Road.

Talking about Great Things, I nearly forgot to blog about the Great Ocean Road. Near Melbourne, it’s a 150 mile stretch of road to the West of Melbourne. It was built by returned soldiers and dedicated to soldiers killed in World War 1, making it the world’s largest war memorial. It’s also incredibly scenic, which is probably the main reason why people go.

There’s loads of different ways you can visit. Hire a car or a campervan, Camp along the way. Stay at hostels, B&B’s or hotels. Drive it all in one day, just stopping off every now and then, or take your time. Or take a tour. Do a google search and there’s millions of tour companies offering trips. I decided to take a two day tour with a company that my friend Moz went with about a year ago. They do the road back to front compare to a lot of tour groups, so they don’t hit all the spots at the same time as millions of other buses. Perfect for me, who’s not a huge fan of organised tours or being herded along like a sheep.

There’s not a huge amount to say about the GOR. It’s one of those things you have to do. It’s beautifully, stunningly scenic, and filled with wildlife. I saw kolas, emu’s, echidnas and roos in the wild, as well as all the funky birds in Oz (you know, the ones with the cool hairdos). If you’ve ever driven Chapman’s Peak Drive in South Africa, it reminded me of that (CPD is classed as one of the most scenic drives in the world, and I was lucky enough to do it back in 2011).

Rock formations, amazing beaches, rainforest, wildlife, the lighthouse from ‘Round the Twist’; it was all there. I think photos can show more than I can try to explain.

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Time to leave.

It’s just about time to leave Zambia, which has been my home for the last 4 weeks. On Tuesday I fly back to Johannesburg where I stay for a night before flying onwards to Delhi (via Abu Dhabi) on Wednesday.

I’ve had a blast. Of course I have. 4 weeks. 1 month. It sounds like a long time but it’s not really. It’s gone so quick. It doesn’t seem like 5 minutes since I was arriving here in the back of a pick up with 7 other newbies, all excited for our adventure, not knowing what to expect. It’s been an incredible experience. Chocked full of laughter, lions, children, culture, sun, dust, African wildlife, beer, cold showers, chocolate, waterfalls and bungee jumping.

I’ve learnt a lot; about myself and other people. About Zambia and it’s animals, people and communities. I’m so pleased I did it. So pleased I had that epiphany in that meeting at work just before Christmas. That’s when I knew I had to do something. More specifically, it was then that I knew that part of that doing something was to come to Africa to do some volunteering. I have no regrets at all. None whatsoever. I have so many new memories now that I will treasure forever. I can’t write them all down but here’s just a small selection:

  • The great English vs American pronunciation debate. It never got boring.
  • Riding around in the back of a pick up to get to places. Sometimes stood up, sometimes sat down, sometimes sat on the edge, sun and wind blasting our faces. It reminded me of being little and my Dad’s red pick up that he used to have. Not sure whether I ever sat and rode around in the back though.
  • Andrew washing his hands with toilet cleaner after Firebreak. So funny, especially when we then spent the evening waiting to see if his hands would either a) start to peel b) go red c) burn or d) fall off. Luckily, they didn’t.
  • Nino (sp?) is boy in Spanish. It also means lady bits here in Zambia in one of their local languages.
  • Jamie falling off his chair while we were playing Pictionary. Loudest noise ever.
  • Emily’s inappropriate guesses in Pictionary and her slightly disturbing competitive streak.
  • Finding out what an Eiffel Tower is. No, not the structure in Paris. The rude version.
  • Hi-fiving more times than I can remember. I’m a big fan of high-fiving, I know some people hate it but I LOVE it, it’s so much fun. And over here, the kids love it too. In.My.Element.
  • Knowing that the sun will shine every day and it won’t rain. Ok, so it’s cold in the morning but the sun is already out and by mid-morning it gets hot. Consistent weather; still a novelty. Not sure what India will be like as it’s monsoon season when I’m there so I’m enjoying it while it lasts.
  • Nights out in Livingstone; many funny or interesting things happened the two times I went out. So good to let our hair down and have some fun and check out the local nightlife. Beer pong, dancing, prostitutes, sunglasses, shots, it was all there.
  • African dancing at culture day – I had so much fun doing this, I could have done it all afternoon. Dancing their traditional dances in the sun to the African drums was just magical. I loved it.
  • Bungee jumping off the Victoria Falls Bridge. It was my second jump (the first was Bloukrans Bridge in South AFrican in 2011) and although not as terrifying or high as that one, it still got the adrenalin pumping and was such a rush. Beautiful scenery, the sun was shining and we had beers afterwards. What a way to spend a Friday.
  • There’s a line on the Vic Falls bridge where Zambia ends and Zimbabwe begins (we already had to go through border control before that though) so technically I can say I’ve been to Zimbabwe too. Although over here it’s just called Zim. Getting with the local lingo.
  • Playing games with the kids at Kids Club. These were so much fun, the kids get really excited and I got to be a kid again for a bit. Kids are so carefree and we got to enjoy that too. Real adult life can sometimes get dull, boring, serious and sensible. Lets not forget to have fun, blast away the cobwebs and laugh LOTS. We can learn a lot from children, just as they can learn from us.
  • Seeing wildlife every day. And I mean every day. Whether it’s elephants, baboons, hippos, giraffes, impala, monkeys or birds, there hasn’t been a day that’s gone by that I’ve not seen something. Not sure I’d ever get bored of it, although you do get used to seeing elephants just wander on by. Or baboons and monkeys running around. Never thought I’d be saying that.
  • Seeing the most beautiful sunrises, sunsets and stars in the night sky. African sunsets are well known, and there’s a reason for that. They’re just breathtaking. Everyone should see one, at least just once. You just can’t beat it. And the stars, out here, in the middle of the bush with no light pollution, are just amazing. We can see the Milky Way; it’s so clear. The stars shine so bright, and there’s shooting stars too. A couple of nights we just laid outside on the grass and watched the stars. Nothing else to do or see, no interruptions, just enjoying the stars. Sometimes the best things in life are free.
  • Sharing the running love; I ended up running with a couple of different people, getting them running. I hope this carries on throughout my travels.
  • Meeting and making new friends. I’ve met a lot of people out here, they’re a great bunch from all over the world; I’ve laughed lots and learnt loads. I hope we all keep in touch. And next year, when I get back home, we WILL have that UK reunion.

Part of my trip away is trying to figure out what I want to do work-wise. I don’t say career because I’ve never been particularly career minded, rather, I’ve just wanted to get jobs that I enjoy, that challenge me, and that I can do well in. I’m not particularly bothered about following a set path, or getting to the top (whatever the ‘top’ is). As long as I’m enjoying what I’m doing and it’s enabling me to live the life I want, rather than a life I have to, then I’m happy. I can say, after this trip, that there’s two jobs I can rule out. Teacher and firefighter. I’ve really enjoyed the teaching over here, it’s been a great challenge, rewarding and I’ve relished any minute of it. But, I couldn’t do it full time. It’s exhausting, frustrating and just not for me. But, it has reminded me how much I love training. I used to do a lot when I worked for the Police and I’d forgotten how much I enjoyed it. So, that’s a possibility.

And firefighter? It’s something I fleetingly thought about last year. But, after taking part in fire break where we were practically stood in the middle of a roaring fire trying to beat it out, while the thick smoke made it hard to breathe or see, I’ve ruled it out. Obviously it’s not the same at all, but now every time I smell smoke since that first week’s fire break I feel panicky. I really do think it’s scarred me a little bit, it was so horrific, and so that’s definitely one job I couldn’t do now.

Being here has opened my eyes up yet again to new cultures, communities and ways of life that are so different to mine. It’s made me appreciate the things and people I have, and reaffirmed my values and motivations in life. I’m not particularly interesting in things, I’m all about the experiences. I want to help people and make a difference. I know I can’t change the world but I hope I can make a little difference. I hope I have made a little difference while I’m here. I guess I’ll never know for sure but I gave it my best shot.

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Busy week.

It’s been a busy couple of days since I blogged last. Lots of things have happened. I ate a worm. I ran. I saw giraffes. I got sick. I helped some kids read.

On Wednesday we had a traditional meal of nshima for lunch. It’s a staple food made from  cornflour and is a bit like a sticky blob of mashed potato. It was served with some kind of stew and WORMS. Some kind of deep fried worms, they looked like something from I’m a Celebrity. I tried one; it was rank. But at least I tried it.

I ran! Although you probably know about that because I already blogged about it. It made me VERY happy.

I’ve seen loads of animals so far. Well, being in the middle of a National Park means we are surrounded by them. It’s a bit weird to be sat having a bit of lunch or breakfast and some elephants just stroll on by. Or some giraffes (which are my favourite). We went for a drive to the other lion site the other day and saw some zebras, wilderbeest, impala and more giraffes. Very cool. Oh, and of course there are the lions here.
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I’ve been to a couple of local schools now – one to do a Conservation Club and a very small rural school for Book Club where I helped some kids do some word exercises. It was very strange, not sure I’m a natural with kids but I’m giving it my best shot! It’s just like you’d see on the TV: rural African school in a rural African village. The houses for this village were mud huts, they have one well for the whole village (that dries up in the summer) and the school is very bare and the kids all running round and were grabbing me by the hand when I got there and as we were driving along they were all waving and shouting. Still very surreal.
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As an Education and Rural Community Development intern I’ll be teaching classes 3 times a week as well as doing conservation club once a week, book club once a week and a kids club on a Saturday. It’s not just me on my own – there’s another girl who’s an intern like me, and then the other volunteers are here to volunteer with the lions but they will help us out too so that’s not too bad.
The place we’re at is a lion rehabilitation and release organisation but they have a branch that does community projects so we’re all here together, and so I’ve also got to walk with the lions (it’s a part of the release program) and get involved with that which has been really cool. We also did Fire Break this week which involves setting fire to some of the bush around one of the lion enclosures at the other site and then putting it out (to avoid big fires in the dry season). It was really hard work and very hot, and probably a little bit dangerous! All part of the adventure though! Although it was really windy so quite a bit of the enclosure has got burnt which isn’t great but fire spreads so quick there wasn’t anything anyone could do. The lions were OK though, luckily.
We went into Livingstone this week too, had a wander around and got money out, that kind of thing. We came across a company called Zambeef. It amused us.
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You guys at work will be pleased to hear I have been using my Travel Tap bottle. Not so far as to be scooping water out of the Zambezi but it seems to be working so far. Although, I have got sick. But I’m pretty sure that wasn’t the bottle’s fault. No, a few of us have got sick. There seems to be a stomach/sickness bug working it’s way through the camp. It’s the poorliest I’ve been for a very long time and I spent all of yesterday in bed 😦 On the way to feeling halfway normal now though I think, although I still have really achy sore muscles and haven’t eaten in over 36 hours and haven’t really got an appetite back yet. Although I could just eat some potato wedges. We’ll see what comes for lunch. At least perhaps it’s a good reintroduction to the fasting diet. Or preparing me for India, where I’m bound to get sick again. Either way, I think it’s on it’s way out. Thank god.
I feel like I’ve been here a long time, or at least longer than a week. The UK seems a long way away at the minute, and a lot longer until I get back. I’m not sure I was quite ready to give some things up, or realised what I would have to give up.  But, c’est la vie. There will be many adventures to be had and I’ll get used to life on the road. I think I just need to learn some patience and to get used to having a year off. No work. Chill out. This will probably be easier when I start my travelling, when I have more things to do and occupy myself. Because one thing here is that there’s not that much to do when we’re not working. No places to go for walks (or runs) or to explore. I feel so lazy at the moment too.