Category Archives: Africa

TRAVEL APPS 2016 IDEAS FOR TRAVELLERS

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Having just come from a long break, I would like to share with you the different apps I used during our trip in Tanzania and Cape Town. My hardware consists of an Iphone 6S+ with 9.3.2 iOS version. I also had with me, which I left in my room, my Macbook Pro to which I uploaded my photos and videos daily. And finally, I had a battery bank charger and a car phone charger to make sure I never ran out of juice during the trip. So here are my apps:

1. Day One [http://dayoneapp.com]

Day One is journal app that allows you to write down your thoughts and upload the photos you have taken while on the road. Its GPS is based on Foursquare locations so you generally can capture the name of the place you’ve just been from the dropdown menu. Because it is GPS-based, one can relate the thoughts you’ve written down to the place where you’ve been.

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Location is just one. Day One also takes note of the weather, as well as any tag you have created and assigned to the event or photo. Then from the journaled entries, you can share the entry to any of the social media or simply email your entry to friends and family. The new version 2.0 allows one, among others, to create different journals for your different activities.

I don’t really write journals on a regular basis. Travel does give me a chance to do so. And Day One is a great app to have.

2. TripAdvisor (www.tripadvisor.com/apps)

I contribute regularly to TripAdvisor. So it was not a surprise for me to use the app of TripAdvisor to look for interesting restaurants and even to get directions. What is handy in this app is the Travel Timeline. Here, for as long as you are connected to the internet, the app captures the pictures taken as well as the names of your location. Very likely you take pictures of the restaurants you are in; so the app suggests the name of the restaurant. Then if you want to upload a picture or review the restaurant (or the site), then the app checks you in into the restaurant.

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3. Motion-X GPS (gps.motionx.com)

This is a great app to record the tracks to the places where you have been. It records not only the track, but also the waypoints of your trip. You can always name and even place a photo of your waypoints. This is good to trace back your route of your travel. I used this, for example, in tracking our sunset cruise, our wine tour, and our trip to the Cape of Good Hope. I missed tracking our safari tracks because it took quite a while for me to download the app.

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The app tells you the speed, elevation, elapsed time, and even your heart rate if you have a heart monitor paired with your smartphone. You can share your track “live” by having the app email your position to friends and family in case you just want to let them know where you are.

4. Waze (www.waze.com)

Waze is known to many and can indeed very useful. It’s not useful though in a safari where traffic is not an issue. And where known tracks or roads have not yet been populated by Waze users. It is, however, very useful for travelling in urban centers and in estimating distances and travel times.

5. FlightTrack/FlightBoard (www.mobiata.com/apps/flighttrack)

To get information on your flight, generally airports have their own apps and the information board is as accurate as you need it to be. However if you are like me who wants to have information on the palm of your hand, then FlightTrack is for you. There is a free version and there’s a paid app.

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FlightTrack allows you to search for flights according to routes, flight numbers, or by airline. It tells you whether an incoming or outgoing flight is on time or delayed. The downside here is that for minor airports, this information is generally not available.

Of course the other regular apps that I use FaceBook, LinkedIn, and other “built-in” apps of the iPhone. And the best feature of the iPhone 6S+ for me is the camera with the metadata that comes with the photo. I cannot complain about the quality of the photos taken, They are stunningly clear.

The Cape of Good Hope

I will have more on apps in another post. Before I go, one more thing – I am always connected to the the internet. I use Globe’s roaming service which, at P599/day is not cheap. However, because of the value of getting directions, posting photos immediately to FaceBook, or immediately exchanging posts with friends and family, I deem the cost reasonable.

Yet again, we did not have this 20 years ago…

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MIMOSA PUDICA AND JEALOUS HUSBANDS OF ZANZIBAR

The spice tour was really something else today. I had thought this was going to be some boring lecture about Zanzibar’s spices and agricultural products and then capped by some touristic trap at the end of the session.

I was wrong. Our guide, Momu, was a perfect host making us feel welcomed in their small village (a sitio within their barangay) where 4 families were sharing a communal farm.

But first, the mimosa pudica or “makahiya” story. I love this plant as this was the first plant whose scientific name I learned. I was so proud of that moment that I never forgot the scientific name of our “makahiya.”

How is this related to our story? Momu explained to us that as Zanzibar’s men, being Moslem, are allowed to have four wives. While they are faithful to their four wives and vice versa, temptations do abound in Zanzibar like anywhere else in the world. So these men want the plant around their homes. Why?

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So that should there be other men who will try to enter their homes, they can always check whether the leaves of the plant have closed, signifying that feet other than theirs have trodden on the plant and may have belonged to other men in the village!

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This is Momu – our host and guide. Like other guides, Momu was very articulate, knowledgeable and witty. This makes the tourism sector of Tanzania a very good one as such guides make the visit a lot worthwhile and fun!

What did we learn in our tour? For one, clove (Syzygium aromaticum) is the “King of Spices” for Zanzibar. This is so because it is supposed to be most valuable export of the island. Until recently, Zanzibar used to be the world’s largest exporter. Today that glory has gone back to the origin of the plant, Indonesia.

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According to sources (see for example, http://www.kew.org/science-conservation/plants-fungi/syzygium-aromaticum-clove), clove is a native of the Maluku islands of Indonesia. Because of fierce competition among the European countries, the Dutch and French among them, cloves were smuggled out of Indonesia and these plants reached other parts of the world including Zanzibar (around 1818).

The “Queen of the Spices,” goes to the cinammon plant (Cinnamomum verum). This is so because according to Momu, they can use very single part of the plant, from the root up.

There’s a more comprehensive discussion on the spices of Zanzibar here: http://www.smallthingsinbignumbers.com/blog/the-spices-of-zanzibar. We enjoyed the banter with Momu who was also familiar with African cuisine techniques in cooking. We found out we used plants in cooking in similar ways. For example the way we use lemongrass and ginger were very similar.

We also were fascinated by his assistant, “Alibaba,” who could make garlands, ties, bags and crowns, on the go:

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We ended up being fed with fresh fruits – orange, pomelo, papaya, banana and coconuts:

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We all felt like kings and queens even when we indeed bought some spices at the end of the tour:

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When in Zanzibar, the spice tour is a must!

CLEANLINESS IN THE WILDERNESS

As we were going to the wilderness where the lions, leopards, and every animal in Tanzania roam in the wild, I was expecting to have a really rustic and even downright basic sanitary facilities i.e. toilets during the trip. Ignoramus me, not having read up on the facilities, I was in for a surprise.

A fair warning: toilets in the wilderness are facilities that can spell life or death. As it happens, no one is allowed to get off the vehicle while inside the national park because of the danger that it will pose – lions could be lying a foot away! Using “bush toilets” are very dangerous activities. So proper toilets in the wilderness are vital.

It started with the Kilimanjaro airport. Spotlessly clean, one could use the floor as a mirror.

The carousel area of the airport.

The carousel area of the airport.

This was my first big surprise. The immigration, by the way, went smoothly and the pieces of luggage came promptly as well.

Then we were off to the wilderness the following days. And just look at these toilets, located in the middle of nowhere:

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The lavatories with hand soaps

These put even some of our establishments back home, to shame. Every toilet had ample supply of toilet paper. We would find one solitary person who would be nearby and he would then get a mop to make sure the floor is always clean. The lavatories even had liquid soap and paper towels.

This is the “wilderness” toilet we used:

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How I wish Sen Dick Gordon’s project of having clean public toilets can be revived and expanded. And I dream of the day that restaurants and establishments with dirty toilets will be forced to close shop and fined heavily.

Tanzania, we will be back. Congratulations!