A Travellerspoint blog

Love is in the Air


So I am back for the good old English summer. Its bloody rain as usual. Well, what did I expect? At first I moved in to my sisters place for a week or so then in to Simon’s for a few weeks then on to my Dad’s as he was away for the rest of my stay. The first weekend back and I was just in time for Henley Regatta. James Kilkenny had invited me to a BBQ at a friends house on the river on the Friday evening. Then on the Saturday daytime I was with my sister and her partner , Ollie. We met up with another friend Karren on a little motor boat and spent the day plodding up and down the river watching the regatta, with a few nibbles and a rake of wine and beer.

I was lucky enough during my time back in the UK that my cousin, Daniel, had quite a lot of work on, so he was able to give me a few weeks work here and there working on a few renovation projects and an extension. This paid for my time in the UK. Thank God, as the price of everything had gone up again since I was last home. There were some very early starts and very late finishes to meet the deadlines for the renovations. During the London job I even braved staying at an ex-girlfriends house so I could have 4 hours sleep rather than going back to Wokingham and only having 2 hours sleep as I had to be back on the job first thing. To my surprise (and hers I believe) we had a really good laugh and I thoroughly enjoyed seeing her again.

I also decided to go to Germany to repay the visit from Yvonne, and I also went to see my dad in Turkey. It was lovely seeing Yvonne again and chatting about our future travelling plans. Seeing where our next paths will cross. While I was in Turkey I spent half of my time staying at my dads with my two younger sisters and half the time staying a friend Ahmet’s hotel. Stacey and Archie also came out for a week and we spent allot of time in the pool teaching Archie to swim.

One of the big reasons for me to come back to the UK was a few of my friends had weddings that I wanted to attend. First there was Joe and Sarah’s wedding and then my good friend Dan Lawry and Julie got married on my birthday with a big wedding reception the day before I left for South Africa. Both were great weddings with people I hadn't seen for a very long time. Some of the guests I hadn't seen since I had been in school.

And that is it really. Next step was going to be South Africa for me. One of my favorite countries doing one of my favorite thing, sailing. Cheap meat, cheaper beer and the arrogance and humor of the Africans. I could not wait.

Posted by benhowe2 08:24 Archived in United Kingdom Comments (0)

Head under water


The new job changed very quickly. The previous manager of 14 years got pushed out and a new Dutch manager replaced him about a week later. He was a dick! Within a week of him starting, the two other scuba instructors left. I on the other hand decided to stick it out. Why did I do it to myself? Although I was earning quite well (for an instructor), on average I was doing 5-6 dives a day as I was the only instructor. Eventually it came to an end. I was very happy for that.

On a plus point I met some pretty nice people there. Firstly John and Eva. John was one of the two sensible instructors who left when the manager changed at ‘Pro Divers’ and Eva was his girlfriend who was just about to start her Divemaster course. Before I met them I had managed to have a month off the drink detoxing. That soon changed. Drinking game after drinking game. John knew bloody loads of them. The worst thing was that we had to drink the local spirit that they called ‘Monkey Juice’. Not good for the liver (or any other part of the body either). We lived on the big island out of the two. Unfortunately it was the boring island. So we had to get water taxis across to the other island if we wanted to go out for a big night. Eventually when I finished at Pro Divers I moved across to the small island. I moved back in with my buddy Victor. More drunken nights again.

Then my friend, Kieren from the UK came to visit me. While he was here I did his Open Water course with him and then we decided to go for a bit of a travel. So we went and spent a bit of time in Pinang on the other side of Malaysia for a few days. From there I jumped on the train into Thailand. I met up with a friend from Wokingham, Des. Des booked me a room in an awesome hotel in Bangkok called ‘The Loft’. It was amazing. Quite a big upgrade from the hut I had been staying in for the past few months. Again, another few heavy drinking nights in Bangkok with Des and his buddy. During the days I went for a walk round the city. I also did a couple of day’s Thai cooking course that I really enjoyed. Then I found myself another place to stay (one that my budget covered) that was recommended to me by Yvonne. It was a really cool little place. It was like walking back in time as soon as you walk through the front door. The furnishings were really cool and were all originals from the 50s. While I was there I decided that I needed a bit of civilization again so I booked my ticket for a visit back to the UK. The bad news was that all my dive equipment was left in Malaysia so I had to get the train back there first and then on to Kuala Lumpur to fly out back to the UK.

Posted by benhowe2 07:35 Archived in Malaysia Comments (0)

Baadaye Rafiki


sunny 34 °C

Was the last line in the last blog that I was starting to settle down? Hmm, all change there then. That didn’t last long.

OK. So things were still all going well with the job, apart from the unreasonable, stressed, highly strung boss. So I was happy enough for now. I had taught one of the chef’s, Ian, from the Zalu hotel how to dive. The Zalu is probably the most luxurious 5 star hotels on the islands of Zanzibar. It was a really fun course as my other student was a Polish…….. Madman. It was like he was on speed 24hours a day. Anyway getting back to the point. Ian became a good friend (aka drinking partner), and not just because he took me up to Zalu for lunch on the private jetty during the diving course. Witch I have to add- I felt like I should have brushed my hair before I went. It was fantastic to be eating food that had more than one flavor in it. Very posh nosh. Ian also offered me dinner any time I wanted to come up.

The next few days were spent in Mangies bar, Bored…….. Neil, my main drinking buddy had gone off to Egypt to complete his PADI Instructor course. I would like to add a Congratulation to him on passing the course. Morgan and I started watching the six nation’s rugby. That was nothing special by the English. But I was generally getting bored of the island. The only really good days were when I had a day off and there was wind so I could go kitesurfing.

Then an old traveling buddy, Yvonne, who I met in Zimbabwe and Mozambique, came to stay with me for a little over a week. It was really good fun to have a new face on the island who I knew I would get on with really well. I really enjoyed her company. We went to stone town to the annual Zanzibar music festival. It was really good music. We arrived just in time to catch the headline act. We met up with a well lubricated Ian, a few of the kitesurfing guys and a few people I knew from a hotel I know. All in all, a really good night. Then Yvonne took me to see the Columbus and the red monkeys that Zanzibar is famous for a couple of days later. She just got me away from Nungwi, and that is exactly what I needed.

Then the next night we went for dinner at ‘The Zalu Hotel’ courtesy of Ian (so glad I met that man). The food was amazing again. Yvonne’s was only with me for a few days more and last night was a bit of a late one. Ian joined us a bit later on and proceeded to force more and more drink down my neck, Honest, it was all Ian’s fault, not mine! Yvonne and I had lots of chats about if I was actually happy with my working conditions (the boss), as she felt I seemed quite the opposite. The next morning it was time for Yvonne to leave. I was sad to see her go. So off I go to work. Get the usual shit from the boss. Come back from the dive and I go to cover the offices we had in the Hilton. So I was sat reading my book, and I fell asleep for a couple of min. Normally this is not a major problem, but this time the general manager’s wife saw me and took a photo of me and sent it to my boss. I got a phone call from her asking me to come back to the dive centre and explain my actions.
I went back with my hands held high. I apologised several times but im not sure they heard any of them over their shouting at me. Eventually, I got fed up of being screamed at like a five year old and I managed to get half a sentence in and I said “Do you want me to leave?’’ To that they screamed “We F*#?ing should make you leave!’’ So I responded with, “Okay, im going to pack my dive equipment up now, I will be in tomorrow to collect my wages, and I will be out of the staff house as soon as I can find somewhere to stay.” I’m not too sure they were expecting that because there was a long pause, and then I started packing.

So that was the end of East Africa Divers for me. I managed to find a place to stay ‘The Zalu Hotel’. RESULT!!!! It was awesome. Ian let me stay in the hotel with him for 4-5 days. Dinner at Zalu most evenings, fishing off the pier, far too much drinking, especially when it comes to ‘Nagronies’ (Ian and I are bad news for each other when drink is involved), midnight food binges in a five star hotel’s kitchen fridge, and a shower that not only works but it has more than one temperature setting. I felt like Cinderella just after she tried on the glass slipper. From rags to riches, and all it cost me was a taxi (about $5) to get myself there. So a big thanks to Ian for putting up with me. I can actually hear my Mum saying “Thank you for looking after my boy Ian” out loud as she reads this.

During my time at Ian’s I decided that I was going to visit my old Russian pal, Victor from Egypt. He had moved on to Malaysia, so after a fifty hour bus, boat, taxi, two planes, a train and a moped journey, I arrived in Kuala Lumpa. I spent a couple of days wondering the streets having a look round. Then an overnight bus and a speedboat across to The Perhentian Islands just about 40k from the Thailand border to where Victor is now living. And that is where I am sat now writing this blog looking out to sea with a good old cup of tea. I met Victor and he told me about a possible job on the island next to the one we were on (they are about 2k from each other), so I jumped on a taxi boat and I went to have a chat with Mikey, the Asian owner. I started work today. I’m not too sure how long I will be here yet, but that has been my life story for the past 20 months. I have got used to living this way and I like it.

Next update will be in a month or so. Hope to hear back from a few of you. Also love to see any of you that want to visit Malaysia.

Missing you all still.

Ben and Sok xxx

Posted by benhowe2 06:23 Archived in Tanzania Comments (0)

Pun pun pun pun pun... and another PUN!!!!




I got to Dar es Salaam airport at about 5am. Grabbed my bags and aimed for the boat to Zanzibar. I missed the morning boat by about 5min so I had to wait for the lunchtime boat. On the boat I got chatting with a couple of guys who were going to Nungwi by taxi and I managed to grab a lift. The journey should tale about 1-1.5 hours….. Not this one. The taxi hit a guy on a bike on the way, he got arrested, had to take the guy to the hospital and finally take us to Nungwi. 4 hours…. Nice! I felt sorry for a guy called Neil. He had to wait at the dive centre after hours for me to arrive. I could see he was a tad pissed off. Good start with my new colleague. Then I was told that I start an open water course the next morning. I expected to have a day or two to relax and get myself in to the motion of a new place. Nope….. I still have not managed to do so three months in. Days off are very rare. The boss is hard work. Delene works 365 days a year and gets stressed out the same amount. It makes it hard on the staff as you always feel you need to tiptoe around her.

Apart from that, I love my job. The rest of the staff are really good fun. I have found a really good friend in Neil. The only problem with Neil (apart from the fact he has blonde hair like a sheep stuck in the 70’s, ‘’Starsky n Hutch’’ style) is, he is too clever with words. Every sentence you say, Neil will come back with some kind of pun. For the first week, they were bad, but after almost three months…. You get the picture.

There is a really good community here. Within a week I had met most of the guys I am friends with now. Everyone is really welcoming. Tania was a real help to introduce me to everyone and has been a star of a friend ever since. On my second night in Nungwi I was dressed as a pirate in the local bar (for Halloween). A week or so later I was dressed in 70s gear and I’m sure there were a few other strange nights out too. Tania was even taking me to parties that I wasn’t invited to (or felt very welcome at). But I have to say a big thank you to her for taking me in with open arms and making Nungwi feel like home. Picks are on Facebook.

Our house got broken in to one night so our landlord decided that he would get us a couple of dogs to protect the house. They arrived and they were 2 week old puppies. Great guard dogs. They will be really good at licking a burglar to death. The two of them are very cute. Neil came up with the names ‘Freddy’ for the boy and ‘Mercury’ for the bitch (Freddy Mercury was born on Zanzibar). So now I get up early every morning and walk the pair of them and then straight home from work to walk them again in the evening instead of going straight for a beer. I feel all grown up. But I really enjoy them. They are now about 8 weeks old and the boy is great and the bitch is a bitch at times, but, I love them both.

So Christmas comes around and this year I was a bit home sick. I would have loved to have been at home with the family and my friends. Instead, on Christmas day I was 30 meters under water when a pod of about 50 Dolphins came and to say ‘’Happy Christmas’’ too me. It was an awesome Christmas gift. After we got back, I went for 2 quick beers and went to bed. It was a bit of a boring Christmas to be honest. Nobody really wanted to do much. So next came new year. It was a really funny night. I got invited by a few Turkish guys I know for a bit of food at the beach on the barbeque. I ate like a King that night. The food was amazing. Then, on to the local bar, ‘Mangies’ for lots of overindulgence. I got too drunk. On my way home at about 11am in the morning I got knocked out and mugged. ‘’Welcome to 2012!’’ My dive computer and a little bit of money had gone when I came too. Bastards! So that was the bad start but I have now got the computer back thanks to a good friend Morgan. Morgan noticed that one of the divemasters at his dive centre had a new computer that looked very much like mine. He had brought it from a guy in the village. I gave him a reward and now have my computer back. So all is well.

New year’s day was really nice considering how much of a moody git I was (sorry everyone who had to put up with me). We took the puppies in to the sea for the first time. They really didn’t like that. Then we had another barbeque on the beach with some freshly caught tuna and sailfish. The fish is awesome here. Always so fresh.

Other things I have been up to include Kitesurfing. This is where you attach yourself to a 12m square kite strong enough to take me back to the UK with the right wind. Then strap your feet to a piece of board and let the wind do the rest. Yep, it’s that easy…. Oh apart from the easy bit, that bit is not true. I have now got to the stage where I can stand up on the board for about 30sec and I can turn a little bit. I love it. It is such a thrill to be moving so fast under the power or the wind only. The pros can reach speeds of up to 50 knots (over 93kph). Needless to say, I won’t be trying that one this week. Maybe next week……

And that brings me pretty much up to date. Sorry this blog is not as exciting as the previous ones but I think I am starting to settle down a bit and find my feet again.

It would be great to hear back from you.

Ben and Sok. xx

Posted by benhowe2 04:54 Archived in Tanzania Comments (0)

Shukran Habibi


The plane’s wheels hit the ground in Cairo at about 5am. I was out of the airport in about 30 min. This amazed me. That must have been the fastest I have ever got through an airport. Outside I had all the usual taxi drivers trying to get me in to their cabs and charge me 4-5 times what the journey should have been. So I found a bus that went to town. It took about 45min to get to the centre of Cairo and cost me about £0.10GBP. I found myself a room and went out to explore the deserted streets. Then at 8:15am, absolute chaos hits central Cairo. The streets are grid locked the pavements are grid locked. General madness. I finished the day with several hours walking round the Cairo museum.

The next day I went to the immigration office to arrange my extension to my visa and then straight on to the Pyramids in Giza. I got chatting to a guy on the metro who gave me some great advice on how to view the pyramids by camel, but going in the back entrance so costing about half the price. He actually ended up walking me to the place I could book a cheap tour. The pyramids and the sphinx were nice but the best part of the tour was the guide riding the camel. He was hilarious. He made the big stone triangles in the desert interesting and funny at the same time.

The next day I picked up my passport and jumped on a train to Luxsor. During the train journey I caught a guy trying to pickpocket my phone from me. The rest of the people on the train went mad at him. I thought he was going to be ripped to pieces by them. Luckily the train guard arrived and grabbed him and then threw him off the train at the next stop. So while in Luxor I visited The ‘Luxsor Temple’ and the ‘Valley of the Kings’. I found them both very interesting but not as fun as the pyramids. I returned to Cairo on the overnight train and went in to Cairo for the day and then on to the bus station on my way to Dahab. I got the overnight bus so that I would arrive first thing in the morning. Hmmmmm, I should know by now, busses are a pain in the ass. To be fair, it wasn’t the busses fault. It was around the time when Egypt and Israel were not playing nicely together at their border. So the military police decided to shut a crossroads at 2am for 4 hours. So I arrived at lunchtime. I didn’t even bother going to the house I would be living in. I wanted to get in the water. Within 30min of me being in Dahab I was under the sea making bubbles and playing with the fishes.

For the next two weeks I dived every day but one. Then I started my PADI Instructor training. This was very intense course. The day was normally 8am-5pm daily for 2 weeks and then homework. The one good thing was that it was a great detox for my body. Then the exams. As most of you know they went well and I am now a scuba instructor, but they went without their stress and hiccups. One part of the exam was to simulate teaching a class a lesson on a certain diving subject. My subject was on something I had never been taught and had no idea about and to make things worse. Our dive centre could not find the manual we use to teach the lesson. So, I was stressed because it was the final exams, I was stressed because I needed to teach a subject that I knew nothing about, I was stressed because I had no way of knowing what the correct answer for the subject was. So we finally found the info I needed and about five min before I had to present it to the course director who was assessing me. So I winged it. And by all accounts, ‘I winged it good’ apparently my lesson was very informative and interesting.

So we all passed. For the next couple of months I spent time trying to find as much work as possible. Unfortunately due to the problems Egypt has had in the past year the average tourists are giving Egypt a wide birth this year. So I started to email around the globe to try to find work elsewhere. I had several responses from many different dive centre’s. I had a telephone interview and I decided on an Instructor position in Zanzibar. I wanted to stay in Africa for now. For the first time in 14 months I will have a job…. Hmmm, not too sure I should rush these things. So, here I am. Living in paradise, diving in the Indian Ocean on a daily basis, and, being paid for the pleasure. It’s a hard life.

I hope to hear from some of you soon and I will update my next stage of my journey soon.


P.s Sok said hi. He is a tad busy sunbathing at the moment, but he misses you all.

Posted by benhowe2 23:07 Archived in Egypt Comments (0)

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