Category Archives: Kenya

Day 17 – Tents are Not Soundproof Structures

February 5, 2012
Nairobi
Kivi Milimani Hotel

Funny thing about sleeping in a tent, other than protection from the elements, it is almost exactly the same as sleeping outside. And when you’re outside there is nothing to stop the sounds escaping your lips from entering someone else’s ears.

I haven’t officially met my tent neighbours yet, but I feel like I know so much about them because they are loud and don’t shut up. Not only have I been privvy to their more ‘intimate moments’ but I’ve also learnt so much about them as individuals. For example, she’s 30 and he’s the son of an Indian immigrant. They’re both cheating on their significant others, but it’s ok because they deserve to be happy. He loves her because she’s fun and spontaneous, she loves him because he has money. I mean, because he’s fun and spontaneous too. And on and on it goes.

Last night they came back to camp around 330am and proceeded to knock stuff over, rehash their entire night, get into a fight, then have really awkward sex. So I got up at 655am, set my alarm for 7am and went for breakfast. When I got back at 8am my alarm was still going off. And that is how I solve problems.

I checked out of Wildebeest and headed to the Kivi Milimani Hotel, the starting place for the Intrepid part of the tour. The hotel is ok, nice pool but the rooms could use some updating. We had a welcome meeting at 6pm today and there are 14 on this trip, 6 of them traveled together on the last leg of the trip and 8 new people (including myself). There are 2 couples and the rest of us are solo.

All of us new people went out for Ethiopian so we could get to know each other better. We piled into a couple taxis and set out. I’ve heard so much about Nairobi being unsafe (being dubbed ‘Nairobbery’ by Lonely Planet) but each time I’ve left my hotels I’ve never felt concerned for my safety. I mean, you still have to be aware, but there’s nothing to freak out about. I was told about a woman in a cab who kept her purse on the seat beside her and at a stoplight someone reached through the window, snatched her purse and took off. It seems like everyone has a story about a friend of a friend, but I now keep my purse firmly attached to me or on the floor of the cab.

Tonight was my first time having Ethiopian and we let the server order for us. We got some huge platters of food that I know had chicken, beef, goat, spinach, etc…we didn’t know what was exactly what but it was all delicious. It was a great chance for all of us to get to know each other and after dinner we headed right back to the hotel. Some people went to the bar, but I’ve gotten so used to going to bed early so I just headed to the room, showered and went right to sleep.

Breakfast: toast with pb&j, fruit salad, tea
Lunch: spring rolls
Dinner: Ethiopian dinner

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Day 16 – Total Cokehead

February 4, 2012
Nairobi
Wildebeest Camp

I’m probably going to come home with a mouth full of cavities because of the amount of Coke I’ve drank over the last couple weeks. When a 300ml bottle costs 70 cents you really can’t say no. Add to that the fact that it comes in glass bottles and you’re totally helpless to resist. I’ve probably had more Coke to drink in the last 2 weeks then I had in all of last year. I worry about the withdrawal I’ll face when I go home. Until then, cheers!

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Breakfast: toast with pb&j, fruit salad, tea
Lunch: chicken burger with chips, coke light
Dinner: spring rolls, salad with chicken

Day 15 – But It’s My Elephant

February 3, 2012
Nairobi
Wildebeest Camp

A little over a year ago I was watching Oprah (I know, I know) and she was doing a special on Africa and focused on the David Sheldrick Foundation, an organization started to protect and care for orphaned baby elephants. I adopted a little guy named ChemiChemi and I got regular updates, pictures and videos until he got old enough to move to the national park with one of the herds. Luckily the home base for the foundation is located in Nairobi and they do public viewings every day for 1 hour. This morning I hired a taxi from Wildebeest Camp and set out, it didn’t take long to get there and it cost roughly $5 to get in (taxi cost me $50).

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There are currently 16 elephants at the foundation, ranging from a few months to a couple years old and they are all adorable. They brought 7 of the younger ones first, they drank milk from bottles and played in the mud.

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The trainers talked at length about the foundation, introduced each elephant and explained how they had been found. Most of the elephants were victims of poaching, their mothers killed for their ivory. But some had been victims of humans themselves, one little guy had been put in a well and left there. I will freely admit that I teared up when I saw how happy they were, playing in the dirt and rolling all over each other.

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The trainers explained that each new addition is warmly welcomed and accepted into the group because the elephants remember their first day and want to show each new elephant that everything is ok and that they are safe now. It was lovely to hear the trainers talk about the elephants and see them interact. You can see the love and respect going both ways. After the little guys were done playing they brought out the older ones who were just as sweet and playful.

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David Sheldrick had been such a success I decided to go to the Giraffe Sanctuary as well. It wasn’t that far (maybe 20 minutes) and the entrance fee was roughly $7. I was a little disappointed in the Sanctuary, it was very small with only a few giraffes and tons of people. They have a platform to stand on where the giraffes reach and you can feed them. There was one giraffe feeding while I was there and about 40 people with pellets in their hands. One little girl just kept throwing pellets at the poor giraffe while her parents stood by and watched. Eventually a staff member came over and told her to quit it, then stood close and kept an eye on her.

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On the way back to camp the taxi I was in started making scary noises and shuddering with each gear change. The driver kept trying to keep it going but after stalling and stalling he eventually gave up, pulled over and called someone to come get me. The rest of the day was a little less eventful.

Breakfast: toast with pb&j, scrambled eggs, tea
Lunch: burger and chips, coke
Dinner: NA

Day 14 – No Good at Goodbyes

February 2, 2012
Nairobi
Wildebeest Camp

My trip with G Adventures ends today. As we made our way back to Nairobi, almost everyone slept but I couldn’t quite quiet my mind. I kept thinking about the trip and how at some points I was disappointed and some points far exceeded my expectations. The distances were long and I wish we had seen more animals, but that’s what Tanzania is for. The gorilla experience was amazing and white water rafting was totally mad. I love most of the people I’ve met and plan to keep in touch with a few of them, hopefully traveling together again soon (maybe even coming back to Africa).

I wasn’t really sure what I was getting myself into, but I’m so glad I did it. And now I have to do it all over again. I have to put myself out there and make new friends and for someone as shy as myself it is entirely exhausting. I really have to fight the desire to chill in my tent and go to sleep early.

I was hoping that traveling solo would encourage me to be more outgoing and while I think it’s helped a little there is still a long way to go. While I have no trouble hopping out of a plane or rafting down the Nile, put me in a group of strangers and my heart starts to race and my palms sweat. It’s gross.

We stopped at the Great Rift Valley and took an awesome picture of a lovely group of people. When we got back to Nairobi at our original starting point we all went our separate ways – to the airport, to different hotels.

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It was so strange to share this experience and then just say goodbye. I surprised myself by tearing up when I had to say goodbye, I didn’t think I had been that affected by the experience. I’m sure part of it was nerves for having to hop into a cab alone, through the streets of Nairobi and leave everyone behind. But that’s the way it goes and I still have 2 more weeks before my final farewell.

I grabbed a taxi and headed to Wildebeest Camp, my base for the next couple days until the Intrepid tour starts. I found Wildebeest on a hostel booking website while looking for affordable accomodation in Nairobi. I knew I didn’t want an expensive hotel or a bunk in a dorm room. Wildebeest looked like the perfect compromise. For $40 a night I got a private permanent tent (wooden floor, large enough to stand up in), a safe, electricity and breakfast. The bathrooms are shared, but after sharing for 2 weeks it doesn’t really bother me.

We turned off a main road, into what looked like an alley, and pulled up to a large, black metal gate. The guard opened it for us and revealed an oasis in the city. A large stone house has the reception, dorms and kitchen and the grounds has the tents and so much greenery. It is absolutely perfect, so quiet and all the guests are friendly. First thing I did was laundry (hand washing) and spent the rest of the day wandering around before heading to bed early.

Breakfast: hardboiled eggs, sausages, pineapple, bread, peanut butter, jam, bananas, coffee/tea, juice
Lunch: (packed lunch) pb&j sandwich, banana, juice
Dinner: sweet potatoes, salad, fish, mixed veggies

Day 13 – On the Road Again

February 1, 2012
Eldoret
Naiberi River Camp

A particularly uneventful day as we left Uganda and crossed back into Kenya. Again, the process was fairly straightforward – with passport in hand go into office and get stamp, travel across border and repeat. Some people were asked a couple questions, but nothing major.

Once we cleared the border we made our way back to Eldoret, the same place we spent our second night and also the same place I was sick all night. It all looked a little different the second time around, much nicer, less vomit. We spent the day by the pool and for dinner we were treated with a Kenyan style dinner. Speeches were made, hugs exchanged. It was a really nice final dinner for everyone.

Breakfast: fried eggs, sausages, bacon, bread, peanut butter, jam, bananas, coffee/tea, juice
Lunch: pasta salad, tuna salad, pineapple, mango, juice
Dinner: (provided by the camp) garlic bread, naan, french fries, masala french fries, mixed veg, green salad, chicken masala, beef stew

Day 3 – Jackie Chan in Africa

January 22, 2012
Crossing into Uganda/Kampala
Red Chili Camp

10 hours. It took us 10 hours to get to Kampala (the largest city in Uganda). The border crossing was fairly easy. First you stop on the Kenyan side, show them your passport and get it stamped, then they search the truck (which took awhile), then you drive across no man’s land, go to the Ugandan office, answer some questions, pay $50 for a Ugandan stamp and wait while they search your truck again.

While waiting for the officials to search the truck on the Kenyan side we had the chance to talk to some of the kids wanting to sell us bananas. Everywhere we’ve gone someone wants to sell you something, but this was the first time we actually got to talk to them. We met 3 kids (aged 12, 14 and 12) who loved action movies, especially Jackie Chan, Jet Li, Rambo, Van Damme and the like. Even more they loved showing off their awesome karate skills (complete with sound effects).

While waiting on the Ugandan side we spoke to a young man who was super keen to find out everything possible about us (where are we from, what do we do, what’s the weather like, etc). I love talking to the different people we’ve met and find that overall the people are really friendly and eager to practice their english. And even if they don’t speak english (and I don’t speak Swahili), a smile goes a long way.

After finally clearing the border we continued our journey to Kampala and made it just before sunset. This campsite was excellent with a huge bar, charging station and super clean facilities. I’m beginning to notice that having toilet paper provided for you is also a luxury to take note of.

My tummy was feeling better today, whatever it was has run its course.

Breakfast: bread, eggs, cereal, bananas, coffee/tea
Lunch: bread, peanut butter, jelly, pineapple, potato salad
Dinner: rice, chile con carne (and a veggie option)

Day 2 – Sick as a Hyena

January 21, 2012
Eldoret
Naiberi River Camp

On the morning of our second day we got a brief ‘unpitching’ lesson and it is slightly trickier to take the tent down than put it up, only because if you don’t stamp out all the air and roll it correctly then it won’t fit in the bag and you’ll have to do it again as breakfast gets cold.

Before heading out on the road our cook had to stop in town to pick up supplies for the next couple days which gave us a chance to explore the city of Nakuru and practice our bargaining skills (hint – I’m terrible). On this trip we have to buy our own water so we headed to a supermarket and picked up 5 litres each to last us the next day or so. It was really strange to be in the middle of a dusty city in the middle of Africa and enter a bright supermarket with Coke and Sunlight logos staring you in the face.

Once we got rolling we spent about 5 hours on the road making our way from Lake Nakuru to Eldoret. It was a bumpy ride and we were all happy when we finally rolled into the campsite around 5pm. While the cook was preparing dinner most of the girls headed down to the bar and I got my first bottle of Tusker, a Kenyan beer. After a long day on the road it was cold and absolutely perfect.

Luckily the facilities at this campsite were excellent and most of us got a hot shower, a small luxury that really makes a difference. They were supposed to have wifi, but it was down while we were there. My phone with the Kenyan sim card was still getting service so I was happy and able to call home.

After dinner I started feeling a little funny which eventually turned into an all night sick-a-thon. My tentmate was sick as well, but we can’t figure out if it was something we ate/drank because no one else was sick. My tentmate also happens to be a nurse and therefore a walking pharmacy and the next morning she drugged me up enough to get back on the Green Beast and make our way across the Ugandan border into Kampala.

Breakfast: sausages, bread, cereal
Lunch: bread, leftover sausages, rice with carrots and onions
Dinner: fried potatoes, roast meat (and a veggie option)

Day 1 – Adopted

January 20, 2012
Lake Nakuru
Kembu Camp

15 women and 1 man. That is who makes up our group. Our ages range from 18 – mid-50s and we are from the US, Canada, Finland, Ireland, England, Australia, New Zealand and France. Some of us are nurses, a lawyer, a doctor, an engineer,an anesthesiologist, a video editor, students, a chef, and a travel agent. A group of 3 girls and a group of 2 girls have traveled here together, but everyone else has come solo. Some are starting their journey here in Nairobi and some have already been traveling around Africa for a little while (including one brave soul who has climbed Kilimanjaro as part of her 3 month journey). We are a very diverse group and have decided to take this trip for different reasons, but almost immediately people clicked. I met 2 girls (of the 3 traveling together) on the airport shuttle and they’ve taken pity on me and have adopted me into their group. At least I know who my tentmate is now :)

After our initial group meeting we got in the Green Beast (our overland truck) and headed out for Lake Nakuru, a small national park known for its flamingo population.

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Unfortunately, due to recent heavy rains that have affected the lakes salinity the flamingos have flown the coop, but it was a lovely park with a high concentration of cheeky monkeys, baboons, zebras, a couple rhinos and water buffalos, as well as lots of different birds.

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After lunch we spent a few hours in the park before heading to our first campsite.

We got our instructions on how to pitch our tents and got to work. They went up pretty easy and for 2 people are fairly spacious (though not enough room to stand up in). We had a quick dinner and still feeling jetlagged I settled in for an early night after an ice cold shower (brrr!). My brain must still be really confused because I woke up every hour expecting it to be morning. Midnight. 1am. 2am. 3am. 4am. 5am. 6am. It was a long night.

Breakfast: at the hotel (eggs, sausage, fruit, coffee/tea)
Lunch: sandwiches with cold meat (?), fruit juice
Dinner: pumpkin soup, pasta with bolognese sauce (and a veggie option)

Arrival + Fun with Strangers

I made it!

I left my house at 3pm on January 18 and arrived at my Nairobi hotel the next day at roughly 10pm local time (2pm Toronto time). Which means I was travelling 23 hours straight and I was exhausted.

I flew with KLM, connecting through Amsterdam, and they were hands down the best company I have ever flown with. The SkyTeam was attentive, the food was actually delicious and the free booze was flowing. My second flight was particularly awesome, because it was undersold I got a row of seats all to myself. Bonus!

As we began our descent into Nairobi it felt like my heart was going to beat itself out of my chest. I was thinking of all the obstacles in my way before I could get to my safe hotel room…
– get Kenyan sim card, buy airtime, hope I correctly unlocked my BB, hope everything works and don’t get ripped off
– exchange $USD into Kenyan shillings and don’t get ripped off
– get Kenyan Visa and don’t get ripped off
– find luggage and don’t get ripped off
– find airport transfer guy and don’t get ripped off
– check into hotel and don’t get ripped off
Do you sense the theme?

Getting my phone to work and adding airtime wasn’t really a problem, neither was getting local currency (though I counted it all twice to make sure it was all there). The trouble came when I was trying to get my Visa.

As I was standing in a looooooong line an airport employee approached me and asked if I needed a Visa, being a total dumbass I said ‘yes!’ He told me to follow him and in a moment of absolute stupidity I did (sorry mom). He walked me down a hallway and he started asking about where I was from, what my plans were for Kenya and as he continued making small talk I started freaking out. Isn’t this how those kidnapping stories start? Some helpful bloke approached a young girl offering his help and the next thing you know he’s asking for ransom money. I dropped the niceties and demanded to know where we were going. ‘To get your Visa.’ And as we rounded a corner I saw an empty Visa counter and felt like a giant jackass. He brought me to the counter, made sure my application was filled out correctly and wished me a pleasant stay.

With his help my Visa was quickly approved, I got my luggage just fine and found the shuttle driver without a problem. Overall, a very smooth start to my trip.

Now, knowing what I know now I feel like I was a jerk to the guy. However, I still think it was dumb to go with him in the first place. Note to self – don’t wander around with strangers, no matter the country.