26.01.2013 - 09.02.2013 28 °C
Wow – we have done so much in the last few weeks, Ethiopia is but a distant memory. Unfortunately, internet availability has reduced somewhat so the blog has been a little neglected but we haven’t forgotten.
We arrived in Kenya on 26th January, ready for our 46 day tour down to Johannesburg. Partly excited because we had so much ahead of us that we didn’t have to think or plan for and partly nervous to meet the strangers we were about to spend every waking moment with.
We left Nairobi on our African Travel Company (ATC) truck bright and early to set off for the Maasai Mara where we would be having our first safari of many. Our first official stop was at the Rift Valley viewpoint for some pictures of this amazing view.
That evening the group was upgraded free of charge to “posh” permanent tents so we were able to put off camping for another couple of nights. We were assigned ‘chore’ groups and given the rota for helping with food prep, truck cleaning and washing up – yep this is an ‘all chip in’ kind of tour!! The next morning we headed to the Maasai Mara National Park and saw our first wild animals of the trip – 28 species in one day! That first feeling of seeing wild elephants, lions (lioness and her cubs), giraffes and zebras was amazing and made us realise how lucky we were to be doing this trip.
Over the next days we travelled through Kenya and were shocked at the vast difference between here and Ethiopia – Kenya is modern, developed and a lot more western; yes there are still enormous pockets of poverty but the impression of the western world, UK especially, is obvious. We left Kenya and took our first border crossing leading us into Uganda. First impressions of Uganda were wow! So lush and beautiful, people were so cheerful and attentive. That night we headed to Kampala, the capital and a few of us decided to brave the local nightlife and take a taxi into the centre of town. We headed to a club called “Bubbles” and within minutes we were chatting and dancing with the friendly locals. Some more friendly than others with a keen eye on Steve...or so his ego led him to believe, until it was pointed out that they were the neighbourhood prostitutes!
We had asked the taxi driver to come and collect us at the end of the night and were mortified to see him sat in the club, alone and drinking water for the whole night, just waiting for us to be ready to leave. We climbed into bed at 3am and struggled at our 5am wakeup call...not to mention the 12 hour bumpy ride on the truck with our sore heads.
Our next stop was Lake Bunyoni where the rest of the group were stopping to go Gorilla trekking – as much as we wanted to do this, $600 per person was just too much for our budget, considering you only spend an hour with the Gorillas – having said that, it’s one for the bucket list. It was nice to relax at the lake for a few days and mingle with the locals, we were told about an amazing Crayfish restaurant and when we arrived we were welcomed by the chef who was cooking on his stones outside his shack, no restaurant as such but it ended up being amazing food and wonderful service for a whole $3 – when we returned with friends the next day, there was no crayfish left but the chef offered to go and catch us some and prepare food for a couple hours time – now that’s service!
Whilst the group were trekking with the Gorillas, Steve and I had the opportunity to visit a local school that had been established to help orphaned children. The name of the charity is “Little Angels” (www.littleangelsuganda.org) and was set up 18 months ago by a young local called Duncan. Duncan was sponsored by a westerner as a child, which means his education was paid for (USD $600 per year) and all he has ever wanted to do to say thank you to his sponsor was give other children the same chance. The kids were amazing, it took everything to not sponsor at least one there and then! “Little Angels” also welcomes volunteers to come and teach for any lengths of time, there is no cost but it’s expected to donate something that goes towards your accommodation and food – if anyone is interested then we would happily put you in touch.
That evening, Duncan took our group to a local bar, when he came to collect us in his 9 seater van, he assured us that being 16 would not be a problem and we could all fit. Reluctantly but still obligingly, we squeezed ourselves into the boot, on the floor, on each other’s laps and when our tipsy tour driver came through the gates and asked to come with us, it was not seen as a problem the only solution that was suggested by Duncan was for one passenger to sit on top of the car with legs through the sunroof...let’s just say it was an interesting and uncomfortable 20 minute drive to town for everyone but as we keep being told...”T.I.A.” – This is Africa!!
The next day, a few of us crossed the border to Rwanda, curious to see the condition of Kigali which is unfortunately famous for the 1994 genocide. Although still struggling with a corrupt government, it was amazing to see how the country had progressed in nearly 20 years – a short amount of time given the developed infrastructure and western looking buildings that greeted us. We treated ourselves to lunch at ‘Hotel Rwanda’, made famous by the book and movie that told the story of the brave hotel owner that hid Tutsi’s from the Hutu’s during the 3 month genocide.
Time to move on and head to Jinja in northern Uganda, the base for some extreme sport on the River Nile. White Water Rafting was never part of my plan but Steve had always planned to do it on the Zambezi. But before we knew it we were caught up in the moment and 8 of us were booked for the next day. I was regretting my decision following the first boat flip and although glad I did it, can honestly say I don’t think I’ll be paying for an experience like that again! Steve however, is as keen as ever for some more extreme activities.
One of the things we had been most looking forward to was bike riding around Hells Gate National Park in Lake Nakuru, Kenya and so we were pretty excited to head there next. In total the bike ride was around 30km and we were able to cycle in amongst the zebra’s, giraffes and pumba’s (Wort Hog, we have learnt is a dying term, in Africa they are commonly known as their Lion King alias Pumba and we found out Pumba means ‘Stupid’ in Swahili). About 10 km into our ride we stopped to check out some rock climbing set up on a volcanic rock and before we knew it we were wearing the gear and tackling the steep “Fishers” rockface in front of us – not bad considering neither of us have ever been rock climbing or abseiling before!
And that’s our first 2 weeks on the tour – we travelled back to Nairobi to drop off some of our new friends and greeted the next group of soon-to-be friends to travel down to Tanzania for our Serengeti excursion and the much anticipated Zanzibar!
Hard to believe:
• Cutting the grass with a machete – homes or hotels it doesn’t make a difference, this is the norm and mowers do not exist.
• Our not-too-bad growing knowledge of Swahili
• It seems like every other building we see has a red cross on the front, when we queried this we found out they are government crosses notifying demolition, usually of buildings that were built or provided as a gift from the government ...during the election, so there is no longer a need for them now the election is over...!
Hard to manage:
• Over 100 mosquito bites between us.
• Early starts, 2.45am has been our earliest and 4.30am our average, not to mention the frustration of taking your tent down in the dark when you are tired and grumpy.
• Carbohydrates – they just keep coming, bread rice/pasta and potato for breakfast, lunch and dinner!
• Our tour guide going M.I.A. – we waited and waited on day one of the second leg of our trip, a lot of rumours and speculation later, we adopted a new guide and left without the original resulting in a very unorganised week.