It is hard to believe this is my last post of our time in Africa. I will recap the final days of our tour before wrapping up our time on the continent.
We crossed the border to Kenya with no problems and after a quick shopping stop at a supermarket we made our way to Nakuru where we were camping at the East African Mission Orphange (check them out at http://www.eamo.co.ke/), an orphanage owned by an Australian couple. We arrived during a torrential downpour and pitched our tents for the first time in Africa in the rain which is pretty remarkable considering how long we have been here. After pitching our tents we headed to the luxurious bar for hot chocolate and coffee to warm ourselves up. After dinner we met the owner of the orphanage and lodge and found out more about the organization. He told us after some difficult life circumstances he and his wife decided to live their lives for others and spent several years traveling the world volunteering with different organizations. They came to Kenya after meeting someone in Mexico who suggested they make their way over. They were volunteering in an organization but were taken by the street kids of Nairobi that they encountered. They began bringing food and other supplies to the street kids until eventually they began bringing the kids home. They started the orphanage and it has slowly grown over 18 years to what it is now, a home to 235 children. They provide all basic necessities for the children along with their education. They started the lodge as a ‘retirement’ plan to help sustain themselves so they can continue with their work at the orphanage. It was a very inspiring meeting. He was very honest with us and discussed the issue of us visiting the orphanage and whether it is positive or detrimental to the kids. He said on one hand they rely on us visiting and sponsoring children to stay afloat; but us visiting also exposes the kids to the western way of the world and their behavior has deteriorated because of this. Simply put he stated they were spoiled. I found this interesting to hear from someone who has spent so much time here as I have been struggling with similar concepts relating to traveling that I have discussed in previous blogs. He said he is still trying to find the balance with it all, as am I.
The next day we had a game drive in Lake Nakuru National Park. The Lake has flooded to the point they had to build another road through the park and move the main gate to another area to escape the water. It made a very eery scene; dead trees with a third of their trunks submerged in the water next to the abandoned main gate. The park used to be famous for its large number of flamingos, but most have left due to the high water levels. We were able to spot both white and black rhinos during the course of the drive (from afar, nothing like our encounters in Swaziland) that completed the ‘Big 5’ for the rest of our group from Vic falls. We also spotted a different species of giraffe that looked like they were wearing white socks. As always, the pictures are thanks to Miss Tiana! (I stole them from Facebook)
We returned to the campsite and were able to head to the orphanage to mingle with the children. I had a quick shower and “bush haircut” compliments of Cari before heading to the orphange. I have needed a haircut for weeks but my experience in Turkey made me nervous to visit a local salon again. Luckily Cari had some experience from her university days and did an excellent job, especially considering the circumstances!
We headed to the orphanage and were immediately bombarded with children wanting to hold our hands, play games, and take us on a tour of their home. It was a bit overwhelming, the children are used to mzungu visitors so they know just what to say and what to do to make you bend to their will. “Where is your camera?” was the number one question I received and I was grateful I had left it back at the campsite. I was amazed to see how used to technology the children were; they knew how to operate the different cameras and phones to display pictures! One little boy dressed in his onsie pajamas complimented with a bedtime robe latched on to me and took me on a tour of the facilities. He was adorable but very shy, he was happier to lead me by the hand than to make conversation. He showed me the dorms which made me smile as they looked much like many of the dorms we have stayed in along our travels. Soon we heard the dinner whistle and made our way to the dining hall as we were to have dinner with the children. After washing our hands outside the hall we made our way in where we served ourselves food and then the head girl directed us to a table to sit. I was seated with a group of 10-14 year old boys who were incredibly polite and happy to engage in conversation. I must admit I was a bit distressed by the meal discrepancy, we had a soup with potatoes along with chapati,while the kids had either millet and water or a porridge. They longingly looked at our meal, particularly the chapati. When I asked if they ever have chapati they answered only once a month. Another member of our tour asked if they ever had soup and she received the answer only at Christmas. I felt it really distinguished us muzungu’s from the children and I felt a sense of guilt that we were receiving such a treat infront of the kids. I think it would be better if we ate the same meal as the kids or didn’t eat dinner at all with them. As I was pondering these things the boys around me were working intricate trading deals amongst themselves and the tables around them. They would split their meals half and half (you chose either millet or porridge), give each other a few spoonfuls, or some just gave half their meals away in what appeared almost payment to other children. It was interesting to observe, and they simply smiled if questioned about it. After dinner a group of us headed back to the lodge while others chose to stay to observe evening devotion with the children. It was a good experience but as the owner mentioned they definitely were accustomed to tourists.
The following day we headed to Lake Naivasha for our last day of the tour. There were optional activities but we chose to stay behind and relax. We had done everything that we had wanted to do while on tour already. It was a lovely campsite and bar, with Internet that allowed me to get caught up on blogging. That evening after dinner we had a few drinks before heading to the onsite disco for a last night out. We had fun together before retiring to our tents for one last time.
The next morning we returned to Nairobi where we dropped some people in hotels in town before continuing to Acacia Camp. We relaxed until the late afternoon when Chris, Wendy, Nat and I headed into town. We first visited the Masai Market that only takes place on Saturdays. I purchased a replacement ankle bracelet as my previous anklet was a victim of the booze cruise in Zanzibar. I also bought a necklace that I had seen only once before in the Masai Mara and have been thinking about since, and finally a kanga that will be useful in India. Having finished shopping we headed to meet up with Michael and Tiana for our last dinner together. We chose an Italian restaurant and had great fun reminiscing about the tour. After dinner we headed to a bar for a few drinks before finally having to say goodbye. We have been with Michael and Tiana since the very beginning, 49 days ago. They have been an integral part of our experience and as such have made our time on tour infinitely better. We are going to miss them and feel lost for a while without them by our side. The only consolation is knowing we will see them again very soon as they are planning to meet up with us in Thailand!
The following day Chris and I had scheduled to visit St. Charles Lwanga Childrens Centre and Secondary School on the outskirts of Nairobi. My home county of Inverness is a major supporter of the organization and my mom has gotten involved in the committee recently and asked if we could stop in to discuss the possibility of an onsite clinic. The manager of Acacia Camp drove us, even stopping at a supermarket to allow us to buy supplies to bring with us. As we we made our way down the bumpy, dirt road to the centre we could see the children lined up outside waiting to greet us. As we pulled in they were all clapping and waving, it was a greeting fit for royalty! The director, Brother Kennedy, greeted us warmly as though we were old friends. He immediately ushered us into his living room and offered us refreshments. We chatted at length about the needs of the centre with regards to a medical clinic. After our discussion two girls, Carol and Pesh, showed us around the centre. We saw the classrooms, the dorms (including the new dorms), the ‘Inverness County Hall’, the rain water system, and The Martha Kitchen. It was a very meaningful tour for me as many of the buildings were made possible thanks to the efforts of my home county. After the tour we were treated to songs, dances, dramas and speeches by the children. It was incredibly touching, I welled up more than a few times during the course of the afternoon. I expected to show up and have a chat with Brother Kennedy and then leave; the hospitality and warmness we experienced was far beyond these expectations. We had lunch with Brother Kennedy, Frederick, our driver, and one of the board members where we were able to continue our discussion about the clinic. Chris and I are determined to make it happen as we believe it would serve the centre as well as the local community enormously. I have always wanted a volunteer project I could really get behind and after visiting the centre I know I have finally found it. I will never forget our visit and I know in my heart it will not be our last.
We departed after lunch as our driver had to get back to Acacia to drive Nat to the airport. It was sad to say farewell to Nat as she has been with us since Vic Falls and another integral member of our group of ‘tour friends.’ However, she will be in Moncton in July so we will see her very soon which made it easier to part ways!
Finally, at 8 pm that evening we said farewell to the last of our group, Wendy. She too joined us in Vic Falls and helped enhance our experiences on the truck. It was bittersweet after our final goodbye; we were sad for the tour to be over, but excited to be on our own again.
In total we spent 113 days on the African continent, visiting 13 countries between South and East Africa. We spent two months driving ourselves around Southern Africa, covering approximately 7000 kilometers at the expense of two hubcaps and one tire. We spent the remaining 49 hectic days aboard a truck with three different legs of travelers covering approximately 11 950 kilometers. We spent 98 of our 113 days on the continent in a tent (that is 87% of our nights). We met people from all over the world that have become friends for life. Our hearts were stolen by the children of St. Charles Lwanga Childrens Centre and Secondary School. We were reminded daily why we embarked on this epic adventure. A big thank you everyone who made this leg of our journey so amazing; Nathan, Ayesha, Matt, Brad, Laurelle, Mr. Clemens, First class, Manda,Avel, Diamond Dog, Michael, Tiana, Nat, Wendy, Joy, Raj, and finally Mr. Chris Jaramba our tour guide for 5 weeks for putting up with us.
We have arrived safe and sound in Delhi, India and are taking the day to rest up and get over our jetlag. I look forward to chronicling our adventures in India with you!
*We booked our tour through African Overland Safaris, the Adventure Travel Division of Tshokwane Safaris, on behalf of Africa Travel Co. We experienced incredible customer service and were fully satisfied with the price we paid and the information we were provided about the tour. Find more information at: http://www.african-overland-safaris.com OR http://www.tshokwanesafaris.com.