Overland Tour Part 8: Back to Kenya

Hi Everyone!

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)
image

image

image

image

image

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!
image

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!
image

image

image

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.
image

image

image

image

image

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.

Overland tour part 6: Kenya

Hey Everyone!

I will start my post about Kenya with a major travel tip that Chris and I learned the hard way. There is an ‘ East African Visa’ available upon entry into Kenya but you must request it. It costs $100 USD and covers entry into Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda. In our research on visas we did not find anything mentioning this visas existence, so we had obtained our Uganda single entry visa ahead of time which cost us $150 CAD. This was unnecessary due to the East African Visa but as I mentioned we had never heard tale of its existence. We went for it anyway as we wanted to visit Rwanda and it would work out cheapest to go with that visa rather than pay for Rwanada on entry as we would then have to get another Uganda visa on return as our original was only single entry. Learn from our mistake- make sure to get the East African Visa if in this area! (Tanzania and Burundi are also part of East Africa but they do not participate in the East African Visa).

We arrived to our campsite on the outskirts of Nairobi in the late afternoon. The campsite was beautiful and had the fastest internet we have experienced since South Africa. Our afternoon was spent in the dark hole of wi-fi world, catching up on all we had fell behind with during the tour.

We had a final supper together at the camp and said our thank-yous and farewells to the driver and cook. We had emailed ATC to request our guide, Chris to accompany us to the Gorillas and they were more than happy to oblige so he did not require a farewell just yet. A few of us sat up playing a few drinking games before heading to bed.

The next day Chris and I had to stick close to camp as we had given our washing in to be done and only had the clothes on our backs left. The downside of life out of a backpack I suppose. Later in the afternoon Tiana, Michael and I ran to a shopping mall that was close by to grab a few necessities. They had a local market adjacent to the mall and Tiana and I were keen to find skirts for our big night out that our group had planned. We found skirts we liked and bartered hard for a good price. Check the picture out below, I think we did well!
image

That evening Michael, Tiana, Joy, Raj, Nat, Wendy, Chris and I got dressed up for a night on the town. We were determined to experience the local transport as our guide in training had told us all about it. The transport is called a Dala Dala (same as Tanzania) but are nicknamed ‘moving discos’ due to how they are transformed by the locals. It sounded like a blast so the 8 of us made our way outside the gate to hail one down. After a 10 minute wait one pulled over for us appearing to already be packed to the gills. There is always room in Africa though, and we were encouraged [pushed] eagerly on by the bus conductor. The cost for the ride into town was 50 shillings, the equivalent of $0.50 CAD. The outside was fashioned with lights and posters, while on the inside it was pitch black owing to the blackout tape on the windows, they had a projector displaying music videos, a disco light, and music playing louder than any club in Canada would be legally allowed to. It was the best $0.50 cents any of us has ever paid. The best part was the locals sitting on the bus looking bored as this is their everyday mode of transport. I think my Monday mornings heading into work would be a lot better if we had moving discos in Canada.

When we arrived to our destination and stepped off the bus we were ecstatic to see our guide in training Munene waiting for us. He knew we had planned to go into town and he didn’t live far so he called the camp to see if we were on our way and came and meet us. He wanted to make sure we had a fun night and were safe! He first took us to a restaurant as none of us had eaten dinner. Here, the music played a few decibels higher than the moving disco bus which I wouldn’t have believed even possible. Talking was almost impossible so we resorted to people watching and dancing in our seats. It was an anomaly; it was a restaurant, bar and dance club all in one. The food was cheap and delicious, arriving in record timing after ordering for Africa standards.

Having finished our meal we headed a few minutes down the road to a bar called Betty’s where the music was even louder than the restaurant (my ears rang for days). We found a big seating area and settled in for the evening. As the drinks kept flowing we slowly made our own dance floor next to our table. The table of local guys sitting next to us were thrilled and repeatedly tried to join our dance party, only to be shouldered out by Munene. He told us we could dance with them if we wanted, but under no circumstances were we to listen to their sweet talk. It was very funny, he was very good to us! We danced, took outrageous photos, and had a blast until 2 in the morning. Munene arranged two taxis for us to get us back to our camp, insisting to come with us in one of the taxis to make sure we made it back okay. A very successful and fun last night with Joy and Raj.

image

image

image

image

image

image

It was an early morning the next morning, with most of us feeling the effects of the previous night. We somehow got ourselves together on time to board the truck into town to pick up our new group. Joy and Raj didn’t want to say goodbye just yet so they jumped on the truck to squeeze in every last minute with us. When we arrived our guide Chris was more than a little surprised to see them on the truck, they tried to convince him they were coming with us but he didn’t bite. We finally said our goodbyes, but we have a plan to meet back up next summer in Canada so it wasn’t as final as some of the goodbyes we have had to make. The biggest positive of Chris and I doing this tour is the incredible people we have been able to meet on all of the different legs of this trip. Joy and Raj were no exceptions and we missed them immediately.

Our new group boarded the truck and settled in as we began a big day of driving to make our way to the Masai Mara. I won’t bore you; it was a hot, sweaty 12+ hour day that I spent most of trying to sleep.

We arrived to the campsite late in the afternoon and were surprised with an upgrade to permanent safari tents with beds. This meant we didn’t have to put up or take down tents, we were happy campers [literally]! We had dinner and introductions and then headed to bed atter such a long day in the truck.

The next morning was a very early morning as we had to make our way to the Masai Mara Entrance Gate to begin our game drive. The Masai Mara is famous thanks to the migration of wildebeest and zebra that takes place at this time of year every year. The animals cross the Mara River from the Serengeti in search of food. Our drive got off to a rough start as one of the bridges had partially washed out so we had to take a very round about way to get started. Once we made it over the bridge the sheer numbers of wildebeest and zebra was mind-blowing; every where we looked was spotted with these animals. It was very impressive to see and made me appreciate what a natural wonder it was to be witnessing.

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

We managed to see a few lazy lions in the shade with a zebra they killed and a leopard in a tree that was much larger than that of the Serengeti, but not as clear of a view. Besides those spottings it was a relatively uneventful game drive. We had lunch by the Mara River but didn’t see any animals making the trek through the river. The real prize of the day was the vastness of the landscapes dotted with the wildebeest and zebras. I enjoyed relaxing with my camera stowed in my bag and taking it all in. After so many game drives it certainly was nothing new for us, but it was incredible nonetheless.

After the game drive some people visited a Masai village. Chris and I opted out as I had already been and Chris didn’t have much of an interest. While chatting about the masai people our guide informed me that my last name, ‘Moran,’ is the masai word for warrior.

The following day we had another massive truck day to get to Eldoret, a city in Kenya that is close to the border of Uganda so we could make our crossing the next day. The campsite had the best bar yet; it was all handcarved wood with tons of comfy couches and numerous firepits. We unwound by the fire after the long day in the truck with a few well earned drinks.

The next day we headed to Uganda- I will cover our time there in my next post!

*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.