Travelling with mates sounds ideal as you can talk on a similar level, can relate to each other and basically having a history of good times together. It’ll be just like back at home – you’ll go out drinking and dancing, only this time in a foreign local.
But how well do you really know this person? I travelled with someone who was famous for always sleeping in and rocking up late. It got so chronic that I told her that we were meeting somewhere an hour earlier than we really intended to show up. Back home, it was all funny and cool. But when we had to visit a site that can only be reached by catching a bus in the early hours of the morning and she was still in bed, I no longer saw the funny side.
So how did it all go? As far as I know, she’s still in bed!
Travel can be a daunting experience at first when you are on your own. There are buses to catch, trains to ride, accommodation to find and that little matter of the sleazy local sitting on the other side of the bench leering at you. So then, I asked myself the following question: Do I really want to travel with someone silly enough to want to travel with me?
11th – 15th of January 2009:
During this time frame, we had visited many wildlife centres, hanged out with the local people in Nairobi, approached on all directions by Kenyan scammers and punished the toilets severely every-time we had hit the dunny at the Kivi Milimani hotel. We had intended to do white water rafting in Kenya, but due to the nature of the high popularity associated with this activity, we never did. Days in, days out we would wander the city of Nairobi hoping that one event would lead to the other. And although, Nairobi had plenty to offer; especially the clubs at night – we were told never to venture out late at night by ourselves, because of the high risk of being mugged. Such is the typical city of a 3rd world country. Although I had never intended on spending too much money here in Nairobi, a quick glance at a mobile phone store turned my table upside down. I finally lay my eyes on a mobile phone which you can watch free analog T.V with, no matter in what country you are. After I had paid roughly $180AU, I caught a taxi to the Jomo Kenyatta International airport. I had almost missed my flight, as the taxi driver took me in the wrong direction of the airport but to his credit, I made it in time for the check-in and shortly after, I was on the plane departing for Cairo, Egypt again.
The Heliopolis hotel in Cairo is a top-notch place to stay in, with a very clean sanitized bathroom. Although it was unfortunate that I didn’t get to spend much time at this hotel as I was leaving for Dahab tomorrow afternoon.
16th of January 2009:
It’s funny, but when I travel overseas I seem to be able to cope with sitting on a bus for nine hours straight without losing too much of my sanity. But when I have to do it back home – in buses that would be the envy of most third world countries and on roads that are good – I end up having to undergo therapy. So later tonight when I had reached Dahab after a nine hour bus ride I was still incredibly energetic. I started off by catching up with my ex tour guide (who had been looking after us the last time we were in Dahab – see part 2 of my blog) followed by a haircut; in an attempt to shave off my orange ugly hair and looking into getting certified for scuba diving. Back in part 2 of my blog I was always so curious about the nature of scuba diving. The highly sophisticated equipment that divers wear all look so appealing, and it wasn’t only that, that made me pursue a career in scuba diving, but rather it was the dubious unforgettable smiling face on all divers after each dive that contributed to my overall decision. After meeting up with the owner of Big Blue Dahab who was certified by PADI, it was time for me to begin my open water course level course tomorrow morning… at 7am.
17th of January 2009:
The idea that people could breathe underwater was once a fantasy. But today, scuba diving has left the realms of imagination and grown into a worldwide sport with millions of followers. Those who take part in it are granted privileged access to a mysterious yet beautiful world, and every dive is an adventure into the unknown. Today marks the first day of my open water course training. I still remember coming back up to the surface after a 20 minute introductory dive with the biggest grin on my face. I felt as if I had accomplished something, and it was that feeling that I will always remember for the rest of my life. I had spent all morning and afternoon practicing dives with my instructor – who was ever so tolerant of my novice skills and my amateur type of questions. In the evening, I simply sat down at a restaurant overlooking the red sea and reflected on today’s experiences. 3 words – Life is amazing.
18th of January 2009:
One of the most important skills for a diver to master is undoubtedly that of buoyancy control. And until I master this, I will be constantly expending effort in order to maintain my position in the water, wasting air resources and distracting me from my dive. I had to admit, this was one of the toughest things I have ever done in my life. It was just like learning how to breathe all over again. Thankfully though, if it wasn’t for my humble instructor, I would still be in the never-ending process of receiving my open water certification. And as a result, we spent the majority of today in the water and by the time I had surfaced and taken a shower, I was ready to chill out and go for a walk around town. Ah, the good times of travelling alone. I realized that there is a dark side to travelling with someone – the moods, the fights, the compromises. I mean, travelling with the right person can be a wonderful thing, adding a whole new dimension to the travel experience. If you’re travelling with your partner, beachside sunsets will be rosier and if you’re travelling with mates, big nights out will be wilder and messier. Travelling with the wrong person however, can be like getting trapped in the Big brother house with the most annoying contestant without any hope of ever being evicted.
19th of January 2009:
I had spent pretty much all of today, again, training to dive, practicing resurfacing skills, and immediate ascents. And to top it all off, I was forced to swim 50 metres at the crack of dawn in the cold Red Sea. The aftermath proved just how unfit I was, having gone through traveler’s diarrhea in Kenya, eating junk food just about every day and lack of exercise. I almost spent 1 hour recovering on the seats, when the swim was a mere 50 metres. It looked as though I had done a week’s worth of swimming with no break.
I decided to reward myself with the effort I put in today by going dive-computer shopping. Unfortunately, the asking price was way out of my travelling budget and you couldn’t really haggle the price over electronics. For some reason, I loved haggling by myself. You see back home, getting me to buy a new shirt is like pulling teeth, but put me in a dusty, humid market in Egypt where prices are highly negotiable, and I’ll turn into a super-shopper. It will become a point of honour for me that I can get you a sarong or anything you fancy that will make the stall owner weep. And after buying a few more T-shirts and jumper for the equivalent price of $10AU, and walking around with my ex tour guide in the hunt for more valium, the evening lead to a win win situation.
20th of January 2009:
Let me begin by ranting about sitting exams during holidays. It is perfectly okay to sit an exam during your time at university or college, however, who could be that insane person sitting a scuba diving written exam when holidays is about… well… been exam-free. And although I was given the diving book and was reminded every night to go study it like a bible – those very instructions fell on deaf ears. Just scrapping in a pass, I was finally certified as open water level scuba diver. I had to admit it, I wasn’t exactly Einstein when it came to diving exams but I knew a lot of questions revolved around common sense. As an open water scuba diver, I was certified to dive to a depth of 18 metres. Anything beyond this depth would require further training. Today also marks my final day in Dahab, as I had to catch my return flight back to Australia later this evening. Having thanked my diving instructor and ex tour guide – I had promised to them that I will return later on in the year to pursue further activities.
Originally I had planned on staying between a four or five-star hotel for the duration of my stay in Nairobi, Kenya. But then I realised that wasn’t travelling. That’s just transplanting my current lifestyle or a projected image of how I want my lifestyle to be to another country. I figured that if that’s all I ever wanted out of a trip, I could use my money I’d spend travelling to put in a Jacuzzi out the back and hire an out of work actor to bring me drinks. So I went dirty and booked the hands –on type of tour guide around Kenya.
I guess a lot of people will tell you the reason they are travelling to Africa. Many say it’s to broaden their mind and deepen their understanding of the cultures they are visiting. But they are all liars. Matter of fact, one of their top reasons to travel to Africa is to lose weight. It’s amazing what unappetising, unhygienically prepared food will do to even the most trouble of waistlines. Add a dose of giardiasis or explosive dysentery and the kilos will literally drop off. The best spots for this revolutionary approach to weight loss are Africa, Asia and most KFC stores they have around Australia.
1st of January 2009 – 3rd of January 2009.
It brought a tear to my eye when I left Egypt to go to Kenya, but like that famous saying goes – all good things come to an end. So when the plane (Kenyan Airlines) touched down at 6am this morning, I had already battled myself mentally to stay strong and eat extra healthy to avoid the infamous traveller’s diarrhoea. Unfortunately, that’s the line peddled by most guidebooks and medical authorities. They argue that if you’re careful about what you eat and drink you can avoid most of the common ailments like diarrhoea, dysentery and the occasional farting. There are flaws with this theory though. For one thing, if you avoided eating and drinking everything they suggest, you’d starve to death. And there’s that piece of advice that you shouldn’t eat food from a place where the owner looks sickly, because Guidebooks assume that it’s because he’s been eating his own food. If I’d taken this advice I would have gone hungry and resorted to cannibalism. So when I had finally passed through immigration and on the taxi to our hotel which was along Kenyatta avenue named Kivi Milimani hotel, I decided to have a good feed on whatever I could get my hands on. Unfortunately the next few days consisted of me squatting in the toilets giving my best sounds of a cappuccino machine.
A lot of people only focus on the unpleasant sides of traveller’s diarrhoea. They remember the hours spent squatting over an unsanitary hole in the ground. They forget about the more positive and life-affirming aspects of ‘having the shits’. For one, it’s a great conversation starter. Nothing breaks the ice in an awkward social situation while you’re travelling by commencing the conversation with ‘Gees, something’s gone through me like a ton of bricks’. Instantly you will see that your silent companions will be all lively and bubbly, relating tales of their own bowel movements. Luckily though on the third day, the diarrhoea had subsided – just in time for my guided tour of Kenya to begin.
4th of January 2009
At 8am on the dot, the tour guide of Kenya officially begins on the Intrepid truck. Our first destination was to the children’s orphanage called New Hope Children’s centre – Uplands. For some people in our tour group this was one of the highlights during their stay in Kenya and for others, it was a mere insight into Kenya. Although personally, it touched my heart to have seen the struggles that the children had to endure throughout their childhood, being neglected by their family and placed in a foreign location. I could not help but give these children a few of my gifts that I had bought along with me from Australia, prior to leaving. We later pitched a tent for our overnight stay at Lake Nakuru. A quick observation around this highland revealed that we were not the only ones here on this campsite. Wild monkeys, zebras, gazelles and buffalos roamed the area freely – actually quite freely, that it gave the Norwegian girls a scare of their lifetime when they spotted a pack of buffalos at close proximity on their way to the dunny. I guess the Vikings had never seen animals of this calibre before, when they had plundered into Northern Europe during the Dark ages.
P.S For those of you who would like to do volunteer work in Nairobi, Kenya – here is the email for the New Hope Children’s Centre: email@example.com.
The website can be viewed at: http://www.newhopechildrenscentre.org. Contact number: (254) 0733-765871.
5th of January 2009
At 7am this morning, we were ready for the game drive around Lake Nakuru. Pink flocks of flamingos dominated the lake, strayed buffaloes walking romantically against the shoreline and wild monkeys cuddling up their babies. At midday, we were due for our next destination – Lake Naivasha. After a few hundred kilometres of rough bumpy roads and bopping our heads up and down to no music, we had finally arrived.
In many of the more remote corners of the World, the only ways to get between Point A and woop woop is to walk or catch a truck. Now, at first this may seem like an awesome idea but there are problems. Firstly, trucks are not designed to carry people. They are designed to carry inanimate objects that don’t mind being roughly thrown about. Truck travel, combined with third world bad roads, is designed to make you remember you’re alive, if only to have you wishing you had never been born.
Nonetheless, we were further tormented on this ordeal by an afternoon Safari game drive around Naivasha. Giraffes, rhinoceros and birds were spotted amidst the African dust. And a note to people who thoroughly enjoys bird watching – Lake Naivasha is essentially the birdwatcher’s paradise ringed by flat-topped acacia trees.
6th of January 2009
Today was an adventurous day where we could do whatever we wanted around Lake Naivasha. We started off this quiet morning by visiting a local community which was located roughly about 1 kilometre from our campsite. This community houses a population of small kids, and before you know it – we went around painting the nails of these kids pink; male or female, whom their parents perceive the whole situation as ‘fun’. After several hours of dancing and roaming around the community, the tour group had difficulty in deciding what to do for the remainder of the afternoon. Rachel and Stine had galloped off into the wilderness on their horses, Liz had gone for a quiet stroll around the Lake and the rest of the resulting participants of the tour group which consist of Wade, Anna, Sally, Malene and I, subsequently retreated into the local swimming pool for a nice relaxing swim and tan.
By late afternoon, we all decided we wanted to go for a hippo run on the safari boat. Although, no two boat rides are ever the same, each being a unique little adventure of its own, there are some things about hitting the high lakes in the Third world that never change. For example:
1. There will be more passengers on the boat than the boat physically can support. (We convinced the captain that we all could fit on the same boat, without the necessity to split us up onto two boats thus saving money)
2. You will be overwhelmed by the smell of diesel fumes – even if it is a sail boat.
And if running over an angry hippo wasn’t the highlight of the afternoon, the witnessing of the locals who were in crocodile and hippo infested water was. No wonder why the hippos were the most dangerous animal in Africa, contrary to popular belief.
And after a spectacular afternoon and well into the evening, the tour group had decided to play a game of spoons. The loser would end up posing as a donkey on top of the table to be humiliated at. That loser, so to speak, had to be me. I don’t mind posing as a donkey – just don’t upload the photos on facebook please.
7th of January 2009
At the crack of dawn we set off for a destination known as Loita Hills. As you recall from my previous blog (Part 2), I had mentioned that ‘no matter what anti-malarial drug you choose, you can be certain that the mozzies will have well and truly built up an immunity to it by the time you reach the swampy neck of the woods’. Today puts that belief into perspective, with members of the tour group facing big itchy red bumps. It was like a Christmas come early for the mozzies.
By midday, we were introduced to a new tour guide who goes by the name of Chris. Chris is an amazing person with an awesome personality which really shines through him, the minute he talks to you. He showed the tour group around and provided us with that ‘feeling’ of what it is like to live in a hut, made out of cow dung.
Consequently, we spent the evening listening to Chris’s bonfire tales and learning how to use the squat toilets properly before we hit the hay.
8th of January 2009
From years of break dancing back here in Australia, to where dancing originated from, today is a day where I will always treasure for the rest of my life. As we set off for the Masai Mara, we were confronted by the Masai warriors. The Masai mara is a large park reserve in south western Kenya housing bizarre numbers of these warriors. The men still wear the modest tribal costumes, but when they start running about whistling, shrilling, singing and inviting you to join them, it’s pure African sexuality. And then there’s the spear throwing. If you ever think that you are awesome at Javelin throwing at the Athletics carnival don’t expect that you will out throw them. They own this town.
Later this afternoon we went for another bumpy safari game drive, only this time we witnessed a pack of lions devouring on a giraffe. What an experience! Although my experiences were quickly ruined once the Japanese tourists decided to talk loudly, with the potential to scare away the lions.
But the African sunset at 5pm was just phenomenal and overwhelming; so much that whenever I felt upset over something here in Australia, all I ever had to do was to think back to this current point in time and it would lift my spirits back up again.
9th of January 2009
A border is an arbitrary line drawn on a map between two countries. It occasionally marks a quite distinct division in politics, religion and animals, but mostly it is an ill-conceived line that is designed to give two very similar peoples something to fight about for centuries. Welcome to the border of Tanzania and Kenya. Standing here at the rock which divides these two places apart gave me that feeling of being a child again. I always had this childish desire to put one foot in each country or at the very least go ‘Now I’m in Kenya and now I’m in Tanzania, now I’m in Kenya and now I’m in Tanzania’. Although this tour was focused primarily on Kenya, we didn’t get to venture into Tanzania.
Further exploring the Masai Mara, we could see wildebeest migrating across rivers, a colony of hippo’s sun baking, crocodiles looking for locals to feed on and a pack of evil laughing hyenas devouring on what appears, to be the remains of the giraffe from yesterday’s safari game drive.
The tour group shared the last night together over a traditional delicious Kenyan dinner, before departing tomorrow morning as we all went our separate ways.
10th of January 2009
As the tour group split with Liz, Wade, Sally and Anna continuing on with their tour of Tanzania the rest of us; Stine, Malene, Rachel and I had arrived back in Nairobi, Kenya. As we went back to our hotel (The Kivi Milimani hotel) I quickly grabbed a bottle of water in an attempt to soothe my thirst. But then, I had remembered the following advice that the travel doctor offered to me before I left for overseas. “Do not drink tap water, only drink bottled water”. Tap water is perhaps the greatest threat to your health not because of a contaminated water source, but rather the dubious state of the plumbing in most of the places you’ll likely be staying in or eating at. Today, I realised that this advice doesn’t really work. You see, some bottled water is not at all that it appears to be. Those little kids who grab the plastic bottle out of your hand just as you finish aren’t collecting them for the fun of it. They are in the employ of a huge, multi-national recycling concern that refills those bottles with the same tap water that you’ve been trying to avoid all along. As a result, I was back at square one re-enacting my best impression of a cappuccino machine just as I had hit the dunny at the hotel.
But my days weren’t over yet as Stine, Malene, Rachel and I had a lovely dinner in the heart of the capital city of Nairobi, followed by a paranoid walk back to our hotel (In suspecting that someone will jump out of the bushes and rob us silly).
As we waved Stine and Malene goodbye as they continue their travelling through Asia and the rest of the world, I quickly went to bed hoping that I can recover from the never-ending traveller’s diarrhoea.