I know. My last post was not quite what you were expecting for my first entry on this trip. It was sort of whiny and oddly reminiscent of the first few chapters’ of Eat Pray Love. I do apologize for the wilful complaining about my lot in life. I shall endeavor to keep the mood a little lighter in this entry. Promise.
I landed in Nairobi at around 8:30pm on a Friday night. Nairobi is not a safe place. I’ll be the first to admit that, despite the fact that I’m usually the person spouting about how safe international travel is for single females. So I was a little nervous when I emerged from the temporary terminal building only to find that among the sea of names on signs being vigorously waved by drivers, mine was not among them despite multiple assurances by my tour operator to the contrary.
Eventually, my driver, who goes by the name of Smiley, appeared with a small sign for the camp outside Nairobi where I’d be staying for one night, before embarking on the Oasis Overland 56 day tour down to Cape Town.
I’ve been to Kenya before, back in 1998, about a week after the US Embassy building had been bombed. It hadn’t changed much, but as usual, I did enjoy the wonderful warm breeze that enveloped my being as we walked towards his cab and I imagined the adventure that lay ahead.
My group consists of 13 individuals, a tour guide, and a driver. There are 4 women and 9 males ranging in age from 18 to 46. Spending this much time with such an eclectic group of individuals will be an interesting exercise in and of itself, but my first impression of my travel companions is positive. I already have a sweet affinity for the 18 year old from the U.K who goes by the name of Jerrick. He is so sweet and looks uncannily just like Keira Knightly. I’ve encouraged him to claim her as a sibling as a great pick up line.
So far, all that has transpired has been in the course of journeying out of Kenya and south to the town of Arusha – the gateway to the roof of Africa – Kilimanjaro. At least, that’s all that has happened physically – but here are some firsthand observations of the trip thus far:
– Dust is part of life in East Africa. We have been fighting sand and dust since leaving Nairobi, and here at the campsite in Arusha, I’ve learned the importance of leaving gear in the truck overnight rather than bringing it into the tent. My clothes had a 1/2 inch layer of red dirt by the morning.
– Border crossings are going to be an entertaining experience. Our guide tried to argue my case for a transit visa, since my travels will bring me back to Tanzania to try Kilimanjaro in June. After arguing for over 20 minutes, the manager of the border office finally agreed to the slightly cheaper visa. Unfortunately, he then went on his lunch break and his subordinate swiftly refused to comply with the agreed upon exchange, and charged me an additional $20 which he swiftly put in his pocket rather than in the till.
– Our truck is pretty damn cool. It can seat up to 24, though I am very grateful for a slightly smaller than maximum capacity tour. It has tarp-based windows which can be rolled up, so the whole driving experience is open-air, and the countryside whizzes past us in a very pleasant breeze. People and small children wave to us from their farms and market stands. Masai warriors stroll down village streets carrying their staffs, women balancing baskets on their heads as large as themselves.
The bus also has a sort of napping area in the front part of the cab. I have re-named it the sauna because it is at least 10 degrees hotter up there than on the rest of the truck.
– SInce we have a smaller group, and there are so few females, I get to enjoy my own tent. However, this also means that I’ll be setting it up and taking it down alone. Each tent has it’s own name, and the tent that was handed to me was aptly called “Love”. Unfortunately, love was a little broken. But only in the doorway. The doorway to Love is temporarily blocked.
– Our first campsite has a very cool bar called “Ma’s” and there are t-shirts from every corner of the earth hanging from the ceilings and walls. That first beer I drank after my first jet-lagged day on the truck was an godsend.
We are now heading into the Serengeti and the Ngorongoro Crater for a 3 day safari. I am looking forward to it. We are having a somewhat relaxing morning and I decided to write an entry. Unfortunately, my computer has decided that Day 1 of this trip is an appropriate time to die on me. I sat there turning it on and off, willing the black screen to show any signs of life. Since I am so jet-lagged and have yet to have a full night’s sleep, I’m also pretty emotional and this put me over the edge.
Our driver, Pete, took pity on me and leant me his laptop so that I could write. I am choosing to stay optimistic about my laptop. It will start working again.
Otherwise, i’ll have to think up a range of non-sexual favors that I can emply to borrow other traveler’s laptops during this journey.