BootsnAll Travel Network

Africa For Dummies


Hi all! Blogging on the morning of my departure from Africa – it seems like forever that I’ve been here. I was going to title this one “Out of Africa,” but really, it just seemed way too obvious. So instead, I’m going to compile a few tips for you in case you should decide to undertake a journey like mine. I’ll give you a rundown of the last week though first.

Spent nine days on Zanzibar for some much-needed beach time. I sort of, kind of have a tan now, but my stupid antimalarial medicine is getting in the way – one of the side effects is increased sun sensitivity – but in my case, it seems to be preventing me from turning a golden brown. I may just stop taking them, since I forget half the time anyway. Then at least I’ll look nice and brown against the white hospital sheet.

So, hung out in Stone Town on Zanzibar the first two nights with a bunch of dudes I met in Lamu and Dar Es Salaam – ended up at an African hooker bar one night. At least the dudes told me they were hookers. Took off for the beach and met up with two girls that I’d met on a ‘spice tour’ of Zanzibar, which, although interesting, mostly consisted of tromping through the bush and looking at plants. Not sure what else I was expecting…so, shared a room with these two lovely (that was for you, Fiona) girls, both med students, and a good thing too, since I needed minor surgery: swam past and brushed against a sea urchin! Ouch! At least 4 little spines got stuck in my foot. One of the local beach boys (basically a dude who’ll sell you anything, and I mean anything, you want) came over with the local cure – a Fanta soda bottle full of fresh pee and a papaya! “No, no, I’m fine,” I protested, to no avail. So he dumped the pee on my foot and rubbed the papaya goo all over it to “draw out the spines.” Not sure what the pee was for, except perhaps for a joke. So I hobbled back to my part of the beach with my pee foot, waiting for the miraculous cure. When it didn’t feel any better the next day, I made one of my roomies dig out the spines with a needle and tweezers.

After they left, I moved myself from the beach where I was, called Nungwi, to one a little further down, called Kendwa. Weather wasn’t great, rained a few days in a row for a good part of the day, but as soon as the sun came out, I was out there! The bar where I was staying hosted a party one night and I ran into two Dutch guys who I first met in Cape Town 2 and 1/2 months ago! I think the one dude was on E or something cause he was sooooooooooooo thrilled to see me, overly thrilled. He told me how the first picture on his camera is of me, him and this obnoxious Zimbabwean tour guide we met in Cape Town. Not sure if I shared that story or not. So, he left me with his email, with little hearts written all over it.

Left Zanzibar for the epic trek to Nairobi, spent the night in Dar at the same shitcraphole motel I’ve stayed at each time, killed the obligatory cockroach as soon as I got in, and then completed my date with destiny: got the last Harry Potter. Hooray! I basically got off the ferry, cabbed to the motel, then walked as fast as my chicken drummy legs could carry me to get the book. And got some much-needed western-style hair product for my crazy afro. Spent the next day on the bus with Harry, as well as most of the next day in Moshi, where I stopped to try and glimpse Kilimanjaro – no luck. All clouds. Finished the book just in time to sell it to a fellow American in the hostel for $20, after I paid $38 for it – not bad!

Hit Nairobi uneventfully, have spent the last few days sending things to London for pick up at a later date, getting my stupid plane ticket worked out finally, shopping etc. Met a cool dude from the UK who agreed to carry my jeans and warm shoes to London so I can get them when I return there in November. We ate dinner last night at a hotel around the corner and were entertained by a Kenyan guy in what looked like a waiter’s uniform covering Kenny Rogers’ songs on a synthesizer. You haven’t heard The Gambler till you’ve heard someone with a Swahili accent sing it accompanied by a synthesizer, my friends.

That’s it, you’re up-to-date. I’m just killing time till my taxi comes to take me to the scary bus stand for the airport. There’s a shuttle from here for 1200 Ksh, which is almost $20, or I can take a taxi/bus combo for 340 Ksh, which = more money for beer at the airport. Unless I get mugged on the bus. Which probably won’t happen. But, I babble. Without further ado, here are a few tips for an enjoyable time in Africa.

1) BYOTP. I may have said this before, but I cannot stress its importance to a successful trip. Even places like this hostel, where one might assume toilet paper would be included in the price of the bed, have none. A standard white roll can be had at most supermarkets for around 16 Ksh. Another must-have is hand sanitizer, because it goes without saying that if there is a sink near the toilet you happen to be using, there will be no soap. There might not even be a spigot.

2) Cultivate a taste for the musical stylings of such American geniuses as Bryan Adams, who I already mentioned, old school Madonna and Lionel Ritchie. You’ll hear them on the bus and public places of all sorts. Mostly Lionel here in Kenya. He must be universal, because way back in the day in 1994 when my cousin Laura and I backpacked in Europe, we heard him everywhere.

3) Fill a coffee mug with hot milk and pour in two teaspoons of instant coffee granules – this will be your coffee for the duration of your trip, unless you splurge and go to fancy hotels or to a great place in Nairobi called “Nairobi Java House.” I’m really, really, really hoping there will be one at the airport later today. Right.

4) Learn a little Swahili for Tanzania and Kenya. May I suggest “No thank you, I already bought six of those yesterday.” People will really appreciate the effort though.

5) It’s winter in Africa right now. If you come at this time of year, take that seriously. At least bring jeans, closed-toe shoes and a sweatshirt. I had to buy a hoodie here cause I thought, yeah right winter in Africa?

6) Try every beer at least once. I’m sure I don’t have to tell you to do this. There’s also a clear alcohol called Konyagi, which comes in little plastic bags that you cut and pour into your drink. I think it’s gin – at least it tastes gin-like when you pour it in a tonic.

7) You can buy anything you want either in the market or from the comfort of whatever minibus/bus you happen to be on. For example, if any of you men think, while sitting in traffic, “Gee, I forgot to pack a tie for dinner tonight,” never fear, because there is bound to be some dude walking between the cars selling – ties! And lampshades, and irons, and empty CD tower things, and towels, etc. ad infinitum.

8) Many of the roads are mostly pothole. Bring a butt pillow.

9) As for the food – try all the local stuff. Ugali is kind of like polenta, made of maize or cassava and is eaten with everything. Mishikaki are little meat kebabs. Nyama choma is more meat. It’s yummy and cheap and it will make your experience that much richer.

10) Finally, don’t ever expect anything to happen quickly. Pole pole, my friends, seriously. If you don’t reel back your expectations about when you’ll be somewhere, what you’ll find when you get there and how you’ll get there, you’re going to have a terrible trip. People tend not to get upset here, about anything, and I don’t know if it’s calm, or just that they’re used to nothing ever really working. Even the babies don’t cry here. I’m not exaggerating when I say I’ve been on a bus all day and upon disembarkation after 10 hours, realized there were babies and toddlers on the bus, who were utterly silent the whole time. Pole pole, people.

Well, I’m off to the big city. Pole pole indeed. See you in Asia! xxx


7 responses to “Africa For Dummies”

  1. J and C says:


  2. BK says:

    33 is the new 23. ¡Feliz cumpleaños!

  3. Janet says:

    Happy Birthday again! Did you pick me up one of those ties from the men selling them in the traffic jam?

  4. Sharon says:

    Happy Birthday!

    I forgot to have cake in your honor. So why don’t you have some cake in your own honor:)

  5. brian says:

    happy B-day….BB

  6. kady says:

    Hgappy Bgirthday!!

  7. Dane says:

    A good ‘old fashioned’ happy belated birthday!

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