Jill's African Adventure
* Rafting the Nile
* Murchison Falls
* A Day in The Life
* Hell's Gate
* Nairobi and Around (Part 2)
* Nairobi and Around (Part 1)
* A Dhow Trip From Lamu
* Watamu: Ruins, Monkeys, Shrews, and Jellyfish
* Hiking in Lushoto
* Changing E-mail Address
* The Problems of Itete
* Village Life
* Hanging Out in Dar
* Zanzibar - Music Festival & Prison Island
* Zanzibar (Jozani Forest & Jambiani)
* Zanzibar (Stone Town & Spice Tour)
* Future Plans
* Safari!!! (Part 7 - Mikumi Park)
* Safari!!! (Parts 5 & 6 -- Rodent and Itete)
May 02, 2005
A Day in The Life
Travelling independently has a lot of ups and downs. Sometimes you have absolutely amazing moments that you wouldn't trade for anything and that remind you of how good it is to be alive and how lucky you are. Sometimes things are going so horribly that you know that whatever you acheive from all your troubles could not possibly be worth it and all you want is to be home. Sometimes these moments occur all within one day. So for those of you who think all my travels are just fun and games and for those of you who think that travel is pointless here is the tale of a day in my life, April 26, 2005...
I woke up at around 6:30. I just couldn't sleep anymore. That was okay. I had a lot I wanted to get done in the day. Plus, I was rather looking forward to taking a hot shower. It had been a few days since I'd had one and they had assured me at check-in the previous night that there was hot water in the mornings. This proved, however, to be a very cruel taunt. There was no hot water. In fact, there was barely any water. Just a slight trickle coming from the shower head that was completely insufficient to bathe. So, no shower. Who really needs clean hair anyway?
I then packed up all of my stuff before heading out to begin my errands. I was hoping to spend the night at a place called the Flamingo Camp which I had heard from other travellers was absolutely awesome. It was a bit out of town, though, so I wanted to make sure I could get a room before I travelled all the way there. Thus my first task was to call the camp. I headed out around 8, giving me one hour until I had to check out of my hotel at nine.
Armed with my guidebook and a calling card I went out to find a public phone that would accept my card. There were none near where I was staying. But, I reasoned, there probably would be a number of phones I could use by the post office which which only a 5 or 10 minute walk away. Plus, on the way I could stop at the Barclay's ATM to see if it was working. Barclays ATMs had not been accepting international cards the previous day. I try to preserve my cash and travellers checks for rainy days and Barclays is the only bank out here that will accept my card, so I was really hoping to have better luck this time around with the ATM. I didn't have much hope though. This is Africa. Nothing happens quickly. Much to my amazement my card worked and I was soon armed with cash.
I arrived at the post office and, happily, I found a phone that accepts cards. So, I dialed the number for Flamingo Camp that was in my guidebook. Not surprising, I got a message that the call was not allowed. No problem -- I knew that this just meant that the area code had been changed. Kenya had recently reissued area codes for most of the country, so this was no surprise. I just went into the post office and looked up the new area code there. And tried to call again. Only this time I was told that the phone number had changed. So I walked for 15 minutes and asked the tour company I had booked a game drive with if they could give me the number. They did not know it, but gave me the number for information. So I went to a close-by phone and called information. But just as the phone was answered the truck parked in front of the phone started ujp so I couldn't hear. Once the truck was gone I still couldn't hear and soon the phone display was reading "out of order." At this point I went to another travel agent and got three phone numbers for the place from them. The landline number was the one I already had, but there were two mobile numbers that I hadn't had.
But I could not make the phone call right away because I had to go back to my hotel to check out of my room. After checking out I walked back to the first tour company and dropped my bags there before starting my 15 minute walk back across town to a working phone I could use. On the way to the phone I stopped off at the supermarket to buy breakfast. When I got to the phone, praise the powers that be, the first mobile number I called worked and I soon had a reservation. Not only that, but the price had not gone up since my guidebook was published and, as a special good surprise, the price included dinner and breakfast.
Having gotten money and made the required phone call I could enjoy myself. I went to the park where I had my breakfast and then went to the internet cafe. I had e-mails from Dad, Ann, Abbie, and Andy - a good number. (I don't think most people realize how much e-mails from home mean to the long-term traveller. They are just about all that keep me connected and sane.) Of course, I couldn't open a document I need to open, but, well, its Africa. Overall a good internet visit.
I then did a few errands: I bought snacks for the next days game drive, verified that yes, there is a way to go directly from Nakuru to Kampala by bus, bought film, ate lunch, and picked up my bags at the tour company.
I then went to the matatu (minibus) stage to get a ride to Flamingo Camp. It was about 1:10. The camp was about a 20 minute drive away. I asked around about matatus headed in the right direction and was soon sitting on the one that everyone assured me would be the quickest to leave. There were only a few other people aboard and and the matatu did not seem to be filling up quickly. (Matatus do not leave until they are full.) I figured I'd be wqaiting for a while so I pulled out my book and started reading. About an hour later only one other person had gotten on. (Well, a mother and two kids. But in filling up matatus kids don't count. Which makes the recent laws limiting the number of people and required seatbelts seem a bit silly, but I digress.) Things were not looking good. I started to wonder if the matatu would ever leave. My patience was just about exhausted. Not only had I been waiting for an hour with no end in sight, but I also had to deal with all the hawkers trying to sell everything from bananas and sausages to tea towels, watches, calculators, and combs. I think I had to deal with an average of about one per minute and, unfortunately, most of then don't understand "no." Or hapana (no), sihitiji (I don't need), or sitaki (I don't want). Sometimes I was really polite, sometimes I ignored them completely, and sometimes I was really rude. I usually try to give each hawker at least one polite "no thank you" before being rude, but sometimes I did not have the patience for even that.
Around 2:15 I started asking people if they knew when the matatu was likely to fill up. I was feeling really impatient and doing horribly at "when in Rome..." I am afraid I may have come off as the crazy, rude foreigner. I think the kids were probably more patient than I. In any case no one had any idea when the matatu might fill up, but I had known that would be the case well before I'd asked. I got out of the matatu to stand and wait. This put me in a better mood. I was even joking with some of the hawkers. I asked around about other matatus that might be leaving sooner, but that got me nowhere. I asked a taxi how much a ride would be. The answer was too much.
Around 3:30 I was still waiting when Simon, a Kenyan from Thika on business in Nakuru, got in. We started talking. We still needed three more people before the matatu would leave. No one was getting on. Then the man sitting next to Simon got out to find alternative transportation. Around 3:45 Simon got out and found us a matatu heading to Nairobi that would drop me off along the way. It cost me an extra 100 shillings (about $1US). We left around 4:00, stopped for petrol, and were then on our way. Around 4:30 I got dropped off about 20 meters past the "Flamingo CAmp 800m" sign which had an arrow on it.
With my full pack I then started walking in the direction of the arrow along the wide path, down the the lake. Only problem was, when i got to the lake's edge, I could not see any sign of anything that might possibly resemble a place to stay. Some kids assured me that the camp was off to the left. So we went down a steep hill and headed left and walked and I kept thinking "around the next bend I'll see signs of a camp." But I didn't. The kids' English was not good enough to tell me how long it would take to get there or how far it was, though one of them said 22km. I wasn't even sure they had any idea what I was talking about and was thinking I might spend the rest of the night walking, so I turned around and headed back toward the highway.
At this point I was hungry, tired, frustrated, and weighed down way too much by my pack. 800 meters with it is not bad, but a couple kilometers up and down hills, not knowing how to get where I am going, wigh my shoulders still sore from biking in Hell's Gate - not good at all. I was practically in tears by this point, just wanting dinner and a bed, but knowing I might end up back on the road waiting - potentially for a long time - for another matatu back into town.
When I got near the road I met two women who said they knew how to get to the camp. One invited me into her home for tea and a rest - the people here can be amazingly friendly and hospitable - but I declined, just wanting to arrive at my final destination for the evening. The other woman, Ann, walked over with me to a point where she said I just needed to go straight. But when I cam to a junction, Monica, who also invited me into her home, told me I needed to go left. She walked with me part way, but I wasn't sure she knew what was what. I was soon left in the care of a young man who said he knew where it was. I asked him how far of a walk it was. Not far, he said:
Happily, at that point Fracis rode up on his bike. Francis actually worked for Flamingo Camp and so definitely knew where it was. He also took one of my bags, which lightened my load considerably. Soon after meeting Francis I was at the camp.
It was about 5:45.
I soon found myself in a very nice banda with stone walls, a big comfortable bed, and my own bathroom. The friendly and accommodating staff started a fire for me to heat the water for my shower. While the water was warming one of the staff members walked down with me to the lake where I went to get a better look at the flamingos. He explained that the flamingos went wherever the algae was since that is what they eat. The lake was beautiful, though the water level was really low which meant that there would be no boating and the flamingos were far from shore. The low water level gave the lake an otherworldly feel though, with lots of cracked mud and many of the bright white salt deposits visible.
By the time I got to my banda the water was ready and I took the nicest shower I had had in a VERY long time. There was plenty of water, good water presure, and it was at the perfect emperature where you start to think that maybe you'll never get out...
By the time I got out of the shower I was in a much better mood and it was time to go for dinner. While waiting for my dinner I noticed the very clever centerpieces on the tables which were made out of flamingo feathers. Each feather made a "petal" in a flower and the flowers had been put together in a christmas-tree sort of shape. Very beautiful.
And then the food. Oh, the food was excellent -- the best I had had since my trip began, I think. For the first course I had carrot soup (surprisingly delicious) and, since I could not eat the toast they normally served with it, scrambled eggs. The second course was an excellent large salad of tomatos, cucumbers, green peppers, and carrots. The main course was surprisingly African considering the first two courses were so Western: chicken (in a tangy, non-african sauce), red beans, rice, and cabbage. Dessert was banana, pineapple, and papaya. All this was followed by tea.
After dinner I spent my time writing in my journing and reading out on my porch before heading into my banda. I also had to spend a good amount of time rigging the mosquito net over my bed. The bed was queen or king sized and the mosquito net was made for a twin sized bed. Only in Africa... The generator was turned off and the lights went out at 11, which was an hour earlier than I had been told it would be turned off, but I was almost finished getting ready for bed, so it was no big deal.
Thus ended a very up and down day in the life of Jill.
Posted by Jillian on May 2, 2005 10:15 AM
Category: East Africa
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