Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Kenya.. goodbye Africa

We had a long day of driving and border crossing. It wasn't a bad border it just took longer than usual. After that we drove the rest of the day and into the night to Nakuru. We spent the night at a pretty cool place. Cecilie and I upgraded to a safari tent which was awesome. Cecilie packed her stuff for Kili and I read.

The next morning we woke up early and got all of our stuff onto the truck. I wish I knew the name of the campground but if you are at this campground please not there is only one toilet and the wait can be awhile with all the other overland trucks. Luckily there is a bathroom at the bar area. I woke up and ran to the toilet only to find 4 other people waiting. I almost shat myself until Yoshi told me in broken english one toilet no good. One toilet bar good! I ran and found it just in time. We took off at 0630 in what looked like a 14 person mini Rosie truck. We game drove all day and we basically saw every type of bird possible. If you are a bird fan this is the place. I went because the place used to be a Rhino sanctuary and there are tons of Rhinos everywhere (so we heard) Suse exact words (you'd be blind not to see one). Well we were blind until the end. So we saw one black Rhino. He ended up eating in a distance and slowly made his way behind our truck. I won't lie, I was not a big fan of Nakuru. I am not sure if it was because of being the end of my trip and done with game parks or we were told that thousands of flamingos go there and we only 10, or it was the fact that after any animal the driver would stop for a while to take pictures (don't get me wrong that is nice but after 8 game drives I don't want to take pictures of zebras)...

Anyway after the game drive we drove 2 hours to Naivasha. We stopped here for an hour while cook group (suppose to be me but I bailed out) went shopping and Mt. Kilimanjaro people took off. I said my goodbyes to Cecilie, Jareb and Talbot. After they left we took off towards fishermans camp. A really cool campground on Lake Naivasha (Hippos come to the fence at night). The place was packed so I had no chance to upgrade. I ended up setting up Jarebs tent, because I gave mine to Gavin. The next morning the boys (Gavin, Kevin, Nico and myself) biked Hells Gate National park with our guide Peter. It was a really great time. All in all we biked 22 km there and back and we took a 3 km walk through a beautiful gorge (Tomb Raider was filmed here). It was so unique biking while giraffes, zebras, and buffalo's were next to the road. The gorge was absolutely amazing and beautiful. I highly recommend doing this side trip.

After the bike trip through Hells Gate we ended up doing a boat trip to Joy Adamson house. The boat trip was okay we saw a few hippos and then they through a fish into the water and then called the fish eagles (look like the American bald eagle) to get the fish. They did it 5 times and all 5 times I struggled taking pictures. Joys Adamson house was pretty good. We felt rushed so eating high tea was a hurry and the video was very slow. It felt like watching Mr. Rodgers when I was a kid. I feel asleep watching it. After an hour there we took off towards Nairobi to Karen camp for our week off.

On the way to Nairobi Rosie broke down (which is fitting because it was my last drive day).. What suppose to take 3 hours took 5 and we arrived late. Suse ordered us food from the kitchen at Karen camp and free dorm room.

The next morning we took off to the Giraffe center, and David Sheldrek elephant orphanage. We got to the Giraffe center around 0930 and spent an hour there. I felt rushed because I wanted to have more time with the giraffes. Only one giraffe wanted to be feed. Her name was Lynn and she is a fantastic kisser.  We all took turns having her eat out of our hands and she got some really good pets out of us. Towards the end of our feeding two large groups came and Gavin had to share his turn with everyone else who rushed in to pet Lynn. We had to leave at 1030 because David Sheldreck is only  open daily from 11-12 while the feed the baby elephants. This was one of the biggest surprises of the trip for me. None of us really wanted to go, but felt like we had to, because everyone says its worth it. Once we got there they had drinking barrels and big milk bottles all over the place. A few minutes later a group of 12 baby elephants ages 1 month to 2 years came running down the hill. Ears flopping in the wind as cute as can be. That hour was so much fun. The babies make you laugh just being as cute as can be. It reminded me of a playground in elementary school. There was a bully elephant who pushed the smaller elephants to the ground. You had two elephants play in the mud hole. One wanted to go while the other pushed him in. You had the month old with sunblock on his ears and a working follow him around with an umbrella. What I learned was it takes $900 a month to feed a baby elephant. They have to be feed every 3 hours so the workers sleep with them every night. The workers have to change everyday or else the elephants bond with the workers. I also learned that elephant poaching is still a huge part of Kenya.

That is sunblock.. the mothers usual lick them and their saliva has a natural sunblock to it. 

After the great morning, we went back into Karen. I got all my stuff together and said my goodbyes to everyone for the week and headed into Nairobi for the week. Myself, Alexis and Fred were staying at Milimani Backpackers so we shared a taxi. Milimani was a great place, and perfect just to hangout and get caught up on some much needed r and r. That week, I ate a lot of local food, so Taken 2, met some other travelers, and a really good time being by myself. After 5 nights in I went back to Karen and met back with everyone else. I was really excited to hear about everyone week and especially to hear about Cecilie Kili trip. I had to wait all day but when they arrived I got to hear all about it. They went up the hardest route, it turned out that Talbot got malaria the day before he was suppose to climb so he didn't make it up. Which really sucks because I know he really wanted to. It was successful and everyone made it to the summit. After hearing their stories I know I can do it, maybe not the route that they did.

The next day Cecile, Jareb, Talbot met a local guy who's wife had a birthday so they went to his house in the slums and they brought me along. It was really cool to interact with a local but after an hour I was getting extremely hungry and the food wasn't going to be ready for quit sometime. The women were cooking and all the local guys where sitting drinking vodka and shooting the shit. Cecilie and I decided to head back into Nairobi and go to the mall (Junction) for some western food. We stopped by and ate Mexican food and watched the movie Brave.

The next day we spent the day mailing packages off and about one o'clock we heading to Milimani to spend the afternoon while we waited for the 7pm train. We said our goodbyes and gave our hugs. Promised to see each other soon, but the reality of that was that we would probably never see each other again. Within no time we found ourselves on the night train to Mombasa. So after reading lonely planet the train was a mix bag. My thoughts are this take the train for the history of it. Don't bother spending the money on the first class. The dinner was complete shit, and if you are a veggie its worse for you. Second class you have cabins of 4 so you could share, but the train is usually only 20 percent full.

After all night train ride that was bumpy but fun, we made it to Mombasa. We took a tuk tuk to the ferry, after the ferry we got a mottatu (shared minivan) to the a junction. Then we took another tuk tuk to South Coast backpackers. After checking in we headed straight to the beach only to be disappointed. The beach was full of seaweed and we got harassed the whole time trying to lay out in the sun. South Coast backpackers had a pool which we ended up spending the rest of our time there. After the second day I asked Cecilie if she wanted to go north or hit any other beach up. She said yes Thailand... And that is where the fun started. By the next day we booked a 2pm flight on Friday that arrived in Bangkok at 7 AM.

Thursday day we spent the day relaxing by the pool playing 500 and waiting for the bus that was going to take us to back to Nairobi. We decided to take the bus that left close to South Coast. It was budget and a big mistake. We should have gone back into Mombasa and got a luxury bus. But first of all two hours before we got on the bus we think that Cecilie either got her wallet stolen on the mattatu or when they unloaded our bags and she picked it up it fell out of her pocket. Her credit card and 150 bucks gone. Oh to make things worse it was her only credit card. Nonetheless we got on the bus an hour late at 2100 and drove all night on a hot and very stinky uncomfortable bus. We arrived at 830 the next morning not 530 because halfway in the night there was a wreck and both lanes were closed for 3 hours. After arrival we took off straight to the airport and got breakfast while we waited to check in. By 1430 hours we were on Etihad airways (best airlines I have ever flown) You have your own screen with tons of movies to pick from. You can stop, play and pause when you want. They give you a menu where you can pick what food you want and the food was amazing. I highly recommend flying with them whenever you can get a chance. After a stop in Abu Dhabi and 12 hours total we arrived in Bangkok.... Wow!

So I am a little sad leaving the beautiful continent of Africa, I know that so much has happened that after a few months of being home things will become more clear to me. I highly recommend doing an overlanding adventure. Its the cheapest and best way to see Africa.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Uganda... Nile special, and Gorillas


Crossing into Uganda was a breeze. We drove the rest of the day until dusk when we arrived into Kampala (Uganda Capitol). We stayed at Red Chili Hideaway, a really awesome hostel/ campground. It had free wifi (slow as hell), and a double room upgrade for $15 for both of us. By this time I am going to make it a goal and not camp again for the rest of my trip. We stayed two nights at Red Chili. The second day I spent the day wondering around the town. Jareb, Brittany, Shari and I caught boda bodas (motorcycle taxis) and headed to Garden City mall. It was a really great mall. I left everyone and found an ATM. I drew out money for Cecilie (who’s ATM is still for kids) it only allows $200 US a day so she has to get money out every day (gorillas were coming up and they cost $500). She wanted to relax at the campground so I said I’ll get money for her. I also got money for myself.  After getting money I walked by a movie theatre and low and behold expendable 2 was starting in 10 minutes. Two hours later of mindless entertainment I was on my way back to red chilies.

Next day we left at 0530 in the morning (to beat Kampala traffic) and took off towards Mbarara. We arrived there just before it got dark. Once again we upgraded to a really dingy double bed. The place wasn’t bad it just wasn’t that good. That night the owners told Suse he would start a fire. 20 minutes later the owners took apart a picnic bench and started a fire. 

We left for Kisoro the next day at 1000 and only had a two hour drive. It took us 3 hours but Suse stopped and helped a truck who had a huge hole in their radiator. Kisoro was our hub for the gorilla trek. I am so excited; I have wanted to do this ever since I watched the movie Gorillas in the Mist. At the time I wanted to dedicate my life for the gorillas. Cecilie and I ate at a really good café and spent the day getting a packed lunch and charging our camera batteries.

By 0630 in the morning we were off to see the gorillas in two vehicles. The first vehicle ( a 2wd car) was Sarah, Nico, Denise, and Brit. In the other vehicle (4X4 van) was Talbot, Cecilie, Kev, Alexis, Jareb, Yoshi and myself. What supposed to be an hour and a half drive took us a little over 2 hours. When we got to the orientation camp (Bwindi) we were told that we were going to go in a group of 8 and another group of 3 (the group of 3 was supposed to meet up with 5 people who just left. We were then told that we needed to drive to our leave point for the gorillas.  Nico, Denise and Talbot got into a range rover while the rest of us piled into our minivan. Not knowing at the time that the 3 people who got into the Range Rover where the ones who were going to meet up with the other group.

We took off behind the Range Rover, but about 10 minutes into the drive our tire exploded and we had a 15 minute delay while our driver changed the tire. Ten minutes later, all of us were handed a walking stick and took off to see our gorilla family. We knew we were going to trek through jungle, but honestly I had no idea how tough it would be. I felt in shape, but the ground was muddy and we were going up and down thick jungle. About 2 and half hours into the trek we stopped because our guides didn’t know where the family was. We took about a 30 minute break while the trackers found the trail of the gorillas. (This is where I was mistaking. I thought they had security on the gorillas 24/7 but they don’t). They know where the gorillas are the night before. After the 30 minute break, we started going through even thicker jungle. The jungle was thick with vine, and nettles. An hour later we heard the Silverback let us know he was there by beating on his chest. The next hour was a blur, but a blur in such a good way. Our family had 24 gorillas, but because of the thick jungle we saw 11 of those gorillas. Two babies, 7 females, and two males one male was adolescent (but very large), and one silverback (massive). About 20 minutes into the showing there was a male sitting under a tree and we knew the silverback was just off to the right. Yoshi took one step to close to the male sitting on the ground. Next thing we knew we heard screaming and the silverback was charging us. The other male started charging as well. The guides tackled Yoshi and Cecilie and started using their sticks to scare the silverback away from ripping our arms away from our body. It only lasted a few seconds but that was one of the scariest seconds of my entire life. It was so amazing, scary and beautiful all at the same time.  After that the silverback climbed a tree and didn’t even give us a second look. He just sat on the tree farting away. I only took a few pictures, because I spent the rest of the time just admiring the beauty of their eyes, fingers, fingernails and their mannerisms. After 45 minutes we started the same decent back to the start. It started raining which made the ground almost impossible to walk on. We made it back in 2 and half hours with one minor incident. Yoshi only brought a 20oz bottle of coke and no water. About 20 minutes from being back, Yoshi collapse. I went to him and couldn't feel a heartbeat; none of his muscles were working. I put him on the ground and Cecilie gave him some sugar. Myself, and Yoshi’s porter grabbed him and started carrying him (hands under his legs) down the treacherous muddy ground. After 5 minutes of carrying him the sugar hit him and Yoshi was back to his normal self! He finished the trek to the vehicles. At this time our guides gave us a certification of trekking with the gorillas, and we took off back to our hotel. The road was even worse than before, and took us 3 hours to get back. We arrived at 2030 hours, tired but really glad we spent the money. To me it was worth every cent of the $500. We were supposed to take off that night, but because of getting back 4 hours later than expected.


Next morning we had a short drive back to Mbarara where we stayed at a very posh campground. Cecilie and I upgraded to a very nice room. First room this trip that had a TV, huge bed and hot hot showers. We stayed here for two days just organizing and getting caught up on personal things. Everyone but Cecilie, Alexis, Fred and Yoshi went to Rwanda. I really didn't want to go to Rwanda for just a day. There was also a chance that I would have to pay for my visa to Kenya again. Once you go into Rwanda your Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania visa are invalid. Luckily everyone who did go only ended up paying for Uganda visa.

The next morning we took off at 0530, and headed back to the capitol Kampala for one night. We made pretty good time and arrived there at 1630, traffic wasn’t as bad as Suse thought. We are only here for a night because Suse was going to try to get Sudanese visas for the rest of the truck. That night was movie night. Cecilie, Alexis, Maria, and Kev went to see Marley, and Denise and I saw Total Recall!
Next morning we were off to Jinja (the source of the Nile). We had 3 days at Adrift campsite. The campsite had wifi so I spent the first day downloading the first 3 episodes of Sons of Anarchy season 5 (my favorite character died in episode 3 and I am still upset). I booked a bungee jump and whitewater rafting trip. The first day I didn’t do anything, the second day I bungee jumped and the third day I spent all day white water rafting the Nile river. The bungee jump was so much easier than Victoria Falls. I didn’t even hesitate just jumped. The cool thing about this place was you get dunked in the Nile after you jumped. I believe it is the only place in the world where half your body goes into the water after you jump. The next day whitewater rafting was a blast. When asked which one I liked better Zambezi or Nile I can’t give an honest answer. Zambezi has 3 times more rapids, and its intense. The Nile was more relaxed and our guide was trying to flip us on every rapid. I also liked the fact that if you did go into the water it wasn’t a rush to pick you up. You could float between rapids. I also liked that it was just Nico, Denise and myself in the boat with the guide. It was a really great day and I feel so blessed to have been able to do the Zambezi and the Nile all in the same trip.

Next day was a full day of driving over the border into Kenya. 

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Tanzania... Lions, white sands and beautiful water

We are currently driving to the Kenyan border and I don’t think I have done so much stuff in such a short amount of time. I had no idea the East side of Africa will be this intense.  Driving on the West side I never thought I would ever get to Kenya, now I have 16 days left on my trip. I don’t feel ready to leave, I feel like I could keep on traveling forever. That being said, I hope I can recall everything we experienced in this last two weeks.

The border crossing into Tanzania was a cake walk minus the fact that they charged the Americans $100 for a visa instead of $50 like their website. After crossing the border we drove all day and found a free camp. It was a pretty good spot on a dirt road, which must have been used for a logging road at one time. We didn’t get bothered at all which was a good thing. We pretty much just ate and went to bed. The next day was the longest driving day we had experienced yet. We left the free camp at 5:45 am and drove until 2200hrs on the noise. It wasn’t much distance, but we had to get to Dar’ Es’ Salaam which had insane traffic. Suse mentioned how it could take 5 hours to get to the campground and she was correct. That night cook group (Cecilie and Sarah) gave us an apple for dinner and we hit the sack.
By 0600 in the morning we had 3 people crammed into a tuk tuk driving to the ferry to take us to Zanzibar.  Zanzibar is an optional 4 day and night excursion. We could do what we wanted but most everyone stayed together except Cecilie and I. Everyone stayed at Stone town one night then Nungwi beach for 2 nights then Stone own again. We figured that was way too much moving around so we stayed 2 nights at the beach and then 2 nights at Stone town. Everyone needed to stay at Stone town the last night because of the ferry leaving to Dar the next morning early.

The ferry took two hours and the waves were relatively smooth compared to the ferry crossing from Gibraltar. We were stuck outside and we got rained on a little bit but it dried in ten minutes or so. Once at Zanzibar we met with a guy named Dan (who is Suse guide who she used for years). Dan helped us out with customs and was going to take everyone minus us on a spice tour. He told CC and I he got us a taxi for $20 bucks to Kendra Rocks and we said our goodbyes and left the group. We were feeling giddy and really look forward to the swimming pool colored ocean. After 45min taxi we arrived at Kendra Rocks paid the taxi driver and went inside to get our room… No room, no reservations. There was no one under the name Cecilie, Justice, Dan or African Trails.  Suse told us early that morning that Dan had made all the reservations. The people at Kendra rocks told us to try Sunset Bungalows. We grabbed our gear and walked ten minutes to a nicer hotel. Checked with reception and they informed us that there was no rooms available except a $100 night room and there was no reservations under any of the names. They did say African trails had a reservation but was canceled by Dan… WTF? At this time our energy and mood was really low. Luckily my sim card from Malawi was working and I texted Sarah who was the only number I had. Within 5 minutes she texted me back and told me that Dan changed everyone hotel to Nungwi inn (at Nungwi beach 15 minutes away) because we had one extra day at Livingstone which caused us to lose our reservations. Why oh why did he not tell us this when he arranged our taxis? We got into a taxi paid $10 bucks and drove to Nungwi inn where low and behold no reservations. At this time we took a look at the room and said fuck it we will take it. The place was nice, it had A/C, hot showers and only $5 more than we had originally planned. They also had a dive center. So what should have taken us 45 minutes took us 3 hours, and we were both in a very foul mood. The weather was overcast so we decided to eat lunch; I booked two dives at the Dive center Spanish Dancer Diving for the next morning at 0800. We then curled up to watch Blood Diamond and we passed out for two hours. We woke up rested and less aggravated. The weather was beautiful, so we took an hour walk around local town. Ate fresh coconuts, and had a really great afternoon. We took a swim in the beautiful ocean and felt really good. It was a great ending to a shitty day.

Next day Cecilie and I woke up early and had an amazing breakfast on the beach which was included in our room. I then went over to Spanish Dancer divers and got into my wetsuit and got my gear all set up for a double dive. 45 minutes later I 14 meters deep enjoying the beautiful blue waters of the Indian ocean. I saw so many tropical fish, coral, and everything tropical imaginable. I dove with a Belgium guy, a Korean girl and the dive master. It was small and spectacular. After 43 minutes we got back on the boat changed gear drove 45 minutes and went back down looking for seahorses. We were unsuccessful but I had another great dive. The dive master was teamed up with the Korean girl and she was having trouble equalizing so he went back up with her. The Belgium guy and I were teamed up and ended up getting caught in the current. For ten minutes we were by ourselves. It was a little eerie, but eventually our dive master caught up to us and we finished the dive. Afterwards he told me he couldn’t believe I was only recently certified. He said I looked like I have 100 dives under me. I thought that was a great complement and decided that I am going to go back to school to be a commercial diver.  When I finished with the dives I ran into the rest of the group. They told us that the wedding will be at 1600hrs. Oh yeah I forgot to mention that Talbot and Maria are getting a fake wedding. Originally it was just a joke but they decided to actual have one. At 1600 hrs. Fred conducted the fake wedding, Kevin was the best man and I was a groomsman. Denise was the maid of honor, Brit and Cecilie was the bridesmaids. Alexis the flower girl and Sarah was the professional photographer.   Originally I thought the idea was fucking retarded, but eventually I opened up to it. It actually was fun; we had half the beach watching it. Afterwards we hit happy hour up and decided to get a good buzz on.
The next morning Cecilie and I took off to Stone town stopping on the way at the spice plantation. We got a personalized tour of the spices. I learned what pepper vine was, cinnamon, cumin, cloves, coriander, nutmeg and the weirdest fruit I have ever seen, Jack Fruit. We watched a guy climb the coconut tree. He sang a song and  CC and I ate fresh coconut. Afterwards we checked into the Kalibu Inn in stone town. This place had an unbelievable location, in the center of everything. The only thing was the place looked like and mental institution. We pretty much chilled for the rest of the day then headed off to dinner. We found a Belgium restaurant with fresh crab linguini. It was superb and  one of the best meals I have eaten yet.

The next day Cecilie and I took off to Prison Island. There we snorkeled and then afterwards headed to a giant tortoise sanctuary where the oldest tortoise was 180 years old. The place was awesome, they started off with 30 and now they have 210 of them. One of the few places the tortoise live. That evening we went to the outdoor food market where we ate fish kebabs and samosas. It was a great meal, I had the lobster kebab which I would pretty much bet there was no lobster but tofu in it.

Next day we left early 0700m on the ferry and the ferry was twice as bad as on the way there. What should have taken two hours took 45 minutes longer and about half the passengers where puking their guts out. I have never been effective by sea sickness but today I thought I was going to hurl for a second. Of course it was because I was reading my kindle. After we arrived we met Suse and Rosie out of town and we drove all day until 2000hrs until we got to Zebra campground. I pretty much ate and passed out.

The next day we drove most of the day and arrived in Arusha, the hub for the Serengeti. I had a few beers and played darts with everyone. It reminded me of Monday night darts with the boys. The next day two land cruisers picked us up. I was fortunately enough to picked the best truck ever. Our truck drivers name was Copper and he was the shit. It was Alexis, Fred, Keving, Maria, Sarah, Cecilie and I. We drove all day. It took us about 8 hours to get to the Serengeti; we had to drive through Ngorongoro crater to get there. Once there we started a night drive that was fun, not what I was expecting. My whole life I have wanted to go here and I can’t help but be a little disappointed. We saw a leopard in the tree with a kill, and a few lions sleeping. All the animals have migrated to the Masa Mora in Kenya so that may be why it wasn’t that impressive.

The next day we left camp at 0630 and went on a 5 hours game drive. It was better; we saw cheetah’s lions, lions and more lions… After the game drive we drove to the top of the Ngorongoro crater where we spent the night.

The next day morning we once again took off at 0630 and it was the beginning of an epic day. Ngorongoro cater didn’t have nearly as many animals as we had dreamed from the stories we heard. That was because of the migration. What did happen was we stopped and watched two male lions and one female lion while a heard of wildebeest approached them. We wanted to see a kill but that didn’t happen. What happened was the two male lions got up and took off walking. We thought that was a tactic to distract the wildebeest but no it wasn’t. Cooper drove and parked where he thought the lions would intersect us. Cooper guest right and the lions walked right past our vehicle and one lion peed on our land cruiser. I thought that was the coolest thing ever. Cooper had to let all the other guides what happen. The lions walked by us and took off into the plains. Cooper then drove a few minutes to intersect the lions again. The lions were walking away from us until one of them changed directions and headed straight for us (he smelt the pee)… The lion came right up to our vehicle and started sniffing it. This is where me being me stuck my head out of the vehicle and had Sarah take a picture of me while the male lion was two feet from my head smelling the back of the truck. Cooper told me to shut the window and put my head in. He said he never lost anyone and didn’t want to lose me. I shut the window a little too hard and the lion jumped… My heart was through my throat… It was one of the most exhilarating experiences I have ever witnessed or done. After that we spent the rest of the day and drove back to Arusha. We spent the night there and the next day headed to Kenya.

Going from Arusha to Nairobi was one of the longest days ever. We didn’t leave that early but Suse ended up changing a part and after a very easy border crossing we drove until the outskirts of Nairobi. We got into some serious traffic. It took us 8 hours to get from the outskirts of Nairobi to the campground 20 km from Nairobi. They were doing construction and 4 lanes went into one lane. It was a nightmare. Around 11pm Kevin, Denise and I waked about 2 km to a pizza place and ordered 5 large pizzas for us to share. The traffic was insane, and going nowhere. When we got back from getting the Pizzas Rosie must have driven 100 meters in an hour. After we chowed down the pizzas everyone but Jareb and Cecilie passed out in the truck. We finally arrived at Karen campground at 0130 in the morning. That has been the longest day yet on the trip. Suse upgraded us to dorms and by 0200hrs we were all passed out in the dorm.

 Next morning we left at 0900 and took off toward Uganda.

Talbot and Maria fake wedding 

Cecilie and I after the spice tour

Kev being Kev

That's a male lion peeing on our land cruiser.