Jambo (hello in Swahili)!
It has been awhile since our last blog and so this one will be a long one. So much has happened since we landed in Nairobi March 11th.
We flew Kenya Airways from Cairo to Nairobi and we had very low expectations for the airline, but it was fine. The flight was not very full apart from the Zimbabwean Police/UN Peacekeepers on the flight. We were again staying at the Hilton (on points) and we were lucky enough to check in at 6 am. We had a zillion errands to run and after a quick sleep, we got everything done. Nairobi is often called Nairobbery, but we really didn’t see anything that seemed any different from any other city. We immediately noticed that Africa had more of a Western influence than Egypt and we were quite excited to see proper supermarkets and shops.
The Truck Tour
The next morning we met our truck tour group that we would be spending the next 54 days with. There are many companies that do overland trips through Africa and it is a very interesting way to travel. You are on a big expedition truck that is
pretty self sufficient, carrying water, supplies, camping gear, spare parts and 24 adventurous people plus a tour guide and driver. We chose to travel with a UK based company, Oasis Overland. The first people we met were a couple from Toronto, that live in the same complex as Mark & Krystal! We have a full truck that consists of 4 Canadians, 9 Brits, 2 Aussies, 4 Kiwis, 2 Irish, 2 American, a guy from Turkey, a guy from Singapore, and a girl from the Caribbean, all between the ages of 18-55 (although most are 25-30). It is really fun to talk to every one on the tour because every one has done so much travelling. The truck is certainly not a luxurious safari and we camp and are divided into cook groups to do the cooking. It is a fun way to travel and after travelling independently in Egypt, it was nice to be with a group and to not have to really worry about anything.
Once we were on the truck, we headed out of Kenya towards the Tanzanian border and spent the afternoon driving. It is fascinating to just look out the window and see all the
people and villages. It is the wet season here now and it usually rains everyday, although they are quick downpours and often at night. Even though it is the wet season, we often saw river beds dried up and cracked earth. I know the pictures just don’t do it justice. We bush camped inside Tanzania, which involves just finding a place to pull over and set up camp. This area is populated with Maasai (an African tribal group) and as we were setting up our tents a Maasai warrior dressed in full tribal dress walked through the site. We headed to Arusha, which is billed as the safari capital of the world and got organized for our safari into Ngorogoro Crater and the Serengeti National Park, by 4×4. We toured a Maasai Museum and learned a lot about the Maasai way of life. The Maasai are pastoralists and as you drive anywhere, you see boys of 5-10 out with their family’s animals and these children are responsible for 20+ animals. Very different from what we expect of children 5-10 at home. It was also common to see girls as young as 4 with a baby brother/sister tied on their back.
The Maasai are nomadic and polygamists, with very defined gender roles. Our guide talked a lot about the male and female circumcision rituals and he was very upfront in saying that even though the government has banned female circumcision, it is still practiced by the Maasai, because no man would want to marry an uncircumcised girl. Teh Maasai have really shunned modernization and love very similarly to the way they have lived for years, in straw huts without electricity. We then toured an actual boma (village) and we were bombarded by the village children wanting to play with us (clapping games, take pictures, swing rides) and it was so refreshing that they didn’t want anything from us, except perhaps our bottled water (sad to think that this is what these children desire from us). There has been a drought throughout Kenya and Tanzania and you may have read about the severe famine in northern Kenya. The campground we stayed at had a snake park and we got to watch giant snakes being fed chicks and even a rabbit. Quite the experience to watch and it of course made Paul squirm just watching!
In planning our trip to Africa,
one of the highlights we were looking forward to was going on safari and seeing those amazing animals. We were on a seperate tour and in 6 person jeeps equipped for game viewing. We spent most of the first day in the Ngorongoro Crater, a huge crater that contains an amazing concentration of wildlife. When we first decended into the crater, we were taking pics of animals a mile away, but we quickly learned that we would be getting much closer. It was quite exciting to see the first zebras up close, but they are everywhere and you soon become like, “oh, just another zebra”.We saw wildabeest, lions, cheetahs, elephants, wart hogs, gazelles, hippos, pink flamingos, hyenas, jackals, vultures, monkeys, and baboons. The wildlife is truly amazing and it is so interesting to see them all interacting in one big ecosystem. The safari drivers all work together and once something special has been spotted (like lions), they will radio each other and soon enough there will be many jeeps around the animal. Once again the pics do not do this amazing experience justice and you all will just have to go for yourselves to experience it! At our picnic lunch,
Paul was lucky enough to be the person, who had a huge black bird swoop down and steal his chicken from his hand – he learned his lesson! We spent the next night camping in the Serengeti National Park. By then, we were getting quite quick at setting up our tent. The Serengeti is a much larger area than the Crater and you have to work more to see the wildlife. The wildabeest migration is at its peak and just last month, most of them gave birth. The massive amounts of wildabeest and zebra in this area (over 1 million of each) is very cool. We did game drives at sunrise and in the early evening, which is the best time to view the wildlife. We saw giraffes for the first time (Joe – do you remember what sound giraffes make?) up close and they are definetly one of our favourites. Also saw our first leopard and therefore completed seeing the Big 5. We got to see lots more lions and even saw 2 males up close eating. While our driver was maneuvering, we got stuck and Paul hopped out to check why we were stuck. Even though the lions
were on the other side of the jeep(40 ft away), I was having a fit with him out of the car! The safari time was amazing and no words or pictures can really explain or show just how incredible it is.
Visiting the Hospital in Arusha
Once we were back in Arusha, we were shopping and getting provisioned for our big drive to Dar es Salaam on the coast. I was on cook group and part of cook group is planning and buying food for the meals. Paul started feeling very poorly (dizzy, lightheaded, weak, stomach pains, shaking) and within an hour he got to the point that he couldn’t walk. We figured we would take him to see a doctor right away, since we would be bush camping in the middle of nowhere that night. We went to a clinic/hospital that had been recommended and the doctor examined him and said he would need to stay for the evening. I was quite terrified at this point because we had no idea what was wrong with him and he seemed quite sick. They immediately set up IVs and started doing tests. Rachel, our tour leader and I agreed that
the truck would go on without us and we would catch up in Dar. The clinic was clean and seemed to be somewhat Western style, but we really weren’t given much info. I had to bring food into Paul and feed him (bit different from at home!) and I had to find a place to stay. By the morning, he was feeling a lot better and they had given him antibiotics and they discharged him. The experience cost us $300 US, but they were very thorough with all the tests and it looks like it will all be covered by insurance. We were able to catch a bus to Dar that day and after 10 hours, we arrived in the city, with a name of a campsite we were to meet the truck at. It was interesting to take local transport and after being being coddled for the last week, it was a bit stressful being on our own. We managed to find the truck and our group, who were having a wonderful St. Paddy’s Day and were quite excited to have us back.
The next day we took a ferry across to the island of Zanzibar to
spend some time relaxing. Rachel had arranged for us to spend 3 nights on the eastern beaches, which are much less touristy. We stayed in a village called Jambiani and the waters off Zanzibar are absolutely amazing with blue turqouise waters and white sand beaches with no one on them. We spent the days relaxing, enjoying little luxuries like sleeping in a bed and a shower! The water was the warmest water we have ever swam in and we had great seafood meals. One of the highlights was having a village dinner cooked for us and we ate in someone’s house and as we ate, it seemed like the whole village showed up to watch us eat. Everyone is very friendly here and people are always saying “Jambo” or “Karibu” (Welcome). We did have some of the children come up to us and say ‘Give me football’ a few times, and we would just say to them, ‘Do you see a football…do I have a football?’ Zanzibar and most of the Kenya and Tanzania coast are mostly Muslim areas and it was interesting to see the different ways Islam was practiced. We spent a night in Stonetown, the main city
of Zanzibar. It was the centre for the East African slave trade and it is a very historical city with narrow winding streets. They have spice plantations on the island and we went on a spice tour, to taste the different spices and fruits of the island. We also toured many of the historical slave sights, including Dr. Livingstone’s (a local hero here) house. They love to say “Hakuna Matata” (No Worries) here and they seem to attach the phrase to every sentence. Who knew it existed outside of the Lion King?