And the safari begins
Trip Start May 23, 2008
54Trip End Ongoing
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Africa. Amazing. Wow.
I still can't believe I am here. And my first impression? Absolutely lovely friendly helpful beautiful people stuck in a situation they definitely don't deserve. My first contact was with the visa officials when I flew into Nairobi. I was waiting in line for over an hour, but when I finally got to the desk the guy was joking with me about kangaroos and being so far from home.
I had to wait a little while for my transfer to be organised, and by the time I left the airport it was almost dark. My drivers name was Livingstone, and he was a really cool and friendly guy - he pointed out things along the way and definitely knew how to handle the traffic
I had missed the pre-departure meeting but found a sign in the lobby telling me the start time was (gulp) 4.30am... ewwww. I met a few people doing one of the other Kumuka tours and chatted to them for a while, then went to bed kind of early as I was exhausted from my flight and dreading another early morning start!
There are 9 people on this leg of the tour, which happens to be 3 or 4 different tours mixed into one. Run by a company called Kumuka, my tour - Wildlife and Falls - is a 42 day safari through Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe
The last 2 days have been driving days, and we have one more day to go, as we have to get to where the gorilla trek starts by Wednesday, as to get a permit you are assigned a specific date, and our groups are for the end of this week. So my African adventure has started out pretty mildly.
One thing that has surprised me though is the reception that we have received, especially from the kids. I don't know how but they can see us coming from a mile away, and they yell out to us with the biggest smiles and waves, some even jumping up and down and dancing. You can't help but grin and wave madly back. Even from a distance you know when they are smiling cause there's a big white strip across their gorgeous black faces. Some of the children are so tiny; I don't know if it's because of poor nutrition, but it's so wet and the earth is so rich here, that they have no shortage of crops and food
Even the adults stop what they are doing and stare at us as we drive past. Some of the kids get shy or scared, but most of them wave. Some turn their palms up as if begging for money, but most are just excited to see you.
We spent our first night at this amazing campsite at a place called Nirberi River. The owner has some sort of concreting business, and the campsite is just his hobby, but he has clearly gotten quite adventurous, installing a big resort-style swimming pool and recently a huge bar area accessed through a fake stone tunnel. It feels like 5 star, even though we are sleeping in tents! We spent the first night together with a few drinks in the bar, and then dinner from the truck.
Our vehicle is very similar to the overland truck used in Morocco, with the bus-style seats and big rollup windows. We have been divided up into groups, 3 or which work of a rotating roster of cooking, dishes and truck cleaning, plus the other group are the 'truck dogs' who load and unload the truck, fill up the water, set up the table and cooker etc
We left the campsite at 5am, having to eat breakfast and pack up in the dark. The weather reminds me of the north of Australia in the wet season, muggy weather, with huge downpours of rain appearing seemingly from nowhere. As the sun came up the clouds looked like those from the Lion King, when Simba comes back and the rain washes the hyenas and rubbish away and makes the land green again. Big and dark and fluffy. I can feel myself wanting to compare a lot to the Lion King already.
Because today's Monday, all the kids were in their uniforms heading off to school. It's great to drive past and see all these signs for primary, and secondary schools, and universities. At least these kids are having the opportunity to go to school. And their uniforms are so bright - reds, blues, even pinks!
What saddens me is the standard of living that some of these people have. You see so many different types of houses - stone, mud, iron, grass, wood. My favourite are the little round mud ones with thatched roofs. They are so cute set in amongst the banana and sugarcane plantations
On the Kenyan side we had a guy trying to sell us a set of scales, which looked like they had been flogged from a butcher, and he kept putting it on the ground like he wanted us to get on. I don't think anyone wanted to know what their weight was! I can't wait to see all my stamps by the end of Africa - im going to have a cool looking passport by the end!
The countryside now is very swampy, with heaps of crops - rice, tea, bananas and sugarcane, and the earth is so red and rich
We stopped to check out the Ankole cattle, which have the biggest horns I have ever seen! They are only really found in Uganda, and we had to pay the herder to let us take some photos, which at 1000 shillings was a little steep (about the equivalent of 60 cents US). Also, all along the roadsides are stalls of fruit, vegetables and meats. This is the only way for them to advertise their products.
We are now in Kampala, the capital of Uganda. The city is really big, and really dirty. There are people, bikes and trucks everywhere! Our campsite is quite nice, they have 2 huge fat dogs, some goats, and roosters wandering around the site
I don't think we will be up late tonight, as all the driving and hours on the truck has made me exhausted! Especially when everything is so full on, you're trying to absorb in as much as you can see as possible. And these early mornings are killing me! Im still trying to catch up on everything since all the drama with my ticket, let alone the culture shock of something so different as Africa, and so im getting so tired all the time. By the time we have dinner the sun will have gone down and then it's a bit like '...so what now?'
Oh I forgot to mention my tent buddy, Kelly. She's from Brisbane but has been living in the UK for 8 years now. She's really lovely and doesn't snore. YAY!
So my first taste of Africa has been great. I really love it here already. Especially the scenery, it's absolutely amazing! Im really looking forward to the rest of my trip. Im sure you all are too :)