January 12 - March 24, 2011
Where is Chris? Over 2 months and no blog. It’s a long and strange story. Read on…
I spent another 3 days in lackluster Malindi. I’d got a lot of stuff done in Malindi that I’d been meaning to do for a while. I felt like all I had to do now was travel so I would start moving fast.
I spent a quick day at the Marafa Depression near Malindi. It was a sort of strangely coloured canyon. It was kind of nice.
Then I took a couple of buses to Lamu Island on the north coast of Kenya. Lamu is really nice. There is a little town that’s a bit like Stone Town in Zanzibar but a lot less touristy. All the streets are really narrow so there are no cars on the island. People use donkeys to move stuff and get around.
Those bricks in the back are made of coral. They make houses out of them.
I spent 2 days just walking around town and one day I did a day trip on a dhow, the traditional arab sailboats that are all over the island.
Fishing on the Dhow
After Lamu I got the 6 hour bus back to Mombasa and stayed a night. Then I grabbed a bus in the morning back into Tanzania to Moshi, a town at the foot of Mount Kilimanjaro, the highest mountain in Africa. I didn’t climb it. I just spent a couple nights camping nearby.
Who needs paper
After another quick night in Arusha a couple hours from Moshi I bussed back to Kenya to the capital, Nairobi. Nairobi is a big city with lots of people. It was the most modern place I’d been since South Africa which was kind of nice.
My 1st priority was visiting the Embassies of Sudan and Ethiopia to find out if I could get visas. For Sudan it was fine. The lady said regardless of the results of the referendum I would be able to get a visa. But for Ethiopia they said if I wanted to enter the country by land I had to get the visa at the embassy in Canada. It was my only option so I spent two days getting everything organized then mailed my application to Canada. My mom had to mail the money order and a prepaid return envelope seperately.
The day after I mailed it off I took a minibus an hour away to Naivasha where there’s a big lake. I decided I would stay there a week while I waited for my passport to come back. It seemed my trip was picking up pace. No more wasting time. Nothing could stop me…that’s when things started to go wrong.
I had arranged to stay at a couchsurfer’s home in Naivasha. When I arrived I was pretty tired from my fast travelling so I figured I would stay one night in Naivasha then head to the lake and just relax for a couple days. I hadn’t really discussed with my couchsurfing host how long I would stay though. I guess she had expected it would be at least a week and had things planned for the next few days. I really just wanted to go to the lake and do nothing for a couple days but I figured I should stay. It was a bad idea. After a couple of days of going to a wedding and meeting lots of people I was exhausted and got pretty sick. It got worse and after four days I left and went to the lake.
The Lake was nice and there was a cool campsite there. I finally relaxed one day then spent a day and a night at Hell’s Gate National Park. It’s a small park with lots of animals but the cool thing is you can rent a bike and bike through it.
I guess Disney sketched at this spot for the location of the final scene of The Lion King
The next day my sickness was getting a bit better but I had a strange sore that was concerning me. I went to the internet to see if I could find anything out about it. Basically after some googling I was convinced I had Herpes! I wasn’t sexually active but I figured I shook so many hands in Naivasha it had somehow transmitted this way. Then I checked my email and saw an email from my mom 3 days earlier saying they couldn’t mail my passport back because the address I gave them was a PO box. Needless to say this was not a great moment for me.
I rushed back to Nairobi the next morning to sort out the mailing fiasco and get to a hospital. Everywhere in Nairobi uses a PO box but we discovered that if we used UPS they could mail to a PO box if I included my mobile number in Kenya. At the hospital they gave me some tests. I saw 2 doctors and they both said totally different stuff. I really don’t like hospitals in Africa. The doctors don’t really seem to know much but they seem to enjoy the status of being a doctor and are always eager to send me for expensive tests and prescriptions.
Anyway two of the tests showed nothing and the one that should show herpes took 3 more days. By this time I was fully sick again.
After three days of sort of resting the sore was almost completely gone. The results came in and I met with a half descent doctor. She assured me it was not herpes just some minor thing that was stress induced. What a relief.
Now I just needed my passport and I could continue travelling. While I waited I made a claim with my insurance to pay for the hospital which was a real pain. They needed all kinds of documents and I had to apply by phone, mail and on internet. I didn’t have a copy of my Alberta Health card so my mom had to find it and scan it to me. They are only now satisfied and beginning to assess the claim.
My passport was supposed to arrive on a Thursday but by Monday there was still nothing. I was getting pretty restless. I was mostly hanging around the hostel watching TV and I was still sick. Then at about 6pm that Monday I was lying in my tent and it started raining. There was lightning and thunder really nearby. I was a bit concerned and so I got out and went around the corner of the backpacker under the roof and just watched the rain. It really started raining hard so I went back to check my tent wasn’t flooding. When I turned the corner my tent was gone! I couldn’t believe it. Then I noticed the wall that was next to my tent was gone. I looked down and there was a pile of cinder blocks where my tent was! I frantically pulled the bricks off and hauled my soaking stuff inside. After calming down a bit I figured it wasn't that bad. I just needed to get a new tent. I was just lucky to be alive. But then I checked my video camera and sure enough the screen was cracked! Wonderful!
Do not stay at Milimani Backpacker in Nairobi (that bit of green and red was what was left of my tent)
After a short sleep in the dorm I woke up even more sick from running around in the cold rain and of course there was my passport 5 days late. It had arrived the day before. If it had come one day earlier I would have left Nairobi and avoided the whole wall disaster. I went directly to the owner, told her what had happened and asked that she would pay to have my camera fixed and replace my tent. I figured it would be pretty uneventful. She would happily agree a little ashamed and just relieved that I wasn't killed. Things don't work like that in Africa. She argued that it was an act of god and that she was not responsible for what happened. She pointed to the sign that said please lock valuables in the lockers (that she charged to use). She said she phoned her lawyers in the US and they said that its the same in the US. Somehow though I doubt if a wall almost crushes someone at the Holiday Inn there is no further legal action. I later found out this was the 3rd time the wall had fallen and once before on a tent. So basically she was willing to risk people's lives for $6/night. It seems like money comes before everything in Africa.
Anyway, after a heated argument they told me to go research places to get my camera fixed. Having nothing to do I left immediately.
I would have thought that in the most developed city between Cairo and Cape Town I would have been able to get a camera fixed but after a 2 days checking every repair place in the center I was only able to find a few guys that said they could ship the part I needed in from Asia in 2 weeks for about $70. I told the owner and she said that I was not Kenyan and so I didn't know how to do these things so she would do it herself. She told me to continue travelling then it should be fixed when I get back. I decided to stay because I figured with all her "Kenyan expertise" it would be fixed in no time and I would have my camera while I travelled. I was still sick so I needed time to get well anyways.
After 3 days with no word though I began to wonder what was going on. I asked and they said they were talking to this person and that person and that they would know soon if they could fix it. So I waited a bit more. This went on for about a week with them always saying tomorrow, tomorrow. Finally I asked her to start letting me stay for free. Unsurprisingly she said no. Fortunately Yuko the Japanese girl from Malawi and Zanzibar arrived in Nairobi the same day and she knew a backpacker with mostly Japanese travellers in the center of town with cheap dorms so I moved there. Almost immediately I started getting well again. I think just being at the old backpacker was keeping me sick. Yuko, Jaques (a French guy we met) and me hung out for a few days which was fun.
The view from the backpacker in town
"The Giraffe Center" outside Nairobi
Finally after almost 2 weeks the owner came to the same conclusion as me that they would have to mail the part from Asia. So after almost 6 weeks since the first time I arrived in Nairobi I was finally leaving, without my camera. There was no guarantee that my camera would be fixed when I got back but they said they would keep me updated on what was happening. It better be fixed though! (to be continued…) Reluctantly they gave me the crappiest spare tent they had.
My first stop was Eldoret. It was halfway to Uganda so I thought it would be a nice place to split up the journey. I couchsurfed with Jane Kibor and her family. There were 2 girls from the US couchsurfing there as well. They had just spent like 3 months in Eritrea. It had been a while since I talked with North Americans. It was nice. Things became a bit awkward in the house though. The American girls had been staying over a week at Jane’s. I guess they had been buying lots of groceries, they took the kids out swimming, once they took Jane and her husband to a restaurant and even gave them a small carpet they had bought in Egypt. But the day after I arrived I guess Jane told them to meet them at the supermarket to buy more food. I was really pissed off about it. I am all for chipping in when couchsurfing but this was ridiculous. I felt they were taking advantage of the girl’s generosity. They clearly sensed my disapproval and it came up in conversation. We all had a long talk. They claimed they just needed some money because their ATM wasn’t working. But if that was the case then I wondered why they never paid the girls back or had any intention of paying them back. At the supermarket I actually saw that they had cash. In fact more than enough to pay for the bill. They said they needed this money to pay back a friend they had borrowed from…smelt like bullshit to me. I have been in Africa long enough to recognize when someone is after money. When we were at the supermarket it was obvious.
This was the first time I have had any serious problem using Couchsurfing. But actually I am really frustrated with the number of African couchsurfers I have seen who are abusing the site. So many are trying to sell tours or just get people to buy stuff for them. A couple of times when I told an African about Couchsurfing their first reaction was “I could use that to do business”. It really ruins a great website.
Anyway I stayed one more awkward night then moved to a cheap hotel in town for my last night. Eldoret was not so special but there is a dairy factory so I ate lots of good cheap cheese, yogurt and ice cream. Also, I met up with another couchsurfer in a nearby village which was nice.
This is a valley we visited near Eldoret
We went to an African fair. Its an interesting experience just watch out for pickpockets.
I got a late start leaving Eldoret so I only made it to the border of Uganda. I stayed at a cheap little hotel. That night I had to go to the bathroom at around 5:30 in the morning. It was at the end of a long hall. I didn’t lock my door because I was just going for a quick pee. As I was walking back to my room an African guy with no shirt and a big belly was coming out of my room! I ran up yelling. I told him to “open his pockets!” which he understood as "drop your pants". I told him “pull up your underwear but give me your pants”. I checked his pants, there was nothing in the pockets and everything was still in my room. Meanwhile the security guys came. The guy denied everything and said I'd made a mistake, he was coming out of the other room. He was definitely coming out of my room though. I was just happy to have all my stuff and went back to bed.
The next morning I went to Jinja 3 hours away. Its famous as the location where the Nile River originates. I spent a couple of days in town visiting the source of the Nile and hanging out. Then I went nearby to the Bujagali Falls where there is rafting. I didn’t do the rafting. I rafted in Zimbabwe and I think it is better there. I just hung out at the backpacker and spent an afternoon walking around the falls. Just after I arrived one of the workers drown in the water. I guess they only just found his body a few days ago but with no head!
The source of the Nile
Over the next few days everyone in the village came down to the place where the guy drown. That's the backpacker I stayed at on top of the hill to the left.
Next I headed to the capital Kampala. At the backpacker there I met up with Emmet, the Irish guy from Zanzibar. After New Years he went to Uganda and has been there since. He is trying to go to Congo but I guess at first there were a lot of problems with the visa. He and his friend were at the border but got turned away because his visa was signed by the wrong person. Then 3 weeks ago they tried again. They took motorcycle taxis to town to catch the bus to Congo but as they were looking for money to pay the driver the guy drove off with Emmet's bag that had his money, passport/visa, camera, ipod etc. So now he’s in the process of replacing his stuff, getting the insurance to cover some of it and getting a new visa so he can try again.
Kampala is allright. Although its been raining alot and the center of town is basically a massive disorganized mess. I've been here over a week already. Last Thursday and Friday we went out. It was St Patrick's day so Emmet was pretty excited. It was kind of fun. I spent a lot of time trying to upload my blog videos. It just didn't seem to work. I finally found out there was a way to to use youtube and it took 30 minutes!
Its rained almost everyday. My tent is barely holding up.
Racing Motocycle taxis to the Irish Bar on St Patricks Day
Irish Bar, the two guys to the right of me were Canadian
My shop in Kampala
So it seems my visa issues for Ethiopia and Sudan are over. But sure enough all of the countries I want to visit after that (Egypt, Libya, Tunisia) have gotten messy. Sounds like I should get to Egypt no problem but obviously Libya probably won’t be sorted by the time I get there. My plan now is to get to Egypt then take a boat to Italy, then France, England and home. But of course that could change.
Cell phone plans and internet are really cheap in Uganda and Kenya. An hour of net is less than 50 cents and calling is about 5 cents a minute anywhere in the country.
Its hard to believe I’ve been travelling over 9 months. Already 3 months longer than I had originally planned. I’m a bit homesick but I’m not ready to go home.
Apparently the theory is in the morning you're tired and more likely to forget to use a condom