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  • 8th : It took 3 buses to get here, but we're settled in at Fisherman's camp, rented a tent for the night. We're along the shores of Lake Naivasha: All I hear from my tent are the calming, natural sounds of birds, frogs and crickets. My pre-birthday meal was a splurge! Unplanned splurge since it's the only food available and the restaurant at our campsite is fancy and expensive. It's funny to think, just like at Kibale NP in Uganda, we're paying more for this tiny two person tent rental then any accommodation yet, and the restaurant is fancy and expensive. The atmosphere is where they get away with it. Feet away from our tent is an electrical fence that helps keep the hippo, currently eating grass, out of the water, from getting too close. Yep, on our camp grounds are 3 hippos, and of course the odd birds and monkeys.

    9th : It's my birthday!! And for my birthday, I got to wake up with the sounds of birds. Grabbed our rented bikes and went for our usual bean breakfast in the town next door. And I use the word town loosely. It's about 100 feet long along the main road with mini shops. Only this breakfast had a slight twist! MILK!!! For some reason, when I travel, I never drink milk because I'm afraid it will make me sick, or I won't like it. I'm a milk snob. But considering I have a glass almost everyday at home, I've had huge cravings for cold milk. All the milk I kept seeing in stores was full fat, so 3.3%... I knew that wouldn't satisfy my craving so I never bought it... Jack found me low fat milk! In a juice carton! And it was cold! She got the campsite restaurant to put it in the fridge for her... She's so smart. It's my birthday!

    Jack must have given the park a quick call before we got there, because the animals were out to say hi as soon as we passed the gate into Hell's Gate National Park. For my birthday, I was greeted by about 30 zebras, 5 girafes, a bunch of different gazelles that I wish I could name, countless hogs and a heard of African buffaloes. And this was all done in such a natural way, I felt like I was right next to them with this bicycle!

    To Jack's parents - I cycled for 3 hours! That's pretty good for me... We were at the park gates by 830am (cycled there from our camp 5 km out) and I had returned to town by 1250pm... Minus an hour hike through a beautiful gorge. That's right, for my birthday, up close and personal with animals AND got to walk a beautiful, short hike.

    I was getting a little tired, heat starting to increase, so I decided I was allowed to stop there! No need to push myself further, it would only frustrate me. I didn't want to end my cycling morning negatively being exhausted, so Jack and I chose to split. The energy bunny wanted to keep going. I went to an even smaller town then the morning breakfast to grab a good ol' cold coke. She continued down the main road to the next lake, about 12 km down. I returned my bike at the camp site and hoped on a minibus to meet her at the lake. I love motorized vehicles. Don't get me wrong, doing the park via bike was absolutely perfect. But getting through towns, I don't need to make any effort. I sit in a van, say where I want to go, and they bring me, they even tell me where to get off since I have no clue what Kongoni looks like. I was sitting in the front seat, so it was funny to wave to Jack from my comfy transport as we passed her cycling hard. We were originally worried not to find each other in the town, because every town we've been in in Kenya has big bigger then we expected. If you saw pictures, you'd know why that's hilarious. Kongoni was the last stop. The road literally stops there, it becomes dirt after and then nothing. There was a T intersection, so one could debate the possibility of getting lost there... But it was about 150 feet long, and the T road was about 50 feet long, again of tiny shop stalls. At worst, if we couldn't see each other, we could just ask around town for the other white girl. I doubt they've seen too many.

    The goal was to see a lake filled with flamingos! With our Kenyan luck, you've guest it! No flamingos. But gorgeous views at the lake front anyways, and this tiny little town made the trip worth while. At least it was for me, I just had to sit there. Jack now has to cycle back, knowing the size of the mountains that await her! We almost got back at the same time! I beat her by 5 minutes. My bus didn't leave for a while because it's hard to fill a minibus in the world's tiniest town. And she's a beast! A cycling beast!

    I got a warm shower for my birthday too! The gifts just keep on coming. They lit a fire under the water tank when they saw us approaching the showers. Now I'm refreshed, I've got my new t-shirt on, my hairs all did... I grabbed a tea to relax and guess what! This young lady got me Salt and Vinegar Chips !! Apparently she listens to my every craving, because I've been looking for them and obviously haven't found any... She's a genius!

    Since anyone who knows me, knows I'm a big family kind of gal... A birthday would not be complete without reaching out to the fam jam. I got to speak to both my mom and dad! It's a weird thing to call your parents for them to wish you happy birthday, but it felt great! I went next door, to another camp site who had Wi-Fi, and said it was my birthday and I just wanted to send a quick email. The manager said I had to order a drink for the Wi-Fi password, but the waitress gave it to me right away. Score! I had a voice message from my dad when I logged on, and right away I looked at Jack and said "20 bucks says he sings me happy birthday". And sure enough, it's a recording of him singing to me! Every year, he never skips a beat. If for some reason he didn't reach me on my birthday, there was always a voice message of him singing to me! My mom was at work but of course acted like she had all the time in the world to chat with me. They're awesome. The only thing missing, the only thing that would complete my day, is chatting with Gen, the world's coolest twin, wishing her a happy birthday. Fortunately for her, she's a big girl now, with a big girl job, and her students probably wouldn't appreciate her answering her phone. So I didn't call, instead I left her my own personal rendition of the happy birthday song. I hope her day is as epic as mine, in her own way! I have comfort in knowing I spoke to her Sunday, when she was celebrating her birthday, and she seemed to be surrounded by those who love her. Comfort. Xox. Leaving the hotel with the Wi-Fi, the security guard asked if he could sing to me. To which of course I said yes! He actually sang me the whole happy birthday song, top to bottom... Jack and I danced around at the security gait. It was a beautiful moment. Lol.

    The birthday shenanigans continued! We had diner, I got to chose whatever I wanted! I've gotten so used to us sharing things that I couldn't make up my mind on my own... We ordered two amazing dishes and shared both. I got to have two dishes! And because Jack had to store the milk in the restaurant fridge, they knew it was my birthday, so they paid a drink for me! Free beer! And believe it or not, I got a card! And candles! Jack had been carrying candles and this card since leaving home! This is a women who has difficulty making plans for the weekend because it's too much of a commitment... And here she is, carrying candles and a card for 2 months... This was without a doubt an amazing day. Topped off with a kitkat and dairy milk chocolate bars... I swear it's like this girl knows me or something... Like she actually pays attention to what I say... Actually cares about knowing what I like... She's absolutely amazing, and she made this birthday perfect.

    Side note : according to east Africans, Jack and I look alike. The amount of times we've been asked if we're sisters (or just as often brother and sister) is ridiculous. I guess the classic joke of "all Asians look alike" is true for any ethnicity that isn't your own. I don't think I have to point out just how little Jack and I actually resemble each other... But here, people are shocked when we tell them we aren't related. We were even told a few times they thought we were twins... Lol! Twins. And people think my actual twin and I don't look alike, Jack? Oh boy.
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  • What an amazing experience! Today confirmed that waiting for the Masai Mara to do our big safari was worth it. In the first 3 hours of our full day game drive, we saw lions, giraffes, elephants, zebras, bunch of antelopes, wildebeest, wart hogs, and I'm sure I'm missing some.

    We saw a male lion walking across an open field within feet of our van, just strutting it's stuff. It was our first big cat sighting, and Jack was in awe. I loved seeing the lion, but I LOVED seeing her see the lion. Probably quite like she loved seeing me see chimpanzees.

    We later saw a lioness with 3 cubs laying down within feet of each other. One cub stood up and walked over to us, laying within feet of us with its paws pouring into the street. It sounds ridiculous, but Jack agrees with me, that for a few seconds, the cub looked up at the truck and actually maintained eye contact with Jack. I swear, there was a few seconds where Jack and this baby lion were just starring at each other. Quite like me and my chimps, she actually shed a tear as we pulled away. I absolutely loved her in that moment, she was feeling just pure joy.

    Families of elephants with babies, and giraffes in groups of 5-6, everything was breathtaking. Ostriches! They look so funny, exactly like old flamingo dancer with the large feathers. Perfect little burlesque performers.

    Animals are apparently more active in the morning, so we saw tons starting off our day. Eventually, in the afternoon, sightings became rarer. I could tell our driver was looking for something specific and speaking over the radio with other drivers on locations... And finally, laying under a bush for shade, a cheetah! How fucking cool! A cheetah! Just chiling.

    Everytime we saw something, we all stood up from our seats, popping our heads out the top of the van (pop up top), snapping pictures. It was truly an amazing experience, and I get to do it all over again in the morning. Let's hope for more big kitties!

    Upon our return to camp, we were walked over to the near by Masai village for a cultural experience of some kind. I felt a little awkward about it, having to pay someone to fake their traditional ways, knowing very well that most of these rituals or ways of doing things have changed. We get there, and they give their obligatory "your money is going to help over 200 Masai communities" speech, to which I felt like answering "but I thought the Masai were self sufficient and didn't need money?" 10$ later, they talk to us about their traditions, they show us a dance they would normally do when celebrating... During this dance, the men have to jump as high as they can. Whoever jumps the highest gets to pay fewer cows for his wife... Yep, it's 10 cows to buy a wife, unless you jump high enough. Then you get a discount.

    There was a little too much English around this village for me to truly believe they live in the ways they describe. They're polygamist, so a man can have as many wifes as he has cows to buy them with. I got a house tour of someone who's father had 4 wifes, and who had 24 siblings. Their houses are made of wood covered with mud so they have to move every 9 years because of termites, making them nomads. So many of these facts could be challenged. Like they currently have this community right next to their primary school, which the kids from the village attend. So we asked how could they relocate? His answer was "well because of the school we wouldn't go far"... Mhm.

    One man said they get circumcised at 15 years old, then as a group of around 20, they must leave the community and go live in the "woods" for 5 years, and to return only once they have killed a male lion. First off, that's illegal and I highly doubt you still do that. There's no second. But later on during my private little house tour, the guy said circumcision was at 14, 4 years in the woods, to return at 18. Then we brought up school, so they all have to quit school at 14/15 then? To which they said they would go to school and return to the woods when school was off... All starting to sound a little fishy...

    I believe all of human kind evolves eventually. Communities, including tribal ones, need to evolve and adapt to the world changing around them in order to survive. I'm sure being relocated from their land when it became an official National park in the mid 60s, instigated a lot of change in this Masai community. That is why visiting this village today, and having them put on a show of their traditions, yet fully knowing that many of these things no longer exists, feels a little odd. It's a catch 22, you want to see what their culture used to be, and how they live now, but to do so you have accept this almost fake show put on for paying tourists... Human safari.

    FYI : Many of us have this formed idea of what a Masai person looks like, or what a traditional tribe in Africa looks like, and the Masai people stick pretty close to that image. They often have one largely gauge ear, without plugs in them so leaving a hanging ear lobe, they are always drapped in red fabric, they have tons of bead work on themselves, men with beaded belts and necklaces, women adding earrings... The interesting part is that you can find them everywhere now! We saw traditionally dressed Masai people in markets, walking around in towns, even having a beeer in a bar. They advertise Masai markets where you can buy their handy work in many towns. The tradition of being self sufficient and secluded is no longer upheld. They integrated into whatever society they chose, and yet kept a lot of their traditional clothing and accessories. It's interesting. I bought ice cream in a supermarket and in front of me in line was a Masai man drapping his shoulder with a red blanket, large ear lobe, beaded belt.
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  • Mombasa is Kenya’s most important port and is situated on an island just on the coast. Arab sea traders influenced the city’s early history as did the Portuguese, who also controlled the city at times. It was ruled by Omanis for extended periods and the result is an African city with heavy influences of Muslim and European colonial architecture and culture.

    Quite gritty, there were warnings on our ship about how best to safely visit the city. We had done a safari the first day of the stay, but wanted to explore the city itself on the second. We therefore took a ship shuttle bus into downtown and hired a local street guide to show us around for two hours for $10.

    Our guide looked official at first glance with his patches, badges, epaulets and military boots but the “Revolucion” patch above his pocket and “Che Guevara” on his back revealed otherwise. His commanding, definitive presence led us through street traffic where he boldly crossed using only his outstretched hand to stop the taxis and tuk-tuks. We scurried to keep close to him and avoid being stranded in a no-man’s-land of vehicles.

    He took us through spice markets where we bought several spices, not because we can bring them into the US, but just to be able to enjoy the colors and smells for awhile. He described historical sites and led us into a particularly bloody meat market where Ali almost threw up when a vendor pulled out a camel leg and hoof from under a table. It was a very dramatic moment!

    The Arab/Africa blend that makes up Swahili culture was evident in the ornate balconies and doors of many of the buildings. The influence of the Omanis will also be seen in Zanzibar, our next stop.
    The first photo is some of the architecture in Mombasa.
    The second photo is Ali and our guide.
    The third photo is the spice market we visited.
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  • I don't want to leave! Like my last country conclusion inputs, here are some short points that I will remember about Uganda.

    I feel like we went through Uganda too quickly... We had 3 weeks in mind for Uganda, yet made our way through in 18 days. 18, mostly, wonderful days. Jack was just asking what I would have done differently or where I would have wanted the extra time. It's easy to look back with the information you have now and "perfect" the itinerary, but I really think we did Uganda justice. I may have spent an extra day hanging out in Masaka since I liked the feel of the town quite a bit. An extra night in Jinja would have been nice, it was beautiful and we finally got to swim in the river (bilharzia in most of the water)! And I would have stayed an extra night in Fort Portal, mostly for the Duchess restaurant, lol, but also to do a tea plantation tour during the day. Like I said, easy to look back, but I don't regret anything.

    I saw chimps here! It was our first wild life experience, and it was of course amazing. Same thing with our day at Murchison Falls. What these two days have taught us though, is Uganda is not made for independant travellers. At least not when it comes to activities. Transportation is easy to manage. Food easy to find. Plenty of English speakers to help out if needed. But without big ticket safari tours, it's hard to have access to parks. Hiring a private driver or staying at ridiculously expensive lodges were our only solutions.

    And parks are expensive in Uganda! An average of 40$US just to set foot in the park, with obligatory guides. We had to be quite picky as to which parks to visit. Jack was unfortunately too picky, and didn't end up hiking. She's having a lot of trouble finding a company that will organize overnight hikes for a decent price. I think Ethiopia screwed us, and we're expecting the same pricing here, which isn't even close to happening.

    As for a more original experience, we got to see the country during elections, something that only happens every 5 years. I didn't want to mention this while we were in Uganda, as to not make anyone too nervous... Or rather not to give my dad his first heart attack. But when we were in Kasese, we were wondering why the streets were so empty... We finally found a little local restaurant that was open (everything was closed and it was 7pm ish). They were all watching the news, and we saw videos of a riot and police intervening with tear gas... We finally see the tag line "Chaos in Kasese". Yep, in the town we were staying, streets were empty because people were staying away from chaos. The good thing is the riot was in front of the polling office which was slightly outside of town, so no violence or anything was seen from where we were. On the bus out of town we drove by this same place, with protesters lining across the street, still yelling. Apparently the office received two ballet boxes that they thought was filled with preticked ballets, yet were later discovered to be empty, so the people thought the elections office was corrupt... Anywho! Safe and sound, writing from Kenya. There were so, so many election signs covering all the public walls, every household had a sign up. Most of the signs were of Museveni (in power for the last 30 years, just reelected) with his beige safari hat, lol. All the conversations in bars revolved around who voted for who. We obviously didn't volunteer our opinions. For a whole week after the elections, things seemed to be closed or slowed down, less buses running, all because of the elections (they vote for local elections a few days after national elections). Of course after the winner was announced, the conversation became was it free and fair. External EU observers did not use the words free and fair when rapporting on their observations, leading some people to conclude it was rigged. The newspaper front page was Besigye (Museveni's main opposition) getting arrested or on home arrest constantly... The head police officer who kept arresting Besigye responded to the question "why do you keep arresting him" with "soon you will know"... How creepy, lol. These arrests are said to be the reason Besigye was not able to file an official appeal of the votes within his 10 day limit. This all gave me an interesting perspective on the country.

    Food in Uganda was repetitive... Pretty much all the locals geared restaurants served what they actually call "food". I even saw it on a menu! It was written food with fish, food with chicken, food with g-nut sauce... G-nut sauce is something we discovered too late in our journey. It's a wonderful peanut sauce they serve either on its own, or with fish in it. And so what this "food" consists of if, if they have it, white rice, matoke, posho and cooked spinach. Matoke is fried plantains, which winds up having the texture of mashed potatoes, only less mushy, kind of like old mashed potatoes... Tasting obviously like plantain. I actually really like matoke. Posho, not so much. It's made with maize, and the consistency is thus rubbery, chewy mashed potato thing... Anywho, we always asked for food with no posho, and switched it up mostly between beans and fish. The chicken was always on the bone and impossibly dry and the beef isn't chewable. It was cheap and easy. But it was a daily thing, sometimes twice a day, hence why a nicer western restaurant was so welcomed every now and then. The timing of local food was also something difficult to manage. If you're too early, food isn't ready. If you're too late, there's no more (they make batches and sell what they have). Right as the sun sets is what we gathered as the perfect time.

    Another conclusion of my Ugandan experience, one I have previously spoken about, is the excessive drinking in rural areas. Unfortunately, this was part of my experience and it is a reality in Uganda. The men sit around in circles and drink banana beer or straight out of mickeys, or even these little vodka or gin pouches, much like the little juice pouches you can get. The unemployment rate is high, men have difficulty finding work, life is harder, so they find something they can all do together, and that's drink. They could at times be loud when speaking to us, approach us not so skillfully to try and start conversations, question us not so respectively, and sometimes simply laugh at everything and anything, including the muzungas. This was much less obvious in larger cities.

    Now the people! Best for last. Ugandans are friendly outgoing people. Always willing to chat. Always willing to help out. Even the ones asking for more money then they should, we could joke around with them and we'd all be laughing by the end of negotiations. Most of the Ugandans who would say hi to us were genuine in their attempts. There's obviously the odd jerk who would keep bothering us, or laugh at us for whatever reason, the "muzunga" yellers who were just trying to get a reaction... But for the most part, absolutely lovely people.

    I realize I've only got 3 africain countries done, but this one tops the list. And as much as the activities were expensive, we still managed to average 66$CAD each. That's 41$US each per day, and our trusty travel book states a cheap budget is under 50$US. Nailed it! That being said, we lived wonderfully, didn't stop myself from splurging when I wanted to, ate all the food I needed, and had a great time!
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  • Just like yesterday, we woke up really early to set out for our game drive, this time stopping inside the park to watch the sun rise over the mountains. Absolutely gorgeous sight, with antelopes and wildebeests to add to the scenery.

    Today was a shorter game drive, 3 hours, so we stayed close to the gates. Surprisingly enough, that's where most of the animals were yesterday so I'm excited! We actually saw a ton of lionesses and their cubs! We saw three different groups, mommas and cubs laying or playing around. It's actually what we mostly saw, few zebras, few elephants, no giraffes, but tons of lions. Amazing morning, of course Jack being on cloud 9 during all of it.

    The giraffes made their way to the road to say goodbye to us instead of saying hi in the park. There's no fence around the park so the animals are free to roam as they wish. So along the road back to Nairobi was 4 huge giraffes within feet of the road. Obviously tall, but muscular and majestic animals. Gorgeous.

    A long drive later back to Nairobi, we make the decision to ride an overnight bus to the coast. Apparently 3 days in a van hasn't deterred us from spending another 10 hours overnight on a bus. It saves us the hotel night in Nairobi, and saves the precious time we have left. Apparently being white has it's privileges for overnight buses! I just so happened to be the first person at the door of the bus, and the ticket guy upgraded us to VIP. I didn't even know there was such a thing on a bus but we got there extra wide seats, tons of legs room, reclines beautifully. I'll take it! Good night y'all!
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  • I actually carried around my DSLR today (I don't usually in cities), so unfortunately for all of you, I don't have too many pictures of Lamu to share! The ones I did post happen to have been taken right now, as I eat the fruit I bought at the local market from my hotel's balcony by the ocean front. Just as hot throughout the morning. Nice and breezy in the afternoon. We spent the morning getting somewhat lost in the back streets, somewhat following this walking tour suggested by the lonely planet. I was grumpy not having eaten, so we made a small detour to feed me. Sorry Jack...

    The doors have beautiful carvings, all houses have these inner courtyards, the women get to remove their veils inside so there's always a curtain in front of the door. Mini streets leading to more mini streets, and just as you think you've hit a dead end there's an opening somewhere. As soon as we exit the 2 downtown streets, again people are all saying jambo, smiling at us. Welcoming us. Truly warm people. There's cats everywhere. And I mean everywhere. Locals here feed them. There's donkeys all over also, including a "donkey sanctuary" just around the corner.

    I think both Jack and I are feeling the end is near, and we're reacting to it differently. Jack seems unable to make decisions, she wants to do it all but she wants to stay in Lamu for always. I want to relax, anywhere really. I feel very satisfied with what we've accomplished, I loved my time here, and I'm ready to relax before heading home and to work. I work a night shift within 24 hours of my arrival, so relaxing here is my only option. I've been short tempered for 2 days now, and I think my mind just doesn't know how to act when the end is so near... It's angry at me and won't let me relax and enjoy. Little annoyances like food taking too long to arrive are driving me crazy. I don't have time to waist! So many mixed emotions.

    That little rant comes from us spending the morning trying to decide when to leave. We made the decision to take a flight back to Malindi to save the bus time, but when to take it took a while. I was OK with staying in Lamu if that meant I could relax, which means Jack would have to go off and explore on her own. I was also OK with leaving and trying to get all our "planned" stops in (planned used losely here). Jack couldn't bring herself to chose. Staying here means not going to Watamu or the Gede ruins. She wants it all. Apparently our conclusion was to spend a lot of money. Lol.

    We booked a flight Sunday afternoon, a boat trip for tomorrow and just to top it off, a home cooked traditional meal with local music in some guy's house for tonight. We're going all out ladies and gents! I'll get to relax, and probably burn to a crisp, tomorrow all day on a sail boat. Jack will get to explore the streets when we get back and Sunday morning. Easy peasy.
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  • We're settled in, bags dropped, and sitting in a park with a cold drink and it's not even 530pm! A bus scheduled to leave at 10am for an 8.5 hour ride to Lodwar... So how did we do it you ask? Simple! We're in Kakamega. Let's face it, it's much more fun to say out loud! Kakamega!

    Thanks to our preview from yesterday, we were expecting for the bus to leave later then 10am, but arrived on time just in case. Around 12pm we decided to have our packed lunch because we were getting hungry, still parked in front of the ticket office. By 120pm, Jack and I simultaneously hit a point where we were both tired of sitting on the bus, and we hadn't even left yet. 3.5 hours sitting on a parked bus is tiring, no distracting landscapes, nothing to change your mind from the obvious frustration. People on the bus were saying the bus can actually take up to 10 hours to arrive. Seeing that it's 130pm, we weren't arriving before at least 11pm, and without a map or guest house in mind, we both thought it was no longer worth it. Furthermore, this landscape is suppose to be absolutely beautiful as you arrive closer to Lake Turkana. It's this emerald lake, and you see volcano peaks around it, should be gorgeous. But we would have had the last 4 hours of our journey in complete darkness; it ruins the point. Plenty of other places to visit, no need to torture ourselves for another 10 hours.

    Jack had to argue quite a bit to get a refund, even if our ticket was written "no refund after departure", which clearly doesn't apply. Finally, someone came in just at the right time, wanting to buy tickets. So we sold ours. And by sold ours, I mean the guy working at the ticket office was holding our tickets, and gave them to this new customer. So as Jack was complaining that he wasn't being sympathic, she slowly grabbed the money and walked away. To which he responded he wanted a coca cola. Done.

    Walking off the bus felt wonderful. I'm so done with this town, I couldn't care less where we go, just somewhere. So the closest town of interest was Kakamega! There's a forest reserve with apparently great walking trails that we will attempt tomorrow. I assumed the town would be tiny since the lonely planet doesn't even mention the town... Boy was I wrong. FYI - lonely planet continues to fail us. We use it to know where we're going, and loosely follow the town maps, but that's it. We've found better and cheaper accommodation in every single town we've been in. Even transportation is still turning out cheaper in some cases then what's in the book. And since I highly doubt the prices were lowered in the last year, it still leads me to believe no one actually came to these countries to revise the information provided.

    Matatus here are confusing... 9 passenger seats, and 9 passengers... I actually had my own seat. So did Jack. And we only picked someone up along the way twice, that's after we let someone off of course, because again - we each had our own seats... Hm...

    And we've gotten fair pricing so far! Buses haven't overcharged, not even matatus. Same price as others. Local restaurants have been charging real prices. Street vendors, real prices. It's a nice change. I don't need to argue the price. I just bought a power bar and the guy selling said 300. I looked confused so he said 200. I didn't even have to say anything and he dropped 100. Just for the heck of it I said 150 and he said OK. Lol. The power bar is because the guest houses we're staying in tend to cut electricity during the day, which means we can only charge things at night. I have both our cellphones and Jack's tablet to charge, so we've been putting alarms throughout the night to switch what's charging. 150KSh (2$CAD) not to have to wake up at 1am and 4am, money well spent.

    I'm now sitting in a well maintained park, in the middle of Kamamenga, which turned out to be huge! And for it to have a park in the middle of downtown has been amazing since we haven't seen in city green spaces in a long time. I get to people watch while Jack reads. Perfect. That is of course if you ignore the time we had to change spots because the begging kids decided to sit next to us and mock us for the longest time. They seemed to be sniffing something out of a bottle. A bunch of what appeared to be homeless 8 year olds high as kites.

    Side note - Throughout this trip, I feel like we've had quite the ability to pick good accommodation. Even today, we visited a few different options which confirmed our first spot to be great! It's the cheapest we visited, yet it's the cleanest and the staff was so nice and attentive. When we said we were going to walk around and visit other options, she responded "no problem, but please come back, we would love to have you stay with us". Yes mam! Hot water, shared but squeaky clean bathroom, 500KSh. Score. Most guest houses are set around courtyards behind restaurant or store fronts. Our place yesterday had again, clean shared bathrooms, hot shower at night thanks to the fire they lit under the water tank, 450KSh. The lonely planet doesn't mention any places for under 1500KSh. Pft.

    Also a side note - I don't really mention boring daily routine stuff, but it is an important part of our day. As backpackers, you have a limited amount of clothing, and you don't always know what you're next place will look like. So you always do your laundry when you can. Always. Everyday when I'm showering, I wash my underwear. You do the classic sniff test for your shirt. Wash if needed. Also a daily must is water bottles. Obviously with the warmth, we always make sure to have water available, and that often means stopping to buy some in the evening on our way home. Our malaria pills in the morning, which we are surprisingly taking. Sunscreen used to be a daily thing, but I seem to have gotten used to the sun, because I no longer need it when in a city. Actually I think I only put some one maybe the first 2 weeks... You should see my farmers tan "spell whistling here*. Just simple daily things.
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  • Our evening in Kakamega consisted of Jack taking me to the limit of the town where she had seen graffiti on our way into town. It was the first time we had seen graffiti at all during our trip, so she got a little excited... There's actually no graffiti in East Africa. If there's painted lettering on a wall, it's always the name of the store it's on. After taking the obligatory pictures, we wandered around and stumbled upon a tiny little bar. It was the size of its two tables, with wraparound banquets. Maybe 5 men and a women bar tender. Perfect. We sat and had a beer, and surprisingly enough, we weren't being starred at, we weren't being mocked... They obviously noticed our presence, acknowledged it, and moved on. It was perfect. We almost felt like we blended in... Almost.

    Planning for the next day, there's a tiny mention in lonely planet about a town called Khayega, which had bull fighting events every Saturday morning, but only from 7am to 8am, and with specific location. Since the hike we wanted to do was close enough to this location, we thought, of course we want to see bull fighting! Not surprisingly, we didn't get to see it... We got up at 6am. Were out waiting for the bus by 630am. It didn't fill up until 725am (remember, if there's an empty seat, it doesn't leave). Anywho, we got there in time for the last little bit only to be told in very, very broken English that it was every second Saturday, and that we were more then welcomed to returned the following Saturday. Personal invitation received! I guess that experience will have to be for another time.

    Mototaxi to Kakamega Forest Reserve, meet our awesome guide Nancy and off we go! It was our first female guide, and I loved it. Girls are chattier in nature, so we got to exchange experiences and information throughout. She was my favourite part! She told us about her family, she takes care of her sister's 2 kids since she died in "the violence of 2007" as Nancy put it. I was clueless but Jack answered "oh, the election riots, I'm so sorry". She's so smart. Elections here are scheduled for next year, I'll make sure to miss those ones.

    The walk was fantastic of course! Anything with nature makes me feel at piece with the world. We set out at 9am and were done by 3pm. Saw black and white colobus monkeys, red tailed monkeys, blue monkeys, a hornbill which is an awkward looking huge bird, and plenty of beautiful birds and butterflies. Nancy was very knowledgeable on the plants and trees around, so she told us all about the medicinal plants found in the forest... Including bark from a certain tree that if you boil in water and drink it three times a day you cure prostate cancer in 2 weeks... I don't know about that one. I feel like the pharmaceutical companies would have exploited that a long time ago...

    Done with our walk and done with Kakamega, we hoped on a minibus to Kisimu, the 3rd largest town in Kenya. Our lonely planet, which I'm really starting to dislike, described it as a town that "doesn't feel as large as it is". It definitely feels as big as it is. It feels bigger. We found a place to stay (expensive FYI, and no cheaper option) that's close to the water front, but that streets all around it are deserted. And it's supposed to be the downtown. I guess we'll see if it picks up tomorrow, although it will be Sunday so I doubt it. There was a shit ton of people in the area where our bus dropped us off, but apparently lonely planet believes in taking you away from the locals and towards empty streets with fancy shops... Boy oh boy. We still managed to find a spot to have a drink on the upper deck of a restaurant along the shores of Lake Victoria. The sound of crashing waves and the breeze of open water are some of the best feelings!

    Side note - coca cola is amazing. I blame my parents for this addiction. But seriously, after a hot, sticky and sweaty day, nothing feels better then a cold coke. Sugar for energy, coffee to wake me up from the sleepiness of the heat, cools you right down. This was my ode to coke. That is all.
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  • We've now spent a little over 2 months in East Africa, and we've kept our big safari hopes for this long awaited moment! The Masai Mara. The morning was almost too smooth. Our tour driver was early picking us up, so we had just enough time to finish our free hotel breakfast. We went to pick up the other tour goers and happened to stop in front of Java house, latte to go! It was a little disappointing to see that the 3 other people we were told were on this trip was actually 7 others... Yep, we're 9 people in a pop top mini van. But we all seemed to get along, the driver is nice, played tetris with the suitcases and off we went for the Masai!

    It's trials like today that really show you what it is to be positive, and what it is to be negative in life... We got onto unpaved roads, which we're used to so no biggy. Some on the bus started complaining about the bumps, and about the lack of space or comfort... Then we hit a big bump and broke something on the frame under the van. So we stop, all the men get their opinions in as if they know what they're talking about. The tourist men all agree if the van runs we should keep driving, but obviously the driver doesn't want to worsen his van, it's his livelyhood.

    So a few minutes in we decide to keep driving slowly, and apparently a mechanic on a motorbike will catch up to us with a spare belt of somekind. Now a bunch of people are complaining of how slow we have to drive. You hear the van scrape on the ground at every bump. We keep going for maybe 45 minutes and get to a big dip in the road with water running through. You can see the driver is very sceptical. So I offer we all get out to lighten the load. I thought I was so clever! Anywho, we do, and the van passes, but the driver decides to wait for the mechanic so we can fix it.

    Mechanic arrives 30 mins later, jumps directly underneath the van which was driven over a large rock to prop up, and works away. 2 hours we were stopped here. Again, this is where positivity goes a long way. It was beautifully sunny out. Nice breeze. We went for a walk, only nature and the odd person in sight. Most of the people in the area are Masai, they still where their colourful, often red blankets around them, gauged ear lobes (much bigger then mine, finally they won't judge me!), women have big dangling jewelry... Jack eventually read her book under the tree, some of us just chatted... And then some of the others were either bitching or sporting a good resting bitch face, calling the booking companies to complain (we all booked through different companies, they just put us all together). I for one, had a very pleasant and relaxed afternoon, just not like I had planned it. I actually caught myself complaining but about the complainers. Jack kindly reminded me that it was no better. She really is the eternally positive one.

    Finally getting to camp just as it gets dark, we get checked into the nicest tent set up! There's a tiled washroom in the back of each tent with full shower and flushing toilet! There was one tent for 2 people, and 2 tents for 3 (one personne was staying at a lodge). These are the times where the heteros get the advantage again... They were wondering how to split the people, so the most logical set up was the hetero couple in the 2 person tent, 3 girls in one and 3 boys in the other. Jack and I get a roommate and two separate little single beds. No possible goodnight kiss, not even a quick "I love you". Just a generic "goodnight ladies" to my two roommates.

    Now that the van is fixed, nothing is going to stop us from seeing those big kitties tomorrow!
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