January - March 2016
  • Day88

    Budget and packing

    March 29, 2016 in Kenya ⋅ ⛅ 23 °C

    This one will probably only interest fellow backpackers or want-to-be backpackers, so some of you might want to skip.

    Money. Something I've probably always been a little too interested in. I enjoying speaking of budget and costs out of interest and curiosity, not because I'm actually that broke or that cheap. So for those who don't care, skip ahead. Jack and I, together and individually, are often asked how do we travel so much? It's easy, it's about priorities. I want to see and do things, so I spend less on food and accommodation. I'm not a foody, I don't get amazed by spices or dishes, so I can save a lot of money eating local, simple foods. As far as accommodation, I just need a bed. Preferably clean sheets, but even that's negotiable since I have a sleeping bag. A shared washroom is perfectly fine. Using local buses allows us to be mixed in with locals, to do as they do. I don't use minibuses because they're cheap, I use them because they use them.

    I had budgeted, in my mind, a very generous 100$US per day for this trip. I spend a fraction of that. A quick calculation with the budget we've been keeping (out of curiosity, we never stopped ourselves from doing what we wanted to do) says that we each spend 4200$CAD, not including the Addis Ababa to Entebbe flight, so grand total of 4838$CAD spent since leaving Ottawa January 8th. That's 59$CAD per day, each. FYI - my rent was 1300$, which means I spent almost the same amount as my rent. Now I give you this info not to somehow show off on the cheapness, and not to show how much money I might have, but to show that it can be done on any budget. This is how I travel as much as I do. Some people spend the same 4800$ in 2 weeks in Europe, and that's ok. Like I said, priorities - everyone has their own. I want to see the world, as often as possible, and that's what makes sleeping in a not so fancy place, or eating beans and rice for the 4th time in a row, perfectly fine.
    That's that for money.

    As far as packing goes, I think I actually did pretty ok! I always had extra space in my bag, I'd say around 8 liters was empty throughout. I say 8 because my bag is 46L and Jack's is 38, and I'm confident my things would fit in her bag, but snug. I had originally brought 3 t-shirts, but since one was stolen, did the majority of the trip with 2. It was ok, but a third would have been great - so I confirmed, 3 t-shirts is perfect. My long sleeve shirt, thin like a t-shirt, was something I could have left behind. I only wore it in the evenings when it was cooler (so mostly Ethiopia) but I could have easily simply warn my sweater. If I still had my sweater - it being a zip up and black, it looked dressed up if I needed it too and still kept me warm, it was perfect. One regret, bringing flip-flops instead of a small loafer like pair of shoes. I didn't use my flip-flops at all. Yet when going out in the evenings, when everyone around looks all made up and fashionable, entering a bar or nice restaurant with either sports sandals or hiking shoes isn't the best way to present yourself. So having a pair of small, simple and presentable loafers would be nice. Last thing I'd change, my camera. Yes, I love taking pictures. But the truth is, I can't really tell the different in quality if I had a nice hybrid camera or something along those lines, instead of my heavy and bulky DSLR. My camera is the biggest and heaviest piece I have, by far. Eliminating that, and having a small compact camera, would give me an incredible amount of free space in my bag. And the reason I want that space is it's still pretty hard to carry a 46L bag on and off buses and up staircases and both of us with bags on a bike and everywhere else your backpack follows. Jack had a lot more ease getting in and out of minibuses with her 38L. I didn't use my 2L waterpack/hydration pack too often, but during hikes, it fits perfectly inside my day bag which made it so useful. We also brought a hammock tent, which we did use a few times. But we used it more as a bug net on top of beds, or a tent on the ground. So to do over again, I'd either bring a travel mosquito net that I would still use outside if I felt like it, or a travel tent, depending if the country I'd be visiting has camping options.

    So to sum up my ideal packing, the bigger items would be as follows : 1 rain jacket, 1 zip up sweater, 3 t-shirts, 1 pair of pants, 1 pair of shorts, 3 pairs of underwear, 2 bras, 2 pairs of socks. The key is making sure everything matches with everything. 1 bathing suit, 1 sarong (used as towel, sheet, cover-up, etc). 1 day bag that folds into its top compartment (or very collapsible). 1 hydration pack. 1 pair of hiking shoes, 1 pair of sports sandals, 1 pair of loafers. 1 very compact sleeping bag (mine is for 9C and up, so not the warmest, but it packs to about 15cm diameter and 30cm high). Tent if camping is an option.

    As far as my firstaid kit goes, I over packed my pharmacy, but still probably wouldn't change anything because it's what I do. Being a nurse, I rarely need to go to a clinic or see a doctor for a prescription. I know what I need, so I'll take my own supply. I have cipro (which came in handy twice during this trip), azythromycin, keflex (for the odd skin infection or abscess), polysporin, zovirax cream for the odd cold sore, some bandaids and gauze and nursing tape (which actually came in handy to fix my tent), mini scissors, and a pill bottle with a whole mixture of things like imodium, Tylenol, gravol, a sleeping pill I can't remember the name of, naproxen, hydration tablets, and I'm sure there's more. I may be overly prepared, but it comforts me to know I can have access to my own mini pharmacy when needed.

    Cosmetics themselves are easy, toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant, gel, shampoo and a soap bar in a soap box. Sunscreen depending on destination.

    Then there's all the side stuff, like a universal sink plug (super useful for daily laundry), laundry soap, phone, earphones, phone charger, adapter if needed, diving book and PADI certification card if I plan to dive, tissues, and the obvious passport and flight itinerary (I always bring a copy since many countries demand to see a proof of exit).

    And let's not forget the travel book! My only piece of research. I generally leave with no research done at all, so I wouldn't go very far without it.

    That's it. You don't add the "in case", you never say "well I have the space", you never say "maybe I'll want it". If there's a doubt, you don't bring it. Remember, if you really need it, you can buy it there. Every tiny item added to a backpack makes a difference.
    That's that for packing!

    I guess that sums it up. For those who are interested in backpacking, I hope this helps get you motivated! No matter if you're leaving for 1 week or 1 year, carrying a small backpack makes all the difference in accessibility. I would pack the same bag for a week as for a year. I might actually be more likely to pack more for short trips since I know I won't have to carry it too long! Traveling is more and more accessible, it's being done more and more, and therefore countries are getting even easier to manoeuvre independently. These packing tips can apply to even the fancy travellers out there! Who says you can't have a backpack and walk into the Ritz? Or give it to your driver? A small, easily carried bag just makes transitions easier. Now is the time to explore before tourism changes the face of these countries for ever!
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  • Day88

    Travelling... In general.

    March 29, 2016 in Kenya ⋅ ⛅ 19 °C

    No more travelling stories. No more new adventures in East Africa. This post is really just thoughts on traveling, and comparing the 4 countries I just did. Sorry if you don't find it too interesting. If you're interested in backpacking yourself, I'll throw in some pointers.

    When I left for this journey, I thought East African countries would be similar, and that I could apply one thing learnt from one country to another. Boy, was I wrong. All 4 countries were so incredibly different. Ethiopia was incredibly religious, devoted, traditional in its ways, even the youth still do shoulder dancing in clubs, and they still listen to traditional music, and wear traditional ceremonial clothing during religious holidays. In one word, Ethiopia was traditional. Rwanda was very green (the greenest of the 4), helpful people, yet somber, introverted, and didn't seem to have a past that went beyond the genocide. As if it took over any of their past worth mentioning. Uganda was joyful, outgoing, loud, and proud. And finally, Kenya was rougher, it was the most diverse population, it offered the most variety in towns within its borders, and had incredible wildlife.

    The country I felt safest in - Rwanda. The least safe, Kenya. The happiest, Uganda. The poorest, Ethiopia. The most needy children, Ethiopia. The most needy adults, Kenya. The greenest, Rwanda. The cleanest, Rwanda. The most organised, Rwanda. The most English, close call between Uganda and Kenya, but I'd give it to Uganda. The best food, Ethiopia by a landslide. Although we spent the least in Rwanda, I can't say it's the cheapest because we just didn't do big ticket activities there... The cheapest, on day to day, Ethiopia.

    The best moment, seeing chimps, Uganda. The best activity, cycling through Hell's Gate National Park, Kenya. The coolest sight, the volcano, Ethiopia. The best capital, Kampala, Uganda. The best town vibes, Masaka, Uganda. The most surprising town, Lamu, Kenya (so different).

    As for how it was to be me in East Africa, interesting. I was often misgendered, which isn't surprising. The surprising part is that it was never associated to my sexuality, as I'm sure it is back home. Not once did I feel someone was doubting my sexuality. They would go from apologizing for having called me sir to asking if I have a husband. And in these parts of the world, I was very thankful for this. Problem is, it only shows how little exposure they've had to queer people and how far they have to go until they can have acceptance. It was incredibly hard at first to resist speaking about Jack as my partner, or not admitting to anyone along the way the true nature of our relationship. Like most things, it got easier with time. So much easier that I am now worried as to how we will go back to being partners. How does a couple go back to it's ways when you've been friends for 3 months? I guess we'll find out soon enough.
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  • Day88

    Well, that was Kenya!

    March 29, 2016 in Kenya ⋅ ⛅ 19 °C

    I guess 540am on a flight to Zurich is as good of time as any to write my concluded thoughts about Kenya.

    Kenya and I have a love hate relationship. Didn't like it coming in from Uganda - too many idiot boys or young men calling you out for being white and simply walking in their streets. It was almost like they wanted you to have a bad impression of their town. I always found myself wanting to explain the concept of tourism, and how their country profits a great deal from it, and by us consuming their goods, and staying in small scale guesthouses, we were promoting the "little people" of tourism... But no one had enough English or gave two shits about it. They had much more fun just making our experience that much less pleasant.

    From then on, ups and downs. Like Kericho's tea tour - the man who booked it for us knowing it wouldn't happen sucked, but the driver and the guide were fantastic. Much like anywhere else in the world, some people really do care about helping you. Or like the "cultural" diner we had in Lamu was obviously a bust, yet his family was nice and inviting, trying to catch us up in the soap opera they were watching.

    Nairobi, again, love hate. I had one of my worst anxiety moments here, simply because the sun was going down, and yet I never truly felt unsafe. The people in Nairobi were actually quite helpful, we managed to walk everything with the help of my phone's gps, it was a really good experience in a town where people warn you of its security risks and toughness.

    The funny part of this next story, is the night before this incident, the very night before, Jack and I had a conversation on how we were impressed that everything has gone so smoothly up until now. Other then my t-shirt and sweater in Ethiopia, we hadn't been robbed, we hadn't been mugged, we hadn't been stopped by police and asked for a bribe (we met people along the way that did have to pay 2000ksh for not carrying their passports) ... Everything was going so well. And then Mombasa happened. Ah, Mombasa, how do I hate thee.

    So we get there after taking a bus over from Watamu. The bus station is a little far from where we want to stay, so we hoped on a tuk-tuk. While stuck in traffic, in this tuk-tuk, I had my phone in my hands to follow with my GPS as to where we were going. Next thing I know, someone is tugging on my phone. I tugged back, there was that second of resistance, and then it's gone. My phone's gone. I had my bag straps still on, so I removed them as fast as I could and ran out of the tuk-tuk, and after these two boys running away from me. All I could think of yelling was "thief! thief!" since according to my readings, locals tend to take the law into their own hands when it comes to thieves. I chased them down maybe 200m yelling, and at this point there were another 10 guys also chasing them. And then, they ran into an alley. I stopped. Something told me following a gang of men into an alley, even if it was broad daylight, wouldn't be smart. Few seconds pass, Jack shows up behind me, says the tuk-tuk is waiting with our bags. Her being close by gave me the confidence to go into the alley. I find 5 or 6 men standing around a fence with various "weapons" in their hands. Apparently the boys jumped the fence and were gone. One man holding a rock, another a brick, and one most impressively a piece of cement about 4 feet long. I can only imagine what would have happened if they did manage to stop him. I thanked everyone, then spent a bit of time going around the fence, asking around who saw the boys running, knowing all too well that it as long gone.

    To be honest, if it was just my phone, then so be it, no big deal. If it was money, no big deal. But this was my pictures. I have one week left to a 3 month trip, and I just lost all of my photos. I was so, so incredibly disappointed. Jack kept reminding me, I have her photos, I have the blog's photos, and whatever I put on facebook. But 3 months of photos! 3 months of my perspective on things, my views, what I found interesting enough to capture on a photo, gone. Needless to say, the rest of my day in Mombasa was a little difficult for me to enjoy. The whole event just kept replaying in my mind. What if I did follow him into the alley, would I have caught up? If I jumped the fence behind him, would others have helped me stop him? Is there a way I could have predicted this? Kept my phone out of reach from inside the tuk-tuk? So I'm writing this from my brand new, top quality, itel 1506. Who says 65$US can't buy you a topnotch phone?

    My time in Mombasa was mostly spent in fear. Granted, losing the phone started the feeling, but Jack agreed that this was the roughest city yet. People just have that look in their eyes, a look you don't trust and know to keep walking. Having to come back to Mombasa for our night bus to Nairobi was tough. The bus left after dark, so I decided I would just sit at the bus ticket office until the bus left. I had no interest in being out in that city after dark.

    I fear Mombasa tainted my impressions of Kenya as the roughest of the countries. I felt less safe here. People were just rougher with their approaches. Grabbing your arm when you walk by their stalls for you to have a look. Physically imposing themselves for you to feel intimidated. Just yesterday while shopping, I wanted to buy a shirt, started negotiating, saw that it wasn't going where I wanted it to go so I wanted to leave. The man put himself between me and the exit and literally blocked my way out. Another grabbed my arm to "lead" (more like force) me into his shop. The touching gets a little much.

    I guess that was quite the rant about security. But, when all is said and done, we're safe, and to see the reaction of the locals at a thief was proof that the thieves are still the minority, and it isn't something that is accepted by others. On to other thoughts!

    The West of Kenya and the coast were incredibly different worlds! The west was was mostly black Africans, Christian mostly, the towns were quite uniform. Whereas the coast was mostly Muslim, many more olive skinned population, the diversity was much more obvious, with some women wearing the bui-bui (full dress like cloak), some just the hijab, some hiding their faces, others none of the above. Many of the men were wearing the kofir (round hat, traditionally Muslim, brought in by Iraqi traders). The Swahili coast had beautiful carved entrance and small alleyways for streets.

    Many of the towns along the way were relatively big towns, so Nairobi didn't seem as intimidating as Kampala did in Uganda. Every town we'd arrive in was bigger then what we imagined. Just when I thought we were heading to a small town, I was surprised. For someone who likes small towns, this was slightly annoying.

    Food was close to Uganda, except for Rolex. Plenty of chapati, they just don't roll it with eggs. Breakfast around here is mostly just tea and andazi (fried triangular piece of bread) for the locals. That wouldn't hold a couple of Canadian girls who like their breakfast, so it often took persistence to find somewhere that sold beans and rice. Many of the towns along the way had at least one, if not a few westerner restaurants, so if ever we missed western food, it was never out of reach. The coast is actually popular with Italians, so plenty of wood oven pizzas and homemade gelato!

    Much like Uganda, activities here aren't geared to independent travellers. We were staying at base of mountains and there were no tourist agencies around to help organize a hike. We were in a town right next to the Masai Mara and yet again, no one to help us go. Everything had to be booked and organised from Nairobi. Since we came in from the west, we literally had to pass these things, only to come back to them with a driver from Nairobi.

    The Masai though! And Hell's Gate! Those two safari days, though very different, were absolutely amazing. Cycling so close to these incredible animals is something I'll never forget. And then seeing so many lions, and the incredible landscapes in the Masai... Now I understand why everyone said to keep the safari money for Kenya. Their wildlife is gorgeous.

    Another thing Kenya has going for itself, is public parks. Most big cities have them, they're relatively well maintained, and locals actually use them. Grabbing a drink, a tea, and sitting in the grass, people watching, was just great. After a day of walking around to explore towns, it's the perfect way to relax and kick up your feet while still being amongst locals.

    As far as budgeting goes, a quick calculation says we spent roughly 49$US per day. Turns out, Uganda was more expensive! We thought Kenya would be terrible because of all the safaris, the boat trips, and we even took a flight along the coast... But day to day life was cheaper. And since we were in Kenya for 26 days, the big expenses get spread over more cheap days.

    That seems to sum it up. Kenya was really good in some parts, and intimidating in others. Still, an experience I would never have wanted to miss!
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  • Day86

    Some shopping, some hangin'

    March 27, 2016 in Kenya ⋅ ⛅ 28 °C

    Today was easy, it's almost like things were being brought to us to do! The streets of the city center felt entirely deserted. Easter Sunday, figures. On our way to breakfast I was signaled over by an army guy while I was crossing the street. I had noticed a few army people patrolling, so I assumed it was simply to warn me of something. Finally, the man asks for my passport. Right then and there, I wasn't sure if I should run, or play stupid. Rumor is, any authority figure will try to extort money from unknowing tourist. The passport gag meant he would threaten to arrest me for my lack of ID unless I paid him. I went with the play stupid role, said I didn't have it on me. He asks why. I say it's safer in my hotel. I respond I was stolen from recently so the streets aren't safer (since I know there's a huge pickpocketing issue here), we go back and forth. Finally Jack appears and says if he wants a passport, he'll have to follow us to our hotel, after which we just slowly walked away... Yep, just walked away from the army man. He never did ask for money, but he must have seen we weren't intimidated. Well I say that, but my heart was pounding! Imagine, having to bargain a bribe with an army personal in the middle of the day downtown. According to what I've read and been told, the only thing to do if they insist is bargain down. A bribe is the only way out.

    After that fun little bit, we find the breakfast shop we were looking for - great coffee and actual breakfast items! No beans for me this morning! We then explored downtown, walked by the parliament and huge fancy official buildings. Our only true goal today was to go to the Masai market (tourist market), but it turns out, the market came to us! In front of the Supreme Court was a little market with a bunch of touristy trinkets. We didn't even have to leave downtown! Did some shopping. Hard bargaining. I was quite proud of my skills. Every time I offered a price, they were outraged because it was usually a third of their initial offer, yet with some tough looks exchanged, I usually ending up paying exactly what I wanted. I honestly don't feel I overpaid once. Being cheap pays off!

    After all this walking, we wanted to kick our feet up an relax in the city's park. Turns out, Sundays is fair day! There's tons of locals roaming the park with rides, and mini trains, and paddle boats on the lake, and cotton candy, and camel to ride on... Everything a girl could ask for! We sat for a while, until this homeless kid, maybe 10 years old, inhaling gas, wouldn't leave us alone. Even when we left to walk around the park he followed us for about 15 minutes until we finally lost him. Sorry I didn't want to contribute to the petrol purchases...

    It was great to see Kenyan families just enjoying their outdoor spaces, relaxing on the weekend. Walking out of the Uhuru Park and into Central Park, another little surprise - outdoor mass. A big celebration amongst what appeared to be mostly religious figures of the church. Everyone chanting and dancing under the shade of the trees. It was great. A little bit of true culture before it all ends. Walking back home we dropped by the National Archives, more of an art museum. Some beautiful pieces, and very little pottery thankfully. Mostly sculpture and traditional tribal wear. Nice exhibit.

    My anxiety and my need to explore more are colliding with tomorrow's plan. Since we only leave at 740pm, we could do a full day activity like the Nairobi National Park or a tour or something. But there's a little voice in my head telling me I can't go too far from the airport, I must avoid any situation that could make me late for my flight... Who knows what we'll do. We were told that as deserted as the streets were today, with all the shops being closed, it will be worse tomorrow. Staying downtown all day just doesn't seem like fun...

    Side note! (it's been a while!)
    I've become very efficient at fixing toilets! Pierre would be proud. The amount of times I've had to take the lid off the tank and problem solve is ridiculous. The most entertaining part is trying to fix a toilet which has been previous fixed, African style. Metal wire as a flushing lever, parts holding together with zip-ties or tape. This current room for example, I took the lid off the toilet to find the thing that gauges the water level in the tank taken apart in 3 pieces. Guess who made it work!? Good thing too, since I told them yesterday at 6pm that the toilet was broken and the sink has no water running. At 7pm, I reminded them of this coming back from diner. At 830pm I went down to ask for at least a bucket so we could flush, until it was fixed. Not too long after I got a bucket of water. We are now more then 24 hours later, I remembered them of it again today at 530pm, its now 650pm and my sink is still not running, and I've had to trouble shoot fixing the toilet every time we go. Let's just say service isn't the quickest when it comes to repairs... But we have a bucket! FYI - great for laundry!
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  • Day85

    Last Leg

    March 26, 2016 in Kenya ⋅ ⛅ 24 °C

    Well, this is it folks. Night bus arrived in Nairobi just before 6am. Sun still down. We walked over to Hotel Medina, the one we stayed in during our first visit in Nairobi, since it was right around the corner. Jack wanted the wifi to wish her brother a happy birthday, but he unfortunately didn't answer. While there, I managed to borrow the receptionist's phone to call the hotel we had reserved, to try and cancel the reservation. I had reserved being nervous that everything would be booked for easter weekend, but turns out Medina has rooms! Everything worked out great! The cancelled place said they wouldn't charge me, Medina gave us a temporary room to nap in until our room would be ready for 10am, and they're letting us stay in a single room, instead of double, which means cheaper. Score!

    After our nap, we bused over to a district called Karen and Langata, what was supposed to be a cool, hipster, richer area. Turns out, it might be, if you have a car. Nothing was walkable. KMs between everything. So we had coffee at the cafe place, you know, since we were there. Then took a bus right back where we had passed to go watch a cultural show.

    The Bomas of Kenya are these grounds with homesteads from every Kenyan tribe. To see how different each tribe builds their home was fascinating. Then who doesn't like watching people dancing in traditional clothing while drinking a beer? Drums, singing, chanting, and even the odd accordion! Mom, it could have been your time to shine! Great show, ending with an acrobatic act that was very entertaining. And to make it all that much sweeter, we paid half price with our handy student cards!

    We bused back home, and had this really nice guy walk us home, since we went a route we didn't recognize at all! A personal escort, how nice. It's kind of nice to be back in Nairobi. After Mombasa, my enjoyment of big cities had taken a dip, but I like Nairobi! The people are all busy doing something, hustle and bustle everywhere, and they couldn't care less that white people are walking by. I don't feel their stares as much as I did in Mombasa. The people are quite helpful. Other then the obvious downside of not being able to be out after dark, I really wouldn't mind sticking around here. Tomorrow, shopping! I haven't bought anything to bring home all trip, so tomorrow's the time to let loose!
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  • Day84

    Perfect Ending

    March 25, 2016 in Kenya ⋅ 🌙 29 °C

    So our second night camping at South Coast backpackers was just as shitty as our first. Again, the grounds are beautiful. And if you like to party, then it's the place for you. But if you're like Jack and I, and in bed by 9pm, reconsider.

    I got the permission to set up the tent on one of the day beds that was further set from the pool, along the back wall. I blamed the possibility of rain as my reason to set up there, but really I just wanted the mattress underneath me, the ground can be kind of hard... Incredibly warm again, the mosquito net of the tent blocks any possibility of a breeze, the music played until 3am... People were still sitting at the bar when they shut it off. Jack slept on the poolside cabana again, this one offering more of a breeze, having moved over around 1am. At this point, I made the executive decision to splurge for our last night on the coast. After tonight, we've got a night bus to sleep in and a cheap hotel in Nairobi for 2 nights, so this is my last chance to indulge in luxury. With some research, and lots of negotiation skills, we got a 7,000 cottage for 4,500. People, we've got air-con! The bedroom is wonderfully cool, the washroom all to ourselves, a front porch to enjoy a night cap glass of wine (bought at the groceries), a full kitchen, and yes, a pool overlooking the ocean. It's low season now, so prices tend to drop. It's a somewhat large resort, and there's about 10 people here.

    We spent the day lounging at the pool, playing around with a ball I bought yesterday. Went into town (across the street) to grab lunch and some groceries for our evening. We got to watch National Geographics all night sipping wine and coke. Pierre would be proud! And turns out, wombats can be fascinating.

    I got mugged by monkeys this morning. We had bought our breakfast at the groceries, including a banana, a mini bread loaf and a bread bun for me to make a sandwich. I left the front porch for 30 seconds only to hear Jack yelling my name. I returned to find her starring at a fence, and beyond it a couple monkeys enjoy some bread. When we both gave up on attempting to get it back, I returned to my plate and found I was missing my banana. Change of plans, we had our lunch snack early.

    We had to check out for 10am from the cottage, but still got to enjoy the grounds for the day. We walked close to 2 hours on the beach, heading to the Kongo Mosque, the oldest Mosque still in use, or something along those lines. The best part of the mosque were the baobab trees in front, huge gorgeous trees. Quick swim in the clear, warm ocean to cool down and headed back to the pool, where we were welcomed by the pool boy with a freshly opened coconut. We drank the water and Jack ate the coconut itself. Not bad service for people who just paid close to half price for a cottage for the one night.

    Sadly, and dragging our feet, we made our way out to the matatu junction to make our way back to Mombasa. I'm not a fan of Mombasa, so I'm not looking forward to being there. And I know we'll be taking a bus that isn't leaving until after dark, so that scares me a little. I've already made the decision to just sit in the bus office once it's dark and wait there, the safest plan I could come up with.

    We sat at a local restaurant across the street from the bus office to make our walk over short. I had a small amount of money left, but didn't want to go to the atm until I was off the overnight bus. Turns out, I was a hundred short for diner! We had a meal that would usually cost 150, maybe 200, and the bill showed 350! I was so confused. I explained the situation to the waiter, and reluctantly he said it was ok. Nice guy! I remembered that we had a fruit knife, that I won't be needing anymore, and can't fly home with, so I offered it to him as a peace offering for the kitchen. He took it. I don't know if he appreciated. He chuckled a bit. And then another customer turned around and said he'd cover it, said to take back my knife. So many nice people! Who would have thought, shitty Mombasa had so many nice people in it.

    So here I am, sitting in an air conditioned bus, front seat so plenty of leg space, awaiting our departure back to Nairobi. Seems odd to think it's the last time I'll have to carry my backpack to a new town... We were warned that easter weekend would make all hotels very busy, so we reserved a place for our 2 nights in Nairobi. Again, such an odd feeling that I'm done looking for accommodation. I'm done arriving in an unknown town. I'm done exploring new towns. I'm returning to where I've been, only to return home. Odd feeling.
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  • Day83

    Scuba, done

    March 24, 2016 in Kenya ⋅ ⛅ 33 °C

    A matatu to the ferry, a passenger ferry trip, a matatu to Ukanda, a tuk tuk to South Coast Backpackers, and we're here! This place has a huge fence all around it's grounds, which is shared with theses huge villas, and it doesn't have signage in front of it other then a 2x2 sticker on the door... Let's just say hard to find! But there's a pool! No jellyfish mommy! Again, it's warmer then our showers, but refreshing nonetheless. There's a bar, a cook if we want food, the grounds are beautiful, and we get to camp for 600 a night. Not bad at all considering the beach is 5 minutes walk away! Organizing our dives for tomorrow was as easy as telling the reception girl to make the call. All day boat trip with a morning dive, booked. It's actually to a point further south that I really wanted to go to, but didn't have the time to get to. How perfect! Now lounging by the pool, eating a fruit salad we made from this morning's market trip, waiting for our homemade guacamole to "infuse" in coriander. Not a bad life. Not a bad way of finishing a pretty damn cool trip.

    We didn't sleep much at all. It's hot as hell, music played until 2 am, being squished together in our hammock, that we set up on the ground for more space, increased the heat... Jack ended up going to sleep in the pool side cabanas at 3 am. Still, the grounds of the place is beautiful, the pool is great, so we shall try again.

    The boat trip and scuba was fantastic! They picked us up for 7am, we drove the hour and a half to Wasini island. 14 people on this beautiful carved wooden boat. The staff was friendly and helpful. They served tea and crackers on board before the dive, fruit at our return. They docked at this deserted island with just this huge, beautiful restaurant along the waterfront that served us crab and a ridiculous amount of traditional foods complete with a song while serving it. The food was actually delicious despite the amount of things from the sea. White wine. Coke. Heaven.

    We did one dive and some snorkeling. We saw 4 big turtles, a leopard eel, some long nose things, a large grouper... The coral wasn't great but fish a plenty! I decided against doing more dives since we would be seeing the same thing and its not how I want to spend my last day on the beach!

    Beautiful day. More to come!
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  • Day81

    Mombasa, oh boy

    March 22, 2016 in Kenya ⋅ ⛅ 33 °C

    To be honest, this city's rough: Sellers are aggressive, smells are abundant and strong, garbage everywhere, but that's not new... We stayed in our usual cheaper guesthouses, but this one actually felt like a neighbourhood wasn't one I would mess around at dark in... They mostly say not to be out anywhere in Kenya after dark, but I believe it here. I felt safer in Nairobi, which says a lot. That being said, I'm a smart girl. I keep my stuff close, stay polite, yet firm. That's what we've learnt so far. 

    We got to Mombasa around 12pm from Watamu, just enough time to walk around old town, explore the old port, beautiful carved doors again, gorgeous balcony architecture... Crossing some people welcoming us, and some looking at us just creepily enough to make me keep walking. We got to the Fort Jesus, main attraction here, and spotted other tourists at the door. My goal was to ask if it was worth visiting, but they were just heading in with their own guide and invited us to tag along. Free guide! Entrance fees were 800 as per our lonely planet, which we thought was expensive, but getting to the gate they were actually 1200! Again, student cards save the day! They let us pay the "under 16" price of 600 instead. Score! 

    The Fort was our first bit of true history on the country. We've seen cultural history, tribal history, but not the whole Portuguese coming in 15?? And Omanis taking over to then be over taken by the English or something along those lines... It's funny, during these tours, I'm super interested and curious, and the second I leave those gates I forget everything that was just said to me. But the Fort was cool! Lol. The doorways had a mix of Portuguese, Arabic, and Muslim carvings. And of course there's the obligatory clay pot museum that I sat outside to get a nice breeze. It's still brutally hot on the coast - averaging 34 C during the day and 27C at night. 

    We didn't get to doing the spice market on the same day as the old town, so we set off to it in the morning before moving on to Diani beach. Turns out, we found a bunch of fantastic materials we plan to use for our hookah lounge / pillow pile! We have all these great plans for our apartment, the only thing missing is the actual apartment that won't happen for another 3 months... Lol. Successful morning! 
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  • Day80

    White Sand Heaven

    March 21, 2016 in Kenya ⋅ ⛅ 32 °C

    Watamu beach, why have I just now discovered you!? The sand is whiter then I thought possible for sand, it squeaks under our every step. The water is clear and blue. It's a bunch of coves, so there's maybe 2-3 resorts on this beach, not enough to be oversized or touristy. A beautiful little cove of heaven. We got here around 5pm, just enough time for a short beach walk and watching the sunset with a beer, sand under our toes. We liked the place so much, we ended up having dinner there too, coconut rice and prawns while hearing the water coming in and out. 

    Jack has been doing quite well with eating meat, you just get a glimpse of her vegetarian ways when there's too much ... realistic animal imagery. Like eating beef off of bones, not a fan. Getting the chicken off the bones, same. Getting served a full fish with head, not good. So in these times, I usually do it for her. So debone the fish and chicken and just hand her the meat, like a baby bird! Well the prawns from our dinner came intact. I had seen it plenty of times before, but not Jack. Once she saw the eyes, she was done for. I, of course, prepped them, took the shell and the head and tail off, yet she still needed a little convincing to eat it. My little tree hugger.

    As sad as it is to only spend the one night in Watamu, I know we'll get plenty more beach time. On to Mombasa! Second biggest city in Kenya, big ports. That's what I know.
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  • Day79

    Airport thoughts

    March 20, 2016 in Kenya ⋅ ☀️ 33 °C

    While I was sitting in the airport on Manda island, I was deep in thought on my impressions of Kenya. Not really, I was drinking coke and eating chips out of boredom, but still in thought! Coming into the country through Kitale was a rough start: I thought Kenyans were rough around the edges, not helpful, all calling out muzungu! They saw us as wallets again, or as intruders. Seems as time went on, I grew to enjoy Kenya and Kenyans. We found towns, or at least areas of towns, that I really enjoyed. Kenya is the first country that actually has public parks in most of their cities, the other countries never had green space to sit in. I got to enjoy some tea, or whatever drink, sitting in a park people watching, which I love. More and more Kenyans have started yelling out to us "welcome to Kenya" or "kariboo Kenya" for a change. There's always the ones that have no interest in helping or serving you, but others that will actually help out. Some try to help us with buses, tell us the real pricing, and of course there's the one who send you the wrong way or triple the prices. Kenya's got it all. Just a little more abrupt about it. The matatu drivers a little more aggressive to get you on their buses. The touts a little more loud about staying in their accommodations. 

    So back to sitting in the airport! We just took a ferry boat (more like a canoe with a motor) from the jetty in Lamu, across the waterway, to the deck of the airport... Coolest airport ever. Security was a metal detector that went off when I went through and a bag scanner that very clearly showed my huge fruit knife, but no one said anything. I checked my bag in with the knife, but I'm sure no one would have noticed if I hadn't! Destination: Malindi, where we'll make our way to Watamu.
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