Overland Truck Adventures – Oasis ‘Apes & Lakes’ Africa
Left Arusha at 8am on a small shuttle bus from the Impala Hotel after a late night out on the town. Saturday night I could not convince anyone from Ujamaa Hostel to come out, very disappointing considering it was Anoop and I’s last night. Anna however was back from hiking Mt. Kilimanjaro and was up for a good night out, so through a series of text messages we arranged for Michael and myself to collect her from the Outpost Hotel where she was staying, on the way to the popular ‘Massi Camp’.
When we arrived we discovered that it was a special fundraising night, and there would be performances from the circus that was in town. I had really wanted to go to the circus, and they put on a great show- which was only really a preview of what we could get if we went to the full show. Anna, Michael and myself found Gasper inside, bought some drinks, enjoyed the evening, and it was 5am when we finally decided to get a cab back to the hostel.
After saying good night and good bye to Michael, I managed to achieve about one hours sleep before Anoop’s alarm went off and it was time to finish packing, eat breakfast, and get ourselves to the Impala Hotel. Everyone that had come from Nairobi warned me to a) not be hung over for the bus ride (never going to be an issue with me, although Gasper is a bad influence with shots), and to b) wear a sports bra because the road is soo bumpy. Well, I got onto the bus, and the next thing I remember is waking up just before we reached the Kenyan border. Anoop later told me that he was extremely surprised that I was able to sleep through the drive, I guess I was just that tired.
The shuttle dropped us off at Silver Springs Hotel, and we got a taxi over to Karen Camp. The exchange rate in Kenya is not as good for traveling, $1usd equals 72ksh, where as in Tanzania is was $1usd to 1020tsh. With 1000tsh vs 90ksh buying a chocolate bar.
After finding our dorm room, we joined our tour leader and driver at the bar. Our tour leader, Andy, is British, and our driver Benny, is Australian, from Brisbane. They seem like nice guys, and im sure that we will have a good trip with them.
Day one of the trip required us to wake up at 6am to get our gear onto the truck, and meet the 9 other people that had stayed at Karen Camp for the night. Andy gave us a quick run down of the basics of where everything is and where to store our gear, and then we drove to Silver Springs to collect the rest of the guests. There is a total of 24 of us doing the Gorilla Loop, equal parts Aussie, Kiwi, Irish and Scott. Its funny, I chose to use Oasis because it is not advertised in Australia, so I thought that we would be traveling with Europeans, but it seems its all the Aussie expats that book this type of trip while in London. Anoop and I are the only Australians on the trip that have come from Australia and currently reside there.
After paying the local payment, filling in forms and checking the internet at a ridiculous rate, we headed out to the Giraffe park. This was not far from Karen Camp, and we had the opportunity to both feed the Giraffes and get a kiss from them. We were also given a short presentation on the life of a giraffe and the different types within Kenya (Reticulated, Rothschild, and Massi).
Following this we headed off to Lake Naivasha for the evenings camp, and were given a run down of the available activities for the following day. Following this we were given the run down of the location of everything in the truck, and a demonstration of how to erect and dismantle the tents. My tent buddy goes by the name of Hayley, and she is a Kiwi oncology nurse looking at getting a job at Peter Mac in Melbourne….. it’s a very small world indeed.
Day 2- I elected to go to the crater lake and high tea at Elsamere, with the crater lake being a waste of money. The sun was beating down, it was hot, and I did not see anything that I have not seen before- or that I found interesting. The crater lake itself was not beautiful, there were only a few flamingos, and frankly $38usd was very steep for the experience. Elsamere on the other hand I found worth the $10usd for the ‘high tea’, even tho I do not drink tea. It was interesting to learn about the homestead that we were sitting in, and also the history that woman had with animals- and husbands too.
Four of us walked back to the campsite along the main road after visiting Elsamere, and it was interesting to see how the others reacted to being in Africa. I guess after being in Tanzania for 5 weeks there are certain things that I have got use to, like the kids getting so excited to see a ‘muzungu’, running towards us and waving like crazy. The matatu’s (Kenya’s version of the dalah-dalah) here are also hilarious- each of them has been pimped up to the max, with mag wheels and a tv inside- not to mention the speaker system. After getting back to camp Anoop showed a few of us to the local internet café, and just after leaving I dropped my portable hard drive onto the ground. I was hoping that it would be ok because I had in inside a pouch- but later that evening when I went to check I could not get it to load any data. The computer reads that it is connected- but cannot read any other information. I'm really disappointed, because all my photos are on there, music, and that’s also where I was writing and saving my blog to so that I would not need to type everything while sitting in an internet café. I’m hoping that I may be able to find another one in the mean time for a reasonable price, and that I may be able to store some photos onto my mp3 player.
Day 3 – Today was a driving day, leaving Lake Naivasha, driving though Nukuru (where Michael was born) and into a bush camp site 3 hours drive south from the border of Uganda. We spent approximately two hours in Nukuru to buy groceries, souvenirs, petrol and check our emails. I think a few of the others on the truck were a bit jack of all the people trying to sell them things buy the end of it, but I was happy just to practice my Swahili, and made it clear that I was not going to buy anything at all. That made for some interesting conversations, ‘why don’t you ask your boyfriend for the money?’, ‘talking and looking are free, how much will you offer’ etc.
After crossing the equator and getting to the camping spot for the evening it began to rain quite heavily- and again I was reminded how much I needed my stolen gortex pants. Im soo pissed off, and I know that I will need them when we have to bush bash to see the Gorillias. It’s not like I can simply go and buy another pair- there is nothing like them here in any of the shops we have been to, in fact I have not seen any type of water proof pant full stop!! NOT HAPPY JAN !!
Ok so I'm a bit slack in updating my blog. We have been in Rwanda for 3days now. On the day that we crossed the border we went into the Genocide Museum, and boy was that not fun. In fact it was rather horrible, as I expected that it would be. They had real time footage of people being butchered in the streets with Machetes, and heaps of video and photos of the dead lying, often dismembered, in the street. In addition there were videos playing of people who had survived, and the stories they had to share of living through the experience. A lot of it made me feel physically ill, and a great deal caused me to cry. There are mass graves at the site of the museum, and hundreds and hundreds of photos of the dead hanging up inside. Its so sad to see these photos of happy smiling people, and know how they were butchered. Additionally when you finish the main exhibit there is an entire area devoted to murdered children- it really is horrific. I have no idea how the western world let this happen- there is no excuse, none what so ever.
Its been 15 years since the genocide and you can see the effects on the people here. The survivors are scared and physically deformed. I passed a man yesterday with a huge machete scar across his face, a half of a leg missing- I can only imagine what trauma he went through to survive his attack. It really upsets me, it breaks my heart, and it makes me feel angry that nothing was done to stop it. The movie "Sometimes in April" is a good representation of what happened here, and if you have not seen it then you certainly should get hold of a copy.
On a happier note yesterday was Gorilla day. We were picked up at 6.15am from the camping grounds and taken to the briefing point. Following this 'DJ Kev' gave us a ride to the starting point of the hike into the mountains. Our driver, 'DJ Kev', informed us on the journey there that he has the number one single playing on the radio at the moment, and that everyone knows him and loves him. He then preceded to break into song, and also played us a cd of his songs- which was not bad, given that we had no idea what he was actually singing about. He was a very interesting guy- spoke 8 languages and for some reason developed a crush on me. He invited me out after the trek to his house to come and see his recording studio, but because no one would actually come with me I never went.
We spent about 1.5hrs struggling through stinging nettle and dense jungle vine to reach the Gorillas, and it was an amazing experience. The highlight of the experience- or at least the major talking point from it, would be that the dominant male silverback, "Charlie", charged at us while we were less than 2 meters from him. I swear to god that was scary, he weighs over 200kg, and has the nastiest looking teeth, he is just one big ball of strength. Apparently the family that we were viewing was relatively recently formed, Charlie had managed to convince some of the ladies to join him, and bang- a new gorilla family was born. For that reason he was the only silverback of our group, but we did have a few black backs and many females with infants. The baby gorillas are gorgeous- they have a crazy head of hair and just stare at you. Unfortunately all the babies we saw were very young and did not stray far from mum, one of the other groups was fortunate to see their young gorillas playing. Lol, one girl was even hit by a stick from the gorillas playing in her group.
When you have the briefing they inform you that you need to maintain a distance of 7meters from the Gorillas at all times, that it is not a problem to make eye contact, and that you should not run or make loud noises. Well, we were never more than 3 meters from the members of our family- and this was at the guides instance. They kept pushing us towards the gorillas to get our photos, and would take our cameras if we were not using them ourselves. Its amusing tho, not one of the photos the guides took on any of our cameras actually worked- they were all very much out of focus! As we approached the end of our one hour we got some great last minute pics of a mother and her baby- and then it began to rain. By the time we got back the parts of us that were not under rain gear were absolutely saturated.
When we got back to the hostel there was an amusing story circulating about one of the women in our group. Her name is Anne-Marie and she is in her late 40's early 50's, danish, and a very odd character. To describe her physically it would be polite to say that she is the opposite of skinny, in fact she would possibly be two of me- and the largest member on board the tour. Apparently- as the story goes, she slipped over on their walk to the gorillas and cut her leg and ripped her pants. The others in her group, being polite, told her that she could use the showers first to clean herself up. Well, she went into her doom room and took off her pants, but did not have another pair with her to change into- she needed to go to the truck. But it was not logical for her to put her torn pants back on, since they were filthy, so she just walked our of the dorm, down the open walkway past the other dorms, around the outside of the building past all the kitchen and laundry staff, and onto the truck- in only her underwear and and t-shirt. Andy, our tour guide apparently saw her coming and discretely went the other way, the rest of the group that saw her were just in disbelief. The incident has been a constant source of amusement for the group, especially since she can not see that she has done anything comment worthy.