A Travellerspoint blog

Nairobi, Nairobi, crazy Nairobi

Days five and six - Rwanda to Kenya

sunny 28 °C

Day five, 1 February 2011 (CB)
The party last night turned out to be very interesting. The vet who was part of a program that is called mountain gorillas vetinary project (MGVP) threw a huge party at a local pizza bar. We walked in to a bar that was full of Rwandan men and a few expats. It was a full house, open bar. Our sort of party!

Being the scared tourists that we are we started talking to some other expats. It was very interesting to hear their stories and reasons for ‘going native’. Many have come for limited periods of time on projects and then developed interest and stayed on. Some are linked to a charity called Bridge to Rwanda which helps arrange for people to come and work. There was a range from an art teacher, a deaf school teacher to a girl that works in a women’s cooperative making jewelry.

The people of Rwanda love to dance. Everyone gets up and dances, and if you are sitting on seat minding your own business, you still get dragged up to dance (CB). One of the locals got up and started doing a Michael Jackson impression then he went on lip sinking and dancing to what is I assume local hit songs. We left about 9.30 as the second half of the party began – we decided that we’d be best to leave before it got too wild.

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We both had a sleep in till 7am and had breaky. The instigators of the party dragged themselves into the breakfast in various states of repair. We met an interesting gentleman from America who trains animals for movies for a living. He said that he has worked on some big films like ‘pirates of the Caribbean’’ and had even done a movie on the gold coast!

We caught up with Joe, the tour guide, and headed back to Kigali. The weather was wet and roads slippery and vision limited. Wendy elected to sit in the back and not watch. We got there in one piece.

In Kigali we visited the genocide memorial. In a similar vain to previous monuments to tragedy, you walked away aware and saddened of what humans can become, but impressed that the population has moved forward so quickly and remain so happy despite the history and poverty present. It really puts things in perspective.

It is a public holiday here so all restaurants are closed. Joe drove around trying to find somewhere to eat. In the end we gave up and came to airport early. So now we are sitting in the departure lounge, very early and killing time. I started looking through the photos and remembering the gorillas. It will be very hard to cull the photos and write the tags. But between us we have taken already over 300 since we began. Thank goodness for digital.

Wendy just went to get some souvenirs and got some wooden spoons with ‘’cow horn’’ handles and got felt up by security, despite she was only carrying a paper bag and three coins.

We’re now planning for the next stage, ’Tanzania on foot’. Safari, and two bloody tall mountains. A few days in Nairobi before, so will be able to re-gather and do some washing in preparation!

Bring on Nairobi!

(w)
hmmm not sure he would have said that if he knew what we were to encounter on our arrival. We cleared immigration (photo and finger prints taken!) and ran down the stairs to see our bags going around the carousel, found the yellow cab desk pretty easily and set the price to the hotel. As we headed off it all seemed ok, until the driver stared zooming along the highway at what I’d say was 150km, then bumped the car into park. This was after he had cleaned the windscreen – but had to wipe away the water that was coming through the massive crack in the windscreen. Similar to Jakarta there are people that walk between the traffic selling stuff (you know, monopoly, bananas… machetes) – we were at first concerned that the driver had locked the car doors- we were now grateful. He kept speeding along, inn and around cars, up back streets and eventually we made it to the hotel – somewhat frazzled. C told me a bit later that he’d omitted to tell me that the speedo wasn’t working, the petrol light was on and his lights weren’t working!!!!

After a bit of debate with the hotel, we got into our room which is Spartan, but good enough. We went off to find a meal and got stuck with a restaurant at the Fairview which was nice but not cheap. We did some washing and caught up with what was happening in the world.

Hope everyone is ok with the cyclone!

Day Six 2 February 2011
Wow. There are so many things we take for granted. We were up at about 7 and found a great breaky on offer in the hotel. We then got some info from a travel agent down the road and decided that we’d make our way to an elephant orphanage and giraffe sanctuary. We negotiated a price with a taxi driver (much, much better than yesterday!) and agreed a price to drive us to the two places. He ended up being great. When we got to the orphanage we realised that there was no way we’d have been able to find it on our own. It was brilliant.

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They bought a group of 8 baby elephants into a roped off area and they proceeded to drink milk from a bottle, then ran a muck in the mud. We watched their shenanigans for about an hour then got the driver to take us to see the giraffes. It’s funny that you get bits of info from some people (the reception people told us that we could walk between the two) that is totally incorrect. It took about 20 mins to get to the giraffes… but it was well worth it. There was a raised structure in which we stood and hand fed the giraffes. It was great – we patted them like we do the dog – we had food so we were popular! We also saw some leopard tortoise there which were probably very old.

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We then went to a local department store and C found a new universal charger for his camera battery and we loaded up with some supplies.

After a short stop in the hotel (catching M&D on skype) we had our first real adventure – we walked about three blocks to a coffee house. It was perfectly fine.. it’s strange that you feel so unsafe until you conquer the fear. We hole up in our safe hotel so we maintain the bubble, but it also prevents us from experiencing the actual place we’re in. I hope that by the end of this trip we’ll be a bit braver.

Tomorrow we’re off to do a long walk in the national park and then the national museum. C managed to get the reception to help us book a table at carnivore tomorrow night.

W

Posted by ourlife 05:33 Archived in Kenya Tagged transit Comments (0)

Chasing Gorillas in the jungle

Days three and four - An unforgettable experience

all seasons in one day 28 °C

Day three 30 jan 2011

Where to begin! We were up at 3:30am and ready for our 4:30am pick up. It was as we were driving through the streets of Kigali at this time that I started thinking what the…f have we gotten ourselves into, this is crazy, all we know about this guy is that he had our names on a sheet of paper and he paid for our hotel, we’re driving off into the middle of bloody nowhere, he could be looking to harvest our organs!!! Anyway after a few of those kind of thoughts I calmed a bit and we went off into the country side and saw the sunrise as we got closer to the Volcanoes national park.

This may be my westernised rose coloured glasses and from what else I’ve seen, but the poverty doesn’t seem to get people down. The children run along next to our car and smile and wave and practice their English, everyone is quite friendly – as C says, ‘they’re happy’. It’s also surprised us how many people heard about the Brissy flood. Even a porter at the hotel was asking how bad it was.

We waited around for the rest of the tourists to turn up, then were allocated to a group that was to see a family of gorillas. There are 18 families within the Rawandan area of the national park. Eight are ok for tourism and ten are kept for research. The family we headed off to see was called Suva.

Gorilla background
The Suva family has 27 gorillas (one of the largest) with three silverbacks. Apparently there is usually only one chief silverback (he is the only one allowed to mate), however the Suva chief is a bit old (38) so he allows the second in charge to do some of his ‘duty’. This isn’t good for the third silverback as he has a girlfriend that he tries to sneak off with, but the other two bust him and it’s on for young and old. Sooner or later he will leave this family and start his own. Gorillas generally only have one baby at a time but sometimes they have twins but the twins don’t survive. Suva have some of the only surviving twins known – they are called emera and titusana ( I think). I think that the Barwick twins should be called this!

Lucky for us the Suva family is the furthest away and the highest. We trekked up hill for 3.5 hours. It started in a bamboo forest that was really pretty (but slippery) and changed to thick lantana like ground cover. We were caned by stinging nettles most of the way. Eventually we met up with the trackers (who spend about 8 hours a day following and protecting each family) and had to leave our bags and walking sticks. We went about another 5 mins and the gorillas were just there, lazing about on the top of a hill. It was awe inspiring. The chief silverback was stretched out, two females were playing with babies. It was as though we weren’t even there, until the chief decided that he wanted a bit so he came toward us, but jumped on a female….. and went for it in front of us (yes we have video of it). After that they all made a move past us, but as they did two gorillas, one after another, stopped right at Chris (he was crouching down) and touched his arm and stared at him…. it was bloody scary, but brilliant. We then followed them up and down hills, found more of the family and before we knew it the allowed hour was over.
We went down the same way we came up (but a lot faster) and headed back toward the car. It was an unforgettable experience – it took a bit to get used to realising that they weren’t zoo animals – they were in their own habitat, doing what they do all the time.

We got back to the hotel and had some lunch, went for a brief explore down the main street and then crashed. On all accounts a pretty good birthday!

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Day Four 31 January 2011

Apparently I have to write about days as well. After the twelve hour sleep (Wendy neglected to mention we fell asleep at 5.30pm), 5.30am wake up. Despite the wake up call being absent, we had decent breakfast, sticking to the rules of cooked food and thick skinned fruit only. Back to the meeting centre and then off to find our next gorilla family, the ‘kwitonda’ family, three silver backs and 18 other females, juveniles and many young babies. The approach was more of a gentle slope, but the undergrowth was thick, and the guide up the front was earning his keep with the machete.

After 2 hours of walking, and going through the same drill leave the poles, gear, and taking cameras only we came across the no 3 silverback first and two juveniles. The juveniles were practicing wrestling. Some trees will never look the same again. We followed the group around and saw the cutest little baby gorillas, photos do not them justice. One of the youngest was only 8mtths old and was still trying to learn how to move along under his own power, when all else failed, mum to the rescue and hang on!

We continued to follow them around unitl no2 silverback decided he wanted to see what was happening and surprised everyone by coming from behind. We all crouched down and he came up to have a good look and smell, strangely enough he seem to look at me (each of uss). Whatever deodorant I am wearing seems to attract these gorillas. That is great except for the fact with one swipe they will knock your block off.

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We finished watching and then returned home through the bushes, return journeys always seem so much faster. We headed back to the hotel and had some lunch.

We tried to go up to a high peak to look at the twin lakes but the weather was against us. Even so the view was very pretty (and wet).

So now I am writing the blog while W re-packs and then we are off to a party organized by some vets over here looking after the gorillas.

Posted by ourlife 21:04 Archived in Rwanda Tagged gorillas Comments (1)

slow beginnings

BNE, SYD, JBURG, NAROBI, KIGALI.....a long bloody way!

Day One 28 January 2011

Well… so this is actually happening. We were up late last night, fumbling around finishing C’s uni applications, sorting out phones etc. Anyway, made it to the Qantas check in on time, escaped extra luggage charges (43kg) and swanned our way to the lounge. After the short flight to Sydney we emerged into the duty free, which for some reason I always feel like a kid in a candy store. We avoided smells, drinks and electronics, saw the hideous line for the duty refund and decided to escape to the lounge. That was C’s turn to be like a kid in a candy store…. Bring on the champagne :} On the flight while I wasn’t around Chris even managed to tell one of the hosties that we were on our honeymoon so we got glasses of ‘’business class’” champagne when we took off. The same hostie then gave us a bottle of bubbles half way through the flight!

After about 13 hours and a few good/bad movies and ok food, we landed in Johannesburg. We cleared immigration and found our packs, however spent 45 mins waiting/looking for the trekking pole box. (that mum had so brilliantly fashioned). It was located with the unusual sized item place [next time it’s going to be strapped to one of the bags].
After blowing off the initial wave of taxis, porters etc we had our first go at carrying everything ourselves (a whole 100m). We did see a guy manage to put a full trolley of luggage going up on the escalader, but we figured we were better off lumping it. The hotel welcomed us with open arms (and a trolley) and we proceeded to have a shower with the intention of going exploring, but managed to break the cardinal rule of travel……. We fell asleep at 4pm and so it is now about 2am local time and we’re bloody wide awake re-packing and drinking French champagne. I think it’s about 10am at home. Oh well. We are learning as we go!

W

Day two 29 January 2011

Today was a little more challenging than yesterday. We slept as much as we could, but were up by about 6am. We opted for breaky at the hotel then headed off toward the airport. Johannesburg airport is pretty impressive. It seems to be fairly new and has everything at a price. After finding a few ‘forgotten’ items we found the gate and waited for the plane. It seems as though each flight we get, the planes get smaller. The flight wasn’t too bad, and before we knew it we were in the thick of Nairobi airport. There were people everywhere, but after a bit of searching we changed some money and found cold beer. We had befriended an aussie girl on the plane and we chatted while waiting which made the time go faster. She is a med student who just finished a rotation in cape town and was heading to Moshi to do another four weeks at the hospital. Pretty gutsy!

I freaked out a little on the flight to Kigali- as we were getting on the plane the mechanics were putting the pins back in the front wheel of the plane….. don’t even start about bush mechanics – one guy was jumping on the jack (or bruce for dad) trying to loosen something.

We didn’t have seat numbers so they put us up the front and our back packs wouldn’t fit overhead so they just stuffed them in the seat behind. Once we landed, standing at immigration, we realized that we hadn’t printed the visa letter. Luckily they let us access our email accounts and print them off, only a minor heart attack. Why is it that landing in a new country is strangly terrifying, but exhillerating? Don’t know if I’d say the same about Kigali…. For once we were a minority and there are black fellas everywhere offering taxis.

Our transfer wasn’t anywhere to be seen so we tried to see whose phone would work with no luck and the travel sim also didn’t work. We figured that we would change some $$ and managed to find Jo – our tour guide. He bundled us off in a nice landrover to a very nice hotel and now we’re preparing for a 4:30 departure to drive into the mountains. No idea where our body clocks are at this point. We’ve been eating whenever it’s presented to us and trying not to sleep too much. Two alarms and a wake up call to make sure we are up in time. It is already C’s b’’day at home, but we’re a bit muddled here. Hope to make it special tomorrow night.

W

Posted by ourlife 17:51 Archived in Rwanda Tagged transitt Comments (0)

test run

sunny 31 °C

Testing

Posted by ourlife 19:58 Archived in Australia Tagged home Comments (0)

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