Category Archives: Africa

How I ended up in Africa

Spike Reid. Adventurer. Writer. Explorer. Photographer. Gentleman. Motivator. Friend. Opportunist. British. He’s a climber, a sailor, a mountaineer, an expedition leader. He was even mine once.

Spike

Spike discovered an opportunity to deliver a rare Land Rover Defender 100 from Cape Town to Nairobi for an Englishman who is now working up in Kenya. Spike needed a co-driver, and I had decided that this was going to be my year of adventure, so I said “Yes”. And what an adventure it was!

Spike would laugh at me beforehand when I expressed my reservations about going to ‘Africa’. “But you live in Africa!” he would say. I think I can now conclusively state that I do not, in fact live in Africa. South Africa in particular is very different from the likes of Stone Town and Moshi.

Stone Town

Google also didn’t help. This was my first holiday “on my own” and I had little experience in planning this kind of trip. Google told me: “BEWARE!” Beware of the water, beware of the fruit, the vegetables, the disease and, of course, the malaria. So I got my prophylactics, purchased some go-to snacks (3kg of them to be precise), and made sure I had a well-stocked first aid medications kit. I was glad to have the snacks (particularly the nuts and fizzers), and with the amount of mozzie bites I got, I happily endured the trippy dreams in prevention of the malaria.

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So it turns out that Africa is very African. I expected a few ‘big towns’, and Arusha and Nairobi did meet (and somewhat exceeded) these expectations, but I didn’t expect just how rural many of the “towns” were. The corruption in the police also took me by surprise. Yes, we got stopped by every group of traffic cops we passed by (ons blanke), but by the end of the trip, not one monetary bribe was paid.

Just your casual African petrol station not too far out of Arusha

Just your casual African petrol station not too far out of Arusha

I was lucky to have had the opportunity to go on this trip. It was different, it was educational, and it took me right out of my comfort zone, which was ‘fun’ for me, but which Spike probably didn’t enjoy so much – if you ask any of my family, you would learn that I am not the easiest of campers, though I generally happily take on the challenge.

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Here are my tips and warnings for planning a (camping) trip to Africa:

1. Use local currency – US Dollars are not as widely accepted in the more rural areas as Google claims. It also works out substantially cheaper.

2. Take antimalarials. Get your yellow fever and tetanus jabs up to date.

3. Don’t take too much food, but easy and healthy snacks are nice to have with you because ‘healthy’ options are rather limited.

4. Check when the rainy season is. We weren’t affected by it (somehow – we were there in the rainy season, but all the ravines were dry as anything – it still made for some awesome 4×4-ing).

5. Water. We bought water. It was pretty reasonable, and out of sealed bottles you know you can trust it. Obviously this is for drinking, and if you’re as fussy as me, you can cook your pasta in it too. Don’t forget you also use water for brushing your teeth.

6. Make sure your guidebooks are up-to-date. Ours wasn’t even that old, but the recommended campsite no longer offered camping. Also related to campsites: don’t purchase drinks from the bars – they are so overpriced! Grab your G+T’s from local spazza shops in the towns.

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Kettle baths and loads of laundry

(This post originally featured on my other blog, but I don’t post from there anymore)

The water supply was dodgy from Sunday lunchtime, something we became aware of as we were served our lunch on polystyrene plates with plastic knives and forks. This is becoming more and more of a problem, as it is now Wednesday, and we are still unable to flush our toilets, or have a shower.

Luckily, we have rainwater tanks behind our building. Unfortunately, it hasn’t rained in a few weeks, so this supply is dwindling as well (unsurprisingly, as it has to cater to the water needs of 73 girls), and our neighbouring building of 88 boys has run out of their rainwater supply completely, so I hear.

I had my first kettle bath yesterday. I am fortunate to have a sink in my room: I don’t know how I would feel about bathing from a sink in the bathroom where people come, do their business, and leave, unable to flush after themselves, and leaving a horrible smell behind them. You come into the building, and you are just hit by a wall of odours, emanating from bodies who, like me, have been unable to shower as often as they might have, and who, apparently, don’t know how to fill up a bucket of water to flush the toilet after themselves. It is severely unpleasant.

This morning I decided the kettle bath wouldn’t work for me, so I went down to the gym where there was rumoured to be water. Apparently I was not the only one to have heard such rumours: the change rooms, which are normally otherwise fairly empty at 6:30 am, was full, the floors wet, as ladies endured harsh conditions. My shower was brief: it was cold, with little water pressure (a huge disappointment, as the gym pressure is normally exceptionally good). One of the showers was blocked, verging on flooding. But I got to wash my hair, and my whole body. I now wait with anticipation for the water to come back, dreading the possibility of it not returning before my Spinning class that I have to instruct later today (the uniform for which I have to wash by hand, again).

My laundry is piling up: it was my intention to do laundry the other afternoon. I could have done it in the morning, but I was procrastinating. “It’s fine, I’ll do it this afternoon!” I had thought. I will never put off doing my laundry again: I am nearly down to my last set of underwear, and I am running out of laundry “shelf” space (the laundry basket was full a very long time ago).

Hold thumbs that pressure returns the water to us on the hill soon, and I am able to clean myself before I return home on Friday: we wouldn’t want my mother thinking I am unable to look after myself at university.