Changing Continents

We had two flights and 17 hours before we got to New Delhi. When I first booked the flight I thought to myself, “Why does it take so long?!” Oh, because South Africa and India are on TWO SEPARATE CONTINENTS! That’s why! Okay, maybe fitting in two continents in one trip was a silly idea. But I have no regrets! I couldn’t decide between the two places, might as well do both!
Our first flight was about 10 hours from Cape Town to Dubai. As we loaded the plane, Kelsi was told to go to the right, while I walked down the farther lane on the other side of the aircraft.
“Race you!” She said, and took off down the aisle.
My line moved at a glacial pace. One man couldn’t decide where he wanted to put his luggage and was trying to fight his way back the other direction. A family was trying to gather their children and pack all their toys, books and bags into one overhead compartment.
When I travel I usually have pretty good luck… Until the airports. Airports are where all my luck goes out the window and I’m left in utter agony for the majority of the time. I’ve been in the screaming children’s section of a 9 hour flight from London. The parents decided to leave all their wailing youngsters next to me while they quietly conversed at the back of the plane: I called it the “ball pit section” and the screeching went great with my hangover. I had an old drunk man pass out on my shoulder during my flight to Greece: a wonderful 10 hours of my life. I missed my connecting flight in Houston because of my terrible choice of security lines: much to Adam’s amusement. And we all remember the chaos of my flight to Argentina when the airport had no power: why do I travel…
Standing in the longer line in this plane was peanuts compared to the airport disasters I’ve had before. It was at least 5 minutes later than Kelsi when I stuck my head into our plane compartment and saw her sitting in her seat laughing at me. I gave her my best Adrienne impression of “I’m stuck behind a bunch if people on the stairs” look and she laughed even harder. I was still slowly working my way towards her in line when I realized she couldn’t stop laughing at me.
Okay, it was funny that I was stuck in line, but not THAT funny. Then she looked to her right, then back at me and then laughed again. I peeked my head around the line to see what she was looking at.
Kelsi and I were in the middle two seats in the middle section of the plane. On the far right was a man on his own, then Kelsi, then me, then the LARGEST man I’ve ever seen on an airplane!
I don’t want to make fun of him, he was a lovely man, but he DID take up all of his seat, and half of mine. The flight attendant ACTUALLY had to give him an extra seatbelt to clip on to the first one so that he could be strapped in. Of course I would get that seat.
Then, about five minutes into the flight, the seat in front of me flew back, crushing me in even further. Kelsi found this hilarious. If I’d had room to move my arms, I would have slapped her.
This flight is where I realized that I have difficulty doing normal things in cramped spaces. Taking off a sweater? Not a chance! I wriggled and squirmed for about five minutes before I squeezed myself out of it. I dropped every one of my utensils on the ground, but couldn’t contort my body enough to pick it up again. So I sat, straight as an arrow in the left half of my little airplane seat, and watched a movie… For 10 hours.
During the flight Kelsi watched Twilight 4 times. Yup, that’s right, FOUR times. Apparently she still doesn’t know what it’s about (and I thought MY flight experience was bad).
Well it was excruciating, but we did land in the Dubai airport. We had a couple hours layover and were total zombies the entire time. All I wanted to do was go to sleep! Kelsi Skyped her parents on the wifi while I struggled to hold myself together. It was one of those “I’ve never been so tired and haggard in my life” moments. I couldn’t wait to get on ANOTHER flight.
Our second flight was much quicker, but I can’t exactly tell you what happened. I was in a state of limbo: half awake and half asleep. I don’t remember watching a movie, but I didn’t sleep either. I just stared off into oblivion like the undead and waited for the plane to land.
Eventually it did land. Thank goodness. And we stumbled our way into India…

The Last African Sunset


During our second visit to Cape Town we had to cram in everything we’d missed while we were hungover the first time. Plus, we added everything that travelers had told us to see during our road trip. The list was a little extensive for one afternoon.
We dropped our bags at the hostel and drove off to city hall. Check! Photo! Moving on. From there, we drove along to the Castle of Good Hope. It was less exciting than we had expected, so we just did a photo bomb drive by and carried on. Afterwards, we drove through District Six to see the area where the slave trading and markets used to be. The neighborhood has cleaned up incredibly well; we couldn’t find a trace that the slave markets ever existed, and instead, a beautiful university sits in the middle of the district.
After that we tried to search out the slave museum. Unfortunately, it wasn’t on our map, and the parking attendant lady, albeit so very nice and helpful, didn’t understand what we were looking for. When we finally found it hours later by chance, the place was already closed.
And one of our final destinations was Woodstock markets. We’d been trying to track down these damn markets for over a week now, and we were determined to find them. Originally, Nick and Sandy had recommended them to us because they claimed to have “eaten the best food of their lives” there. That is a huge claim. We needed to find this place.
The first time we were in Cape Town we ended up at the wrong markets! We made it to the wrong waterfront and instead ran across a different, but wonderful, food market. This time we were determined.
We drive down towards the Woodstock district. Unfortunately, Woodstock was off the city map that we had and so we were driving blind. All we knew was that they were markets and they were near the water.
Woodstock seems like it would be a pretty dodgy area in the night time. Definitely not the idyllic center of Cape Town that we’d previously explored. We drove up and down the streets aimlessly in search of something that could be considered a market. Finally we gave in. Time to take the car back to the rental office before we got charged another day. We pulled over at the nearest petrol station to fill up. We figured we’d ask the attendant if he’d heard of Woodstock Markets.
“Of course!” He said, “they’re right there. About a half block down across the street!”
Seriously?! How lucky was that! So we booked it across the street and zipped in to the big building that held the markets about 25 minutes before they closed. Also lucky!
Inside we found a whole bunch of little shops that sold clothing, trinkets, food and wine. We walked into a specialty cheese and meat shop to look around.
When we asked about the market, the lady who owned the place explained that they only have a market on Saturdays. All the shops in the little square put together a kiosk and sell their things market style all day long. She says people are even waiting to get in before the gates open!
Sadly for us, it was Monday. So we instead bought a meat and cheese platter, a half bottle of wine and put together a picnic for ourselves for later. We checked out a couple more shops on our way out, then drove off to the airport to drop off the car.
When our bus arrived back in the city center it was nearing six o’clock. We immediately took a taxi up to Table Mountain where we could watch the sunset with our little picnic.
This time, we opted for the cable car. I was not about to hike the hour and a half up the mountain again after such a busy day. But, unlike the first time, we had a spectacular view of Cape Town. The sky was completely cloudless, and the setting sun made for some incredible photos. We ran around like giddy school kids, once again, taking a million photos of the view from every angle. When we’d nearly filled my camera’s memory with photos, we sat down to eat.
The package the lady had put together for us was wonderful, with fresh sourdough bread to go along with the meat and cheese and a salad with a balsamic vinegar on top. We sat on a little rock, way away from the crowds of tourists, sipping on our wine and eating our food. The perfect ending to a perfect trip. We could not have asked for anything more from Africa. From Kenya to South Africa we were blown away by the people and the beauty. This is definitely a place I will visit again.
As we sat on Table Mountain, watching our last African sunset, I felt as though my trip was ending and I was going home. But in reality, we were only half way there. Next stop: India…




Stone Town: Zanzibar

20130210-202911.jpgStone Town, Zanzibar

We woke up dark and early the morning after the Serengeti tour to start our 14-hour drive to Dar Es Salaam. The drive was fairly uneventful and long, and the traffic as we reached the city was atrocious. It rained as we arrived at the campsite, but Kelsi and I braved the weather, passed on the sleeping upgrade and set up our tent in the dark and the damp.
Our Dar Es Salaam campsite was lovely. Right on the Indian Ocean with a great bar looking out to the water. We had a couple of beers with the boys before bed and then up early to head to Zanzibar.
It took three bus rides, two ferries and a customs stop to reach Stone Town. Everyone has to go through customs to get to the island. It’s an unusual system; Zanzibar has its own government and flag, and passports must be stamped upon entry. Still, the island is part of Tanzania, and the government has to answer to Tanzania’s rules.
The trip over was muggy and hot. We dragged our feet from bus to ferry and back in a pool of sweat. While we waited in line for the first ferry a local man snatched Sarah’s camera from her bag. She yelled at him as he passed it to his friend, then Kelsi grabbed it out of one guy’s hand to get it back. We glared at them as they walked away while some other locals snickered in amusement. A close call and another great welcoming.
For the second ferry, we opted for the fast version. This meant, for $8 extra, we reached the island in a quick 1-hour excursion instead of an excruciating 4-hour trek. Although the ferry was air conditioned, I’m not sure if I could have handled a four hour trip. When the waves picked up, the boat was sickening. Our trip over wasn’t bad, but the ride back was so choppy, I woke up from a short nap with half the people around me vomiting into bags. People wretched over the side of the boat, and locals lay down in the aisles with their heads in the complimentary barf bags. I had to walk outside to avoid the sounds and smells or I would have joined in on the festivities.
By midday we arrived in Stone Town: 95% Muslim population, a huge supplier of various spices and a central port for the once African slave trade. Stone Town is a quaint city with a combination of Arab and Indian architecture mixed in with local stonework. The city is filled with stone ramparts, stone homes, stone boardwalks and the such. We stayed right in the heart of the city, half a block from the beach, in a hotel called the Karibu Inn (or Caribooin as I wrote on my customs card because I apparently can’t understand Tanzanian accents). It was a great location.
The first thing we did was head out on a spice tour. Although a six-hour tour about spices seemed a little daunting after such a long trek, we had heard great things about the tour from other travelers. In the end, I think everyone was satisfied with the excursion.
The tour began with a free lunch. Two of our woo girls had been feeling ill for a couple days and opted out on lunch. This was perfect for the rest of us, who were starving, and took advantage of “secondsies” by ordering for them and eating two meals ourselves.
When we were satisfyingly stuffed, we drove the half hour out of town to the spice groves. Our guide, Ali D (not to be confused with Ali G), was one of the most unusual characters I’ve ever met. His Tanzanian accent was muddled with this bizarre cockney slang that made him sound ridiculous. Over his years as a tour guide, he had picked up a million colloquial phrases from Australians, Canadians, Kiwis and the British that all mixed into one very strange sounding man. He would normally use about three different accents in every sentence which made us all crack up in laughter every time he explained anything to us. He did have a pretty good sense of humour, and was also pretty good at straying off topic. Nonetheless, the spice tour was very informative.
The thing I found most unusual about the spice groves was how everything was laid out. I was expecting row after row of pepper trees, then a whole field devoted to vanilla followed by a grove of nutmeg. When we got there however, it was just a forest of scattered plants and trees. The harvesters have to walk through the different plants, remembering where each tree is, so that the crop can be picked. Zanzibar grows a LOT of spices. As we walked around the place we got to taste and learn about each spice. We tried lemongrass, cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla, cardamon, and pepper among many other things. We also got to try star fruit and lychees, fresh mangoes and jack fruit (a pineapple/banana tasting fruit that is surprisingly delicious!). When we had successfully explored the spice farm, we all got to sit down and enjoy some fresh fruits and hot tea, we had lemongrass with vanilla extract, a strong chai tea and a third one, with ginger that I’ve forgotten the name of now. Lemongrass and vanilla was Kelsi and my personal favourite.
When the tasting was over, we went back to get a quick walking tour of Stone Town. Although we did learn some things, this is where I felt that the tour fell flat. I would have loved to learn more about the slave trade and the architecture, but the information was minimal and didn’t stand out in my mind. We did get to check out the slave holding areas, which were small dungeon-like stone basements that held 75 or so slaves chained together. The heat was excruciating, and the only air and light was from small slit windows on the far side of the room. The one we sat in was made for women and children. Sadly, only able bodied women and children older than six were allowed in the market. The others were simply murdered. The area where the trading went on is now covered by a church. It was the Christians who finally came in and stopped the slave market from continuing. To remember and pray for the souls of those who had lived or died there, they built a large church right in the middle of the market.
The Stone Town tour concluded our trip for the day. We made it back in time to have a quick shower, a beer on the beach and then to the open market for dinner. Kelsi, Nick, Sandy and I were so hungry and excited by the time we hit the food market that we forgot to set prices before we ordered and ate. Only a couple bites into the food we realized we were about to get severely ripped off like ignorant white tourists. We couldn’t even do anything about it. Four experienced travelers, and yet all we could do was sit around, waiting to hear the bad news of how much everything was going to cost us. In the end we paid fancy restaurant prices for sub par street food prices and couldn’t argue a bit. Our fault entirely, c’est la vie! We needed a beer…
So the four of us headed out to Freddy Mercury’s bar (Freddy Mercury was actually born in Zanzibar) and started drinking. Before long, the world’s worst singer came out with a keyboard piano and butchered all our favourite classic songs. I don’t have great ear for music, I must admit. Even tone deaf people sound not half bad to me. But this guy had some weird, echoey trill to his voice that sounded a lot like his microphone was just busted. To ease the pain, we began playing drinking games. Before long, the musician was just background static and we were having a blast.
When Freddy’s closed, the bartender took us to a local outdoor nightclub where we could dance the night away. We partied until Sandy “wigged” out. Then, to make an excruciatingly long story short, there was some drama, a missing persons report, some angry nail painting, and finally a comfortable sleep in an actual bed: our first long day in Zanzibar completed.

Kenya Beat This?


Alright, although my last entry was posted just last week, I actually finished my South America trip 8 months ago. Adam and I both made it home safely to our respective cities and tried to settle back into the real world. 5 days later I was already itching to get back on the road. So I did what any normal, travel addicted person would do and called up my friend Kelsi in New Zealand…
“Wanna go to Africa and India with me?”
Zero hesitation “Yup. When?”
This is one of the many reasons why Kelsi and I got along so well in the three short months we knew each other; we are both always down for an adventure.
So 8 months later, after not seeing each other in almost exactly a year, we reunited in a campsite called Acacia about a half hour outside of Nairobi. We were about to begin another 4 month adventure with 11 countries, 2 continents, and infinite amounts of laughter and fun! We went to bed that night listening to the sounds of lions roaring in the national park across the street… Life is sweet!
We spent 2 full days in Nairobi before heading out on a tour southbound. The first morning we set out on a city tour with Edwin. All the staff at Acacia camp are incredible; they are helpful and friendly and will stick to you like glue anywhere off the camp grounds just to make sure you are safe! Edwin was our guide for the day and he was a great wealth of information about the city and local customs.
We started by heading to a lookout point in the business district. We climbed to the rooftop of a huge building in the center of the city. To our excitement, the roof had a helicopter landing pad that we got to stand on for a perfect 360 degree view of the stunning landscape!

The city suburbs, spreading primarily East, are divided mainly by ethnicity and religion. This area of Kenya has a number of cultures all trying to live symbiotically. Unfortunately, from talking to locals, it seems like identifying Kenyans as “Kenyans” and not as “Arabs” or “Masai” or “Christians” is still a work in progress.
As we continued our city tour, Edwin explained that crime in the city had depleted rapidly after a new police tactic came into play. “Don’t worry about anyone stealing your purse and running off with it,” he said “if that happens, just drop to the ground! There is a plain clothed police officer on every street corner in Nairobi that has the right to shoot anyone who robs another person!” Wow… Not sure of that made me feel any safer, but apparently it’s an incredibly effective system for deterring thieves.
More fun facts we picked up that day were a few useful Swahili phrases. “Hello” is “Jambo”, “What’s up” is “Mambo”, a white person is “Muzungu” and one of our favourites is “thank you very much” which is “Asante Sana”… For those of you that have seen the Lion King this may be familiar. “Asante Sana, squashed banana!” Actually, the Lion King is more useful for Swahili words than I would have thought. “Simba” means Lion, and “hakuna matata” ACTUALLY means “no worries”. When our waiter at dinner later asked us if we needed anything and we said no, he replied with “hakuna matata”. We laughed thinking he was joking, but that is honestly a well used phrase here in Kenya.
On our way back to the camp ground, we asked to drive by the slum area of Nairobi. Nairobi’s slum is the second largest in Africa, housing over 600 000 people! (That’s twice the size of South America’s Rohcina favela in Rio ). The houses sprawled across the area: brown, rusted and made of makeshift scrap material. We saw some kids swimming in a large brown puddle on the side of the road, right in the middle of a construction zone. They looked like they were having a blast, but it was a sad fact to see such standards of living.
For dinner that night we went to this highly recommended restaurant called “Carnivore”. Since Kelsi and I are both essentially carnivores ourselves, we figured we’d fit right in! The premise behind carnivore is “all you can eat meat”. Each table is given a little flag; when you can no longer eat any more, you have to “surrender” your flag by knocking it over. Challenge accepted!
Everyone is given starters with their meal. Spinach soup, bread and butter, small corn on the cob chunks and a delicious salad with all the accoutrement you could need. Then comes the meat… Each with a different spice or sauce to go with it. The usual beef, lamb, chicken, turkey, pork ribs etc. And then the slightly more unusual crocodile, ostrich and ox balls. We obviously tried it all, and everything was incredible! Waiters came around with large skewers and sliced off chunks of each meat to put on our sizzling hot, cast iron plates. We ate and ate, and ate some more. For about 2 hours the two of us sat there trying to finish all the protein on our plates. Finally, when we felt like we were going to explode, and when both of us could no longer hold a conversation because of our meat coma, we surrendered our flag.
… Then came dessert. I’m amazed we got through it to be honest. When our driver came to get us three hours after dropping us off, we were ready for bed. We skipped out on any kind of socializing at the bar (because I think a beer would have killed me) and I passed out as soon as my head hit the pillow.
The next day we failed at any and all cultural experiences. We tried to catch a local soccer match, but no one could figure out when and where the teams were playing. So we spent most of the day at the camp’s pub meeting all the other travelers who were trickling into the hostel to start or finish their tours.
At 5:00 that evening we had a pre-tour meeting. There were 22 of us on the trip, with 5 more joining us a few days down the road. Kelsi and I are on a full, 42 day excursion to Cape Town, but most everyone else drops off at different points along the way. We got the details of the trip from our guide Chris, and then were sent back to the bar to get to know everyone!
The next morning, after a night out at the local nightclub, we all hauled our exhausted bodies into our respective tour groups and hit the road. We grabbed some snacks, water and toilet paper for the road and set out for the Tanzanian border. Day 1 of our 42 day excursion had begun!