Travel Adventures to Rusinga Island

On Monday the 14th of April I met up with Michael just after 10am to catch our bus at 11:30 to Rusinga Island. We were a bit early so we went to meet Michaels brother Jaime and picked up some movies. I also mailed off my last batch of post cards. 

The bus was slow to leave, but the ride was gorgeous as we drove down into the Rift Valley. This time instead of being dry and brown everything was green and lush with pretty purple and white flowers all through the fields. It started to get too late to make it all the way to Michaels so we stayed in Awendo with Michael’s parents Moses and Mary. They were very welcoming and we had ugali with egg and there were cute kittens curled up on the couch. For the night we slept in a small room on a bunk bed that took up the whole room and made it barely possible to squeeze in through the door. 

In the morning we left before 9am and waited for the bus just down the street. I also walked around town and Michael introduced me to lots of his friends. 

When the bus finally came we all squeezed in to Horombo Bay and then into a car to Mbita. At some point there were 11 people in the 5 person car.. 3 in the front, 4 in the back and 4 in the hatchback trunk area haha. In Mbita we tied my bags on the back of a motorcycle and 3 of us rode on one bike to the clinic and then to michaels place while holding grocery bags. So much fun! 

Michaels place is awesome! I have my own room with an extra bed that Laura can come sleep over in :) and there is also a really nice outdoor shower and a big living room with lots of couches. I feel so comfortable and at home here. I’m so excited to go swimming and buy chickens as well as explore the hills on the island. 

At the clinic everyone was so welcoming and I helped with the farm and joined in on huge community meeting. It was such an exciting arrival to the Island. I know I’m going to be very busy here!

City Life

On the 9th of April we caught a bus at 6am in Moshi right outside our hotel door for a very good price thanks to Emmanuel who organized it. We bused to the boarder and had no problem getting back into Kenya even though our visas expired in a couple of days. The boarder officer was very interested in my passport since it has so many stamps in and out of Kenya. I gave him a brief story of my adventures for the last three months and he was very interested.
Once I arrived in Nairobi in the city Center near the university, we decided to try the Kahama hotel nearby since it had such a good location. It ended up being a bit more expensive than we wanted to pay ($30 each per night) but the draw of the good wifi, nice restaurant, breakfast, and a gorgeous room made us stay for two nights haha.
Back in the city I was determined to find a public swimming pool to go to every day. The first pool I tried was at the YMCA and it was a decent sized pool that I could do laps in. It felt so nice to finally be back swimming, but I was determined to find a 50m pool. After leaving the Kahama hotel and moving to stay at Millimani Backpackers in upper hill for the rest of the time, I went to the Nayao sports Center near by and finally got to swim in a nice big 50m outdoor pool with fresh cold clean water. Whoot whoot!
Exploring the city, I have definitely decided that Nairobi Java House is my favourite place to go for food. It’s a diner/ coffee shop with breakfast, lunch, and dinner as well as amazing milkshakes and ice cream dishes. When I got this put in front of me my mouth was hanging open and drool was probably dripping down my face haha!
Other great food and places I’ve been were the Tree House Cafe, Mediterraneano at the Junction where we also saw Divergent (very good movie..), Siam Thai x2 :), and of course book stores and the Nakumatt. It’s also been nice to be able to lay out all my stuff and have a good look at what I have, what I need, and what had generally been useless and pissing me off having to lug it around for 4 months. The problem is that I really don’t want to throw anything away when it is perfectly good and I’ll want it in Vancouver. Also some things that have been completely worn out on this trip are definitely going to be thrown out before I come back ( like my runners, flip flops, socks, towel).
On Saturday night when we went out for dinner and a movie at Junction it was the most homey feeling I’ve had in a long time. It’s strange that a mall would do that but it was like I had stepped back through a door to North America. It could have been like any mall back home, and the restaurant and movie theatre could have been another Italian restaurant and scotiabank movie theatre. To top it off it was also raining outside when we left. For all I knew I could have been home!
Speaking of home it’s amazing that I really only have 3 weeks left of this huge amazing trip. I’ve learned so many things and gotten comfortable living here and talking with the very friendly helpful people. On Sunday I met Michael and we organized the bus for Monday morning to Mbita. Now I’m on the bus and we are driving through the rain through the once brown plains of the Rift Valley. I’ll never get sick of looking out the bus window and taking in the landscape and towns of all the places we pass through.

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Kilimanjaro

(see Facebook for photos. Going to post photos when I have better internet.. Most likely around the 7th of May)

We arrived in Moshi at 9:30pm on the 31st of March after a long day of travel all the way from stone town. We left at 6:30am and caught the 7am ferry to Dar, took a taxi to the bus station, and then caught a bus to Moshi. It was a really long day, plus I spent all of my money on the bus ticket ( which was a bit more than I was expecting) and ended up not having any left for food.. Oh well. When we got to Moshi, Emmanuel picked us up from the bus station and took us to the hotel. It was so nice to have dinner and get into a great big air conditioned room with a big bed and it’s own washroom.
On the 1st we ran around in the morning taking out money and getting US dollars to pay our guides and the hotel. We met Emmanuel at 10am to pay and then he took the whole group out to the gear rental place. In the afternoon we went to the Nakumatt to stock up on snacks for the hike and go out for lunch. Later we met Emmanuel and all of our guides at 7 for our briefing before the adventure.

DAY 1
We were leaving at 10am to take the hour drive to the gate of the national park and I ran out an hour before to get a few more snacks (since I couldn’t resist eating some the night before). I also managed to mail some honey covered nuts back home ;)
when we arrived at Marangu gate we unloaded our packs and wove our way between the numerous people offering to rent us gear like pack covers and hiking poles. We went up to the cabins and paid our big park fee and then had a nice hot lunch provided by our guides.
After lunch we were ready to start hiking! We all stopped for a photo at the gate and then started our “pole pole” (slow) walk for 4h up to the first camp. The jungle was gorgeous, lush and kind of reminded me of home. There were nice streams and small waterfalls, and pretty purple flowers along the side of the trail.
When we arrived at the cabins we all started stretching on the lawn and then put on cozy clothes and climbed onto the bunk beds for the night. I hadn’t slept well the night before so I was exhausted and passed out very quickly. May have drooled on my pillow… Couldn’t be bothered to care.

DAY 2
We were awake early and had a group breakfast in the main cabin with porridge, eggs, toast and tea. We then set off to hike about 5h to Horombo huts. The vegetation changed quickly once we left the cabins and started to have a more alpine feel. When we started there was still forest and jungle but the trees slowly started to become smaller and smaller as we got closer to the alpine meadows. The flowers and plants were gorgeous and varied in height from knee to head height. We crossed a number of creeks and got to see the amazing indigenous plants that remind me of huge cactus trees.
When we arrived at Horombo we settled into our cute A-frame cabins and took in the amazing night view of Moshi and the stars.

DAY 3
Today was an aclimitatization day so it was quite restful and we went on a short morning hike to zebra rock and back before lunch. Going up over 4000m I found it easy to loose my breath if I went too fast, but otherwise I felt good and ready to go higher.
We spent the afternoon lazing about and the evening trying to get some night pictures.

DAY 4
We got up early today and started or 6h hike to Kibo hut at 4700m. We hiked out of the area with the last remaining plants and entered the desert up on the saddle. It was sunny and hot at times when we were walking, but when we stopped for lunch the wind was cold and we had to layer up pretty quickly.
When we arrived at Kibo, the rocks and boulders were amazing and I couldn’t help but run all over and climb on them. The guides and porters thought we were crazy.
We had an early dinner, some prep talks from our guides and then went to sleep at 6pm till 11:30pm.

DAY 5
At midnight we started the climb up to the summit. We all walked single file up switch backs and walked very slowly, focusing on the feet of the person in front. I was wearing pants with a shell, a sweater, fleece, down jacket and rain jacket, tuque and gloves but I was barely warm. I didn’t sweat or warm up too much on the walk up so whenever we stopped it was freezing. I felt good all the way up to Gillmans point, but it started to get very cold and I started to feel the altitude. It’s hard to tell if it was the short amount of sleep that was making me tired or the altitude, but I kept getting waves of sleepiness that made me want to lie down.
At 6;45am all the CFSIA students made it to the top to Uhuru peak of Kilimanjaro at 5895m. We had a cheers with our kili beer and then the guides drank most of it since we were not really feeling up to drinking a full beer early in the morning with various levels of nausea and lightheadedness.
After 45 min at the summit taking pictures and celebrating, we started the decent back down to Kibo. The steeps slopes down were so much fun to run and slide down. It reminded me of skiing! We got back down to Kibo before lunch and then slept for an hour before lunch.
After lunch we packed up, and hiked back down to Horombo which took the rest of the day. It was so tiring to walk down so much and the sun was very hot when we walked through the desert. I think I burnt my nose. At the end of the day we collapsed into bed and fell into a deep sleep until the next early morning.

DAY 6
On our last day the guides and porters gave us a farewell and congratulated us on our success. They were such an awesome friendly group! After the thankyous were over we started the 19km hike out to the Marangu gate. It was a very long walk that reminded me of the hike out of Singing Pass from Russet Lake. By the end it was great to stretch and pull off my hiking shoes.
Most people fell asleep on the bus ride back to the hotel, but we arranged a dinner with our guides at a local restaurant in Moshi. At 7pm we all met for dinner and celebrated our success and received our certificates. Awards of wine were given to those who were the most talkative, ready to go first, or most determined to make it. I also got an award for organizing the trip. I’m so glad I did :)

The next day was a rest and shopping day in Moshi and then we took a bus to Nairobi at 6am on the 9th. What a great adventure!

Zanzibar Stone Town

We took a taxi to stone town on Saturday at 2 in the afternoon to the Pyramid Hotel. The room was very nice and there was a roof top terrace where we had breakfast both mornings. That evening we explored some of the streets and had dinner at the Monsoon Restaurant. There was a night market with all types of food going on by the old fort, and hundreds of cats stalking about in search of food.
On Sunday the real exploring started and we literally walked through the city a handful of times exploring every street. We started in the main market where they sell everything from fruits and vegetable to spices, soaps, henna, fish and other meats. We talked to one of the spice vendors for a while and he told us all about the spices and ways to use them. Next we moved on out of the market to walk through the area selling scarves, blankets and other fabrics. It was so hard to decide what pattern to buy! For lunch we went to stone town cafe and I had grilled chicken and chips. After lunch we continued to buy more things and explore more streets until our feet were sore and I had almost worn holes through my flip flops.
Overall I think this may have been one of my favourite places of the whole trip. The culture, architecture, setting, and atmosphere of the city was like nothing I have ever experienced and I’ve been so tempted to completely change my travel plans to come back to zanzibar and find work in the city. It’s such a neat place!

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Zanzibar Kendwa Rocks

When we were dropped off at the ferry terminal in Dar on the 24th I could tell a number of people in the group were very stresses about carrying all of there stuff and all of the street vendors asking us to buy things just outside the doors. We all got our tickets and got on the ferry with no problem. The ferry boat would put BC Ferries to shame. It was so new and very high speed with multiple different seating areas based on cost.
When we all arrived to the other side we had a while to wait for the shuttle to Kendwa so some people stayed with the bags and others went looking for a bank or ATM. I walked down the waterfront a ways, got an ice cream for 50 cents and took in the sights of stone town very briefly. At 4 we caught the shuttle to Kendwa and drove an hour to the resort. It is amazing! The ocean is so gorgeous and turquoise blue and we get to stay in cute little bandas just up from the water. There is a restaurant and bar right on the beach and lots of comfy places to sit, tan, read, sleep or just do anything. There are hammocks, couches, beds, boats with cushions in them, and a cool loft above the restaurant. It’s so difficult just deciding where to sit sometimes.
The water is also fabulous! There is lots of coral just out from the beach and the snorkelling is so much fun. We can also walk along the beach as far as we want, and at night it is amazing to float in the ocean on our backs, look up at the millions of stars, and swirl our hands around in the water to make the phospholuminecent plankton sparkle.

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On Thursday I decided to go scuba diving for the first time and it was spectacular! In the morning about 18 of us from the program got on the boat and took a 2h ride around the northern point of the island to where we were snorkelling and scuba diving. Only 8 of us were diving and the rest were all snorkelling. I learned a couple skills on getting water out of my mask and taking the respirator out of my mouth. It was so hard to get used to at first. I kept exhaling through my nose which made my mask shift around on my face. It was so hard to just breath in and out with my mouth, and pressurizing my ears for the first time was also a bit of a shock with the volume change. However, once I got the hang of it it was awesome! I got very comfortable blowing extra water out of my mask, and the fish and coral we got to see was breathtaking. I have never seen so many gorgeous fish and corals before up close! I am so glad I decided to try scuba diving! We got to go for two dives and had lunch in the middle on the boat with everyone – which was more of a inhale your food and then spend the rest of the time jumping and swimming off the boat. Overall it was such an amazing exciting day!
Darcy learning to snorkel…

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On our last day we rented a kayak and went out for an hour down the coast and out to a small volcanic island with amazing rock features dangling over the ocean. The rock was very sharp and textured, full of holes and cavities, and big colourful crabs were climbing all over. In the evening we built a large sand castle and then walked down the beach for half an hour under the stars to go for dinner in town. We ended up sitting up on a deck over the sand eating yummy curry and rice while looking out over the water at all the lights from boats. It was such a nice last evening in Kendwa.

Bagamoyo

As we drove from lushoto to bagamoyo on Tuesday the 18th we left the mountains and the hills and began to drive down hill towards the coast. The temperature began to climb as well as the humidity as we go closer to the ocean. I was so excited! Three months with only 2 swims in small hotel pools. I’ve been water deprived.
When we arrived I literally stripped off my clothes and jumped in as fast as I could. We were all screaming with joy and I ended up swimming off way down to some distant boats and back. It was amazing!
The water is super salty and not very clear, and it’s borderline too warm. If it was cooler it would be a bit more refreshing.
I spent everyday in Bagamoyo swimming every morning for an hour and at night we set up a bug net up on the deck and slept out under the stars every night. The nice breeze by the water was so much more comfortable than the stagnant humid air back by camp.
On Wednesday we took a trip into town and learned about the history of the slave trade and colonialism in the area. The old buildings and markets are making me excited for Zanzibar and stone town. We also made sure to get some ice cream :)
Other than that one outing we have all just been finishing up journals, writing our final essays for out third and final course, and working on our presentations for our big context courses. It’s been fairly relaxed though, and there is always the option of jumping I to the ocean between journal entries or after finishing essays. The body surfing has also been fabulous!
Recently I also got some great news from back home about winning a $1500 scholarship toward the field study cost! Kilimanjaro here I come!
On our last day we finished the program with a talk about the awesome parts and the parts that need improvement. Darcy and Chevy put on a sideshow and gave everyone our program shirts that Max designed. The staff also baked us two cakes!
In the morning we all said our goodbyes, signed our release forms and then took our last ride in Iron Beth- the Muzungu mobile to the city of Dar es Salaam. Just like that we were free to do as we wanted and free of being in the program. It’s been amazing how fast the weeks have flown by and how jam packed the days all were with learning and activities. I cannot believe that it’s over. I’ve finished the term with a full 15 credits and it’s only March 24th. Now it’s time to start the after program adventure, and take the ferry to Zanzibar. Beach here I come!

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Class at its finest.

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Cheers!

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Arusha

We arrived in Arusha on Sunday the 9th and before dinner I went out on a run for the first time since Kibale in Uganda. I’ve had an inflamed tendon in my foot for a couple weeks and it’s been a bit annoying being stuck doing sitting exercises. It felt so good to finally stretch my legs and have a really good run. My foot didn’t complain once! :)
The place we are staying is Kilimanjaro Eco Lodge and it is so nice! Our tents are set up in a tent city on the grass and the main dining area has an upstairs area with a view of Mt Maru.

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For ethnobotany we did a bunch of field trips around the area and visited some local farms. It was so neat how the gain in elevation changed the types of crops grown. We got to try some night shade and amaranth that were growing mixed in with a really nice cabbage field.
I’ve been collecting lots of leaves and flowers and pressing them in my journal so by the time I come home I’m going to have a whole collection of African plants. Another really nice thing about where we were staying was how there was a grape plum tree just behind our tents. Whenever we were hungry it was easy to grab a handful for a snack.

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