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Africa Blog Kenya Travel

My Experience in Kenya As A Female Traveller

November 1, 2016

Why Travel To Kenya?

Countless Opportunities for adventure, beautiful language, landscapes that will leave you in disbelief, outrageously beautiful coastline, safari trips that will amaze, and vibes that’ll have you grinning ear to ear! The people are incredible too… there are just too many reasons to write about!

Working in Kenya

Volunteering in Kenya is something extraordinary. It’s easier than you’d think it would be to integrate. Within a couple of days, I felt comfortable and at home at the school and at the centre we were placed in.

There are a lot of expats living across Kenya, as well as a heap of entrepreneurs, safari companies and white locals… so this kind of allowed me to blend quite easily. It may sound silly, but it really helps in feeling comfortable when things like staring aren’t as intense and frequent. And more than that, it makes integrating with the children relaxed and natural; they didn’t have fear or resilience, more just curiosity.

My two friends and I were working for about 7 weeks, in 2 different places. Our tasks were broad, making each day different and exciting. We taught things like Maths and English, we helped sort beads and fabric in the women’s centre, we played sport with the kids, held craft sessions, helped in the kitchen and harvested vegetables in the garden. We were given a lot of freedom, http://www.restartafrica.org/and more than anything we were told to just be there for the kids. The Restart Centre is an organisation dedicated to saving street kids from life out on the street , providing them with a family, healthcare, food and an education. It was up to us to help in whatever way we could.

The teachers treated us like equals, we ate the same meals as the kids, and we were treated with respect the whole time we were there. It really did feel like we were part of a massive family.

Kenyan local people, atmosphere and hospitality

Kenyans are kind, hospitable, interested, interesting, and a little cheeky! They are proud of their culture, and so they should be. Walking around the small towns, there is a certain feeling, like you are safe. Within 2 weeks of living in Gil Gil, we’d made a relationship with fruit shop owners, motorbike taxi drivers, shop tellers and lingering school kids who constantly asked ‘how are you?!’, to which we’d respond ‘We are fine, how are YOU?!’ And so the questioning would go on, until we were out of earshot 🙂 I love Kenyan people, they are incredibly tough and resilient, yet so many seemed to be afraid of little bugs and the like! To me, they have a perfect mixture of pride, strength and adaptability.

Places I visited

We arrived in Nairobi – big, smokey, dirty, busy Nairobi. It is so big, with cars beeping behind one and other for hours, and people walking in every direction. It’s not exactly a tranquil area, but definitely worth a visit. There are great markets, authentic bars and restaurants everywhere, and amazingly beautiful Kanga (fabric) shops on almost every street. We lived in Naivasha for about a month – such a beautiful place. Lake Naivasha and all its wild life are gob-smacking, the town is large but nothing like a city, there are clothes markets hidden under big tarped areas, great places to enjoy the national dish of beans & rice, pretty houses to look at and great expanses of green fields… great for walking 🙂 We stayed in Gil Gil too, a much smaller town which I absolutely loved, and am revisiting in a couple of weeks! Above the small town there are mountains with hot springs, waterfalls and the most luscious green forests. After our volunteering, we traveled down to Mombasa, people say the overnight bus is a death sentence, but I thought it was fine… little bit of adventure ! The city of Mombasa is rich in Arabic culture and truley beautiful. For an ultimate holiday experience, I would recommend Diana Beach

Mtwapa is a little more ‘real’, and there it’s pretty easy to find cheap accommodation without the typical tourist resorts.

Things to do in Kenya

There are many! If you’re into Mountain trekking then there are several peaks to attempt! Safaris options are endless! Bird watching, scuba diving, resort-hopping, sun-bathing, city exploring, camping, volunteering or just good old back packing are all pretty easy.

Food in Kenya

Yeah… about the food. It’s not the best. It’s not the worst. Some how, the use of spices just isn’t a big thing. Pretty much you have maize, sukumaweeki (kale), rice, beans, ugali (boiled bread) and meat. Nyama Choma is BBQed meat which is super tasty, and there are places that sell fried chicken. My all time favourite meal was beans and rice. And the fruit and veg is pretty amazing! Mangoes growing on the side of the road in the more tropical areas, and avocados as big as your face. The supermarkets have quite a large range, and you can see a prominent English influence in what fill the aisles. Overall, you can eat well for cheap. Trick is to not expect amazing flavour explosions, but more be pleased with the simple things.

ugaliHow much money to bring to Kenya

You really don’t need a lot. Between USD$ 4 – 9 per night is enough to have a decent place to sleep. You can get a massive plate of food for about $1, getting long distance mutatus (taxis) is about $0.50 – $2. If you want to live like a local, you could swing it for well under $10 a day. If you want to stay in resorts and drink, eat and play like an out-of-towner, you’re looking at over $50 a day. They use Kenyan shillings, and  it’s about 80 KES to $1. From memory, a loaf of bread was about 40 KES.

What not to do in Kenya

Don’t wear tight clothes or short shorts. Take advise from locals, but with a grain of salt. Don’t carry a lot of money on you. Don’t drink the tap water. If you’re a single girl, pretend you’re married, seriously, it’ll safe you a lot of hassle. If you find yourself at a church service, respect the religious beliefs of those around you, and maybe keep your potential atheist of agnostic beliefs to yourself. Again, this will save you a lot of trouble.

Just play it cool really 🙂

Is Kenya a country that I’d visit twice?

HELL YES!

(My) Most beautiful/memorable Spots and Moments

Playing with and teaching the kids at both charity organisations (KCC slum project and The Restart centre).

Swimming in the hot springs above Gil Gil.

Riding on the back of motorbikes.

Seeing the Giraffes grazing the trees on Safari.

Lying on the beautiful sand on Diana Beach.

Driving past the zebras that casually stand between the opposing roads of traffic.

Advice if you’re travelling to Kenya

Get the right immunizations: Cholera, Hep A and Typhoid. Pack a course of general antibiotics, Check what season it is: it’ll either be dry or very wet, however it’s always nice and balmy seeing as it’s very near the equator. Pack loose fitting clothes. And above all, don’t plan too much! Kenya is pretty easy to travel on a whim.

 

Kenya is still my favourite place on earth, well worth a visit… without sounding too cheesy, it could change your life.

If you are interested in volunteer work, I would highly recommend paying The Restart Centre a visit. This is one of the best run organisations I know of, it’s honest, not-for-profit and works to resolve issues of child abuse and homelessness, with family values and education.

Links:
www.restartafrica.org

https://www.gofundme.com/NICARTFUNDKENYA

kenya-migration-photo

http://www.restartafrica.org/

Africa Blog Congo

Most Beautiful Shots of Congolese landscape

October 30, 2016

Largely known for its dark history and civil unrest, the Congo is also a place of great beauty. Its vast forests, rivers and savannahs give rise to landscapes of stunning natural beauty.

Here are 10 of my favourites.

Mount Nyiragongo

Located within Virguna National Park surrounded by forests and savannah, Mount Nyiragongo is an active volcano standing 3740 meters above sea level.

mount-nyiragongo

Garamba National Park

Garamba National Park and its seemingly endless grassland savannah covers 4,920 km² of north eastern DRC.

Kahuzi-biéga National Park

This vast area of tropical forests and its two extinct volcanoes provide a home for a diverse range of fauna, including one of the last surviving groups of eastern lowland Gorillas.

Boyoma Falls

The Boyoma Falls consist of 7 waterfalls distributed along 100 km of the Lualaba River, descending a total of 61 m finally reaching the Congo river.

Pool Malebo

Known as Lake Nkunda by local indigenous people in pre-colonial times, Pool Malebo is the name given to the lake-like wide region of the lower Congo river.

Maiko National Park

Situated on the equator, the swamps and rivers which meander through Maiko National Park form amazing patterns on the landscape.

Idjwi and Lake Kivu

On the eastern boarder of DRC lies Idjwi, an island located in Lake Kivu.

Okapi Wildlife Reserve

The Okapi Wildlife Reserve in the countries north-east is home to numerous threatened species including primates, birds and about 5,000 of the estimated 30,000 okapi surviving in the wild.

Salonga National Park

The meandering rivers and oxbow lakes create amazing landscapes through Africa’s largest national park.

The Congo River

Separating the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Republic of Congo runs the Congo River. The river stretches for thousands of kilometres and is littered with rapids and waterfalls.

 

Africa Benin Blog Travel

Best Portraits of Africa: Black and White Edition by Mario Gerth

October 6, 2016

In Benin, scars on the face –more specifically in the apples of the cheek – represent heritage, ethnicity, beauty or clan ties. Etched into the skin during infancy, these artificial dimples come in a variety of hash mark patterns depending on where you are from. If your mother is from one tribe and your father from another, they both have to create the pattern of their own origin on each one cheek. Your mum right and your father the left site. Its a kind of passport you carry day in and out. – Mario Gerth

Africa Blog Uncategorized

Crossing the Taba, Egypt to Eilat, Israel land Border on foot

August 27, 2016

Since the 2014 Taba bus bombing on a tourist coach, killing 4 – foreigners are crossing the EgyptIsrael border less and less

It took about 20 minutes to cross the border from Taba to Eilat and I didn’t pay anything and it was a breeze compared to the nightmare border crossing I did on Africa’s most corrupt border from Senegal to Mauritania.

How to cross the border from Taba to Eilat on foot

  1. Take the bus from Sharm or Dahab or Neweibaa to the Taba / Eilat border
  2. Pass security checks from Egyptian Officials (quick and easy but you might have to pay a fee)
  3. Get your exit stamp in the Egyptian Immigration office and leave the Taba office
  4. Walk to the Eilat border office
  5. Pass security checks (usually female officials)
  6. Enter the immigration office to scan your bags
  7. Fill out immigration forms to get your passport stamped
  8. Exit the Eilat immigration office

You might get pulled out of the immigration line like I did, but the questioning is fairly straightforward. “what are you doing” “why were you in Egypt” “how long do you plan to stay”

I took the bus from Sharm to Taba which left at 9am from Sharm bus station. The journey should have been 4 hours but the police patrol along the way made it about 5 hours. This is important to account for if you are on a time limit. The bus passes through Dahab and Neweibaa.

From Taba I took a micro bus to the Taba – Eilat border crossing for 10 EG£

My Experience Crossing the Taba to Eilat Border on foot

Crossing the border from Taba

On the Egyptian you cross through about 4 checks (guys sitting down in chairs outside) and the official crossing inside the ‘office’ where you complete an exit form.
Fees: You must pay 2EG£ exit fee to leave Egypt which I didn’t pay… If you’re lucky, like me you can say that you don’t have any money.

Crossing the border to Eilat

Apart from a Kenyan holy pilgrimage group of people aged 60+, I was the only foreigner crossing the border from Egypt into Israel.
There are 4 border control check points you must pass to get into Eilat.
1st: The lady asked me the basic questions; why are you coming to Israel? etc…
2nd: Baggage scan
3rd: As I was waiting in the line for my visa a young border official stormed out her office and demanded an old Kenyan man who was on the holy pilgrimage (he was wearing a t-shirt ‘holy pilgrimage tours’) come with her. In her office, she probably asked him a few questions and I saw him leave happily, join his group and they disappeared on their holy way, out the doors and into Israel.
The lady stormed back out and looked directly at me. ‘Are you alone? Come with me!’
If there is anything that I am not good at.. It is interrogation.

The immigration officer asked me…

What are you doing in Israel? Where are you staying? What did you do in Egypt? Where did you go in Egypt? Where are your parents from? How much money do you have / Do you have a bank card? Are you a student or work?

I was foolishly, nervously smiling and even laughing throughout our exchange, I’m bad with confrontation. I kept telling her that she can check the information she was asking me for. For example; I showed her my two bank cards, one which is a business banking card and one my personal banking card. I played her voice notes on whatsapp of my Israeli friends giving me directions from the border and she totally totally relaxed. Then we became friends the  conversation totally changed, it even became silly. She started to smile and told me that she wants to go to London. I told her that I live alone in the city center and she is more than welcome to stay with me… The conversation was friendly and I felt like if I asked her for her number, she would have happily given it. Anyway, she gave me my paper visa and I was on my way to the 4th check point which was outside her office.

4th: Final visa check. The lady who ‘interrogated’ me, came out with me and this one was swift. A glance at the paper visa and my passport and… I walked out into Israel!

Fees: I paid no fees to enter Israel, and none to exit Egypt (i hold a British passport)

What not to say to Israeli border officials

All young people are interrogated at the border because of various reasons; either they look suspicious or they plan to volunteer in Israel for some months. You are not allowed to volunteer in Israel due to tax reasons. This is why Israeli border officials often target young backpackers for interrogation. Do not say you are coming to volunteer, this includes in hostels or on organic farms. I learned this from travelling volunteers I met along the way. To guarantee your entry into Israel say that you are travelling around Israel, learning about the vibe/culture, hiking etc.. It is better for you, and ensures that the place you are actually volunteering at does not get into trouble.

Egypt & Israel; the immediate difference

It is shocking that the 10m border between Egypt and Israel can make SUCH a difference!

The difference between Israel and Egypt hits you as soon as you cross the border, you go from covered up women to bikini’s and nudes everywhere. It’s insane

This picture is what you see when you cross the border to Eilat, this is totally different to the conservative, religious ways of Egypt. I had to pinch myself to make sure that it wasn’t a dream because it was unreal!

As soon as I stepped out into Israel I was stunned with surprised. The border is on the beach so I immediately saw many people on the beach side in Eilat camping, snorkeling, drinking, smoking, naked, dancing and enjoying. I felt I stepped directly into a whole different world. It was so free; nobody was swimming with clothes, couples were kissing and hugging each other, the people had alternative styles you’d associate with Berlin, Barcelona or London.
It was amazing. I was so impressed. On first sight I was happy to be in Israel!

COMPARISON:
My first 5minutes into Egypt I was scammed immediately!
My first 1 minute into Israel was AMAZING. I walked into an awesome open environment

View My Trip To Eilat

Africa Blog

My Strange Trip To Hurghada

August 18, 2016

I was to discover in my next destination, Hurghada that three surprises appeared to be built into the itinerary for this stop

Sugar Mamas… everywhere

The first of these came in the evening at a roadside café on Sheraton Street, Hurghadas busiest road. It was confusing, especially after Luxor. I had envisioned it as a cute, fisherman destination wherein the locals love all things Red Sea. Instead I found myself standing in a large, pedestrianized street packed on both sides with cafes, restaurants, hotels and strange foreigners. It was a strange place where I witnessed the interesting sight of old Western white women holding hands with young Egyptian boys.

In Egypt, things are getting worse, not better. With the selective taxation where the rich get richer and poor remain poor, the decline in tourism and the plane crash in Sinai – opportunities to secure financial freedom are few. Young Egyptian boys casually prostitute themselves for a better opportunity. Their only duty is to escort and sleep with old women. These gyrating women of frightfully advanced years – women with washed out blonde hair and thighs that remind me of flowing lava – usually German or Russian all look rather endearing pathetic. The game is played on both sides. By the looks of it, Sugar mama doesn’t stand a chance of being loved in her own country so she obtains affection and sex from her devoted pup. In return, she gives her pup a treat in the form of money, cars, apartment and if he is really lucky marriage and visa entry into Europe. Toy boy, the young Egyptian, is one of many in the country struggling to get by, this easy way out provides him with everything that he would otherwise struggle to obtain. Can you blame either of them?

I was fascinated. Who knew that in a God-fearing country like Egypt, this existed, and was so normal? Not I!

What freedom means to me? No fear. I mean really… no fear

I’d made some friends in Hurghada who owned Egypt Visitors. Egypt Visitors is a company that operate diving, snorkelling, safari and private beach tours. These are the type of friends worth making on the Red Sea. They invited me to join on a tour and I automatically accepted as I’d never been on the Rea Sea before and I’d always wanted to see it. In fact, who wouldn’t say no to a private tour of Paradise Island, diving and snorkelling with tropical fish? So the next morning I enthusiastically packed my bikini and joined them on the boat. I was super excited! During the drive there my friend kept repeatedly reassuring me that I should feel free on the tour, join in diving and snorkelling when I felt like it and should feel welcome. Little did I know that I was being prepped for my second surprise in Hurghada.

It didn’t bother me that I was the only foreigner on the tour. I am always the only foreigner. We set sail for Paradise Island, where we had to take a separate smaller boat to get there. It was Paradise Island for real! The white sand and the crystal clear water was gorgeous. I sat there and gazed out to people swimming in the sea.

I sat watching people swimming in the sea at Paradise Island. In what world does that make sense? Contrary to sitting rigidly formal, all I wanted to do was to strip off jump in, instead I sat watching people and filled the time by having a conversation with my friend.

There was a problem; I just didn’t know exactly it was

Back on the boat we went to our first diving and snorkelling spot. From the boat I could already see the colours of large and small exotic fish swimming beneath. I’d never swam in the Red Sea and was so excited to say Hi to the creatures of the underworld. Weirdly enough, when it was my turn, I refused. I did the same at the second spot. As I was contemplating the situation around me my facial expression betrayed my thoughts. My friend notified me that I have a look of “What the fuck” on my face. What the fuck indeed. I had never been so uncomfortable in my life. For once, I was restricted.

The women and most men all were swimming with their clothes on. Full hijab, skirts, underwear, t-shirts, hats, everything. I have travelled far and wide yet I’ve never seen anything like this. Clearly, I had never been on the beach or at sea in an Islamic country. It was a spectacle to my eyes. It was weird! Just the previous day I was happily swimming all day long in Luxor, not giving a damn – not realising that I should give a damn.

I wasn’t about to get into the sea with my clothes on. While travelling I don’t have the opportunity to wash my clothes frequently. Sea water stains white, and smells strong when unwashed. I have few clothes and practically wear the same thing every day. But all I wanted to do was to swim and snorkel with my bikini on, like normal. I couldn’t do anything. I didn’t do anything. I just sat there, for 6 hours watching them.

That day I learned two new emotions. Discomfort and restriction. If I had put on my bikini each person of the boat would react. I would be in danger constant harassment from the men and the women would hide their children and call me horrible haram names. Yes, I could have adopted a ‘fuck it’ attitude but what was the point? I’m in their country and I’m outnumbered.

Discomfort and restriction creates sadness. I was so excited to finally get the rare chance to swim with tropical fish on the Red Sea. I love swimming. Paradise Island – which should have been the best small island I’d visited in my life, was an incomplete experience. I didn’t do anything. A golden opportunity, wasted. I was in fear of judgement and harassment.

Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t as though I didn’t want to swim with my clothes on. I just didn’t want to swim with those clothes on. I wasn’t prepared. In my next destination Sharm, I happily swam the red sea with clothes on.

Annoying Ahmed

Ahmed was put on Earth for no other reason than to give other people someone to hate. Even kids hated him. It sounds cruel – it is cruel – but the thing is he deserved it. His slick back gelled hair, polo shirt and sheer arrogance drove me insane, I constantly failed to understand his leaps of logic. Also he is distastefully vain. Boasting that he was a Muslim but also read books about Communism and Marxism didn’t impress me. Although he has never left the country, and was born in a farmer’s village close to Aswan… apparently everything he says or does is right. He seems to think that he is worldly and cultured. He even had the nerve to touch my laptop and attempt to reorganize my files. Oh, and I didn’t mention that he can read minds. He’ll ask you a question and as you open your mouth to answer he exclaims that he knows the answer and says reassuringly, ‘I know, I know – you don’t have to tell me’

Late one night he offered to take me for a walk in to Hurghada marina. Obviously I didn’t want to, it was also very obvious but I accepted as he didn’t get any of the hints. On the way there he stopped off at a perfume shop to purchase perfume. The perfume master magically and artfully mixed together Ahmed’s poison. It was really beautiful. I’d never seen perfume being made before. The golden syringe, the big wooden casket and the final solution. Though it was a bit strong for me, it was a great joy to watch. But all the while I was wondering… why do I have to witness this? Did Ahmed really think I cared that he bought perfume?

The marina itself was very cool. Bars overlooking the harbour where lavish boats were parked and there nightclubs all along the port. It looked like a mini Barcelonetta. I wish I had been there by myself, though his presence did help fend off the harassing Arab men. I would have been eaten alive alone.

Ahmed never learned how to keep his mouth shut. He said to a man who was taking photos of his children who were posing for the photo as Spiderman, ‘Hey, if you want to take a better photo you should turn your camera at a different angle and stand below the street light over there’. That man simple listened politely and uttered a noncommittal ‘Ummm’ and walked away while his two kids threw Ahmed a furious look for ruining their moment. I can only guess what the father thought. After he went back to most boring topic in the world and I would smile and nod to his narrow-minded suggestions and listen politely while uttering noncommittal ‘Hmmm’s’ to his suggestions. He probably couldn’t talk me into getting out of a burning car. I never thought that I would experience such dislike towards anybody. I thought I loved everybody he surprised me; I learned that evening that Ahmed and people like him bring out the worse in me.

Sinai Conspiracy Theory

October 31st 2015, a Russian-operated airline came apart 10,000m over Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, killing all 224 on board, what followed was a war of spin.

Bomb on board?

Technical Fault?

Human Error?

Shot Down By A Missile?

I heard of a different motive; not of bombs, faults or missiles.
Deep, high politics…

Prior to the crash Russians made up 19.7% of tourist arrivals to Egypt, the largest of any single country and 1.7 million were forecast to arrive that year alone. One local theory is that Russia sought out a percentage of the tourism profits in Egypt from Russians. Egypt, who heavily reply on tourism refused this proposal. The plane crash, successfully deterred Russian visitors from visiting Egypt and now they flock to another beach in another country; Greece. Greece has seen more than 500% increase in the number of Russian tourists visiting. Putin continuously stresses the close historic and economic ties between Athens and Moscow, aiming for future economic investments. Perhaps this has something to do with him wanting a percentage of the tourism sector, and Greece accepting? It’s a known fact that the Rouble is a weak currency against the euro and pound, so a reserve in Euro’s would certainly help Russian.
Perhaps it doesn’t have anything to do with this. Perhaps it was just an unexplained plane crash. Deep, high politics hurts my head, the more I read, the more I become confused.

My condolences to the family and friends of the 224 that were killed on board

Hurghada is……

Before then Hurghada, a main destination in Sinai was a thriving destination for tourists specifically the Russians. The Egyptian government even cancelled visa costs for Russians to encourage more visitors, and there was even a currency deal being discussed.

Hurghada city, to me, is now a dismal sight but wins points because it lays next the Red Sea. If you are not well-travelled then you will enjoy Hurghada, but to me it looks like a diluted version of whatever it use to be. Washed out and lonely, many hotels have closed down and the only tourists I really saw were the old white Sugar Mama’s with their young Toy boys. Perfect for cheap package holiday goers.

Still – with knowledge of unexplained plane crashes in Sinai, I booked a last-minute (same day) flight for 445EG£  from Hurghada to Sharm El Sheik.

Links:

My Moving Trip To Luxor

 

Africa Blog Morocco

My trip to Morocco In Bullet Points

February 18, 2016

Morrocco is beautiful

  • The people are amazing, hospitable and the food is great.
  • I travelled alone, through 20 different cities and villages by bus mainly. Dirt roads and pit stops in random villages..
  • I played playstation with a random 90 year old guitarist with one eye. And his sister brought us food.
  • I climbed the atlas mountains.
  • I made couscous from scratch
  • I cycled from one desert village to the other.. (WOW)
  • I camped under the stars in the Sahara desert
  • I slept 5 nights in a nomad cave. No lights, no electricity. Just people, animals, babies and my thoughts
  • Go there, women.. have no fear to travel alone! It’s perfect. Just say you are married to a local and the men will stop being so perverted.