Archive | July, 2008

True life begins

21 Jul

The first 10 days of travelling and relaxing are over.

Yesterday I moved from the trainees house (in Kileleshewa, in the west of the city) to Donholm (which is in the east of the city near “my” slum) to live with Sally and her family. I was really looking forward to meeting my host family and see how they live. And from the first impression they are very friendly and absolutely nice!

Later today I will start working at the Miss Kayaba Beauty Fame Youth Organization. There are two other trainees and a forth one will arrive in the next weeks. So I really think we can contribute there.

Oh and by the way: My mobile phone number is +254 737 432119
Feel free to call me or write text messages 🙂

3-day camping safari to Masai Mara

21 Jul

The Masai Mara is the Kenyan part of the Serengeti (Tansania). In Juli and August a huge amount of animals migrates from the Serengeti to the Masai Mara, which is really spectacular when the zebras and wildebeest cross the river (crocodiles are always hungry…) and just walk in kilometer long lines through the steppe.

In Nairobi you can book the typical 3-day Masai Mara safari for around 200 Euros per person. That includes
– transfer from Nairobi (350 km = 6 hours) and vice versa (you can upgrade to a flight for around 150 Euros per way)
– 2 nights in 2-bed-tents in a camp that sustained by original (??) Masai (upgrade to 5-star-lodge for 70 Euros per day)
– 3 meals a day
– guide and driver on approx. 14 hours Safaris (including early morning and evening drive which is when most animals can be spotted)
– entrance fees to the National Park.

Three of us were interested in going and we talked to Jimmie, a local, who had organized safaris for other trainees before. After some phone calls he had booked his driver and cook and we were able to go on tour with him. The usual group sizes when booking with a tour operator are 5-9. So we had lots of space in the safari car.
The advantage when going with a big tour operator is that all their cars are connected through radio and they tell each other which places to come to. Otherwise it can be really hard to spot all the interesting animals in a Park that is around 70 x 25 km big.

In the end we saw wildebeest, zebras, lots of birds (incl. Geier and Strauß), antilopes, gazelles, monkeys, crocodiles, hippos, giraffes, bocks, buffaloes elephants, lions and a hyane. And the usual amount of cows and goets that are looked after by small masai kids.
So we were satisfied 😉

As we were three germans we couldn´t help thinking about the impact safaris have on the environment. Our book recommended low-impact-safaris which work with solar energy. Lots of trees are burnt for heating water and cooking in that area which adds to the erosion of the soil. Our guide had promised us solar energy but the camp was totally based on fire and burning coal. So we were a bit unhappy.
When driving through the National Park we asked our driver 3 or 4 times to stay on the bigger roads and not to go through the nature. “But the other cars also do it” didn´t impress us. But I can tell you that its really tempting to leave the paths after spotting a lion, becase obviously they don´t take their siesta in the middle of the road. And some of the other safari cars even followed the lions around bushes. We couldn´t believe it… what tourists ask their drivers to do just for the best picture. Most of the tourists didn´t even bring binoculars for watching the animals but they just took pictures (standard zoom cameras…) and went again to the next scene.

Whatever… Although sitting in the car for hours and hours was really difficult and we had spend on our whole 6-day-tour as much money as on these three days, we enjoyed the tour a lot. Seeing all the animals you know from films and also the beautiful landscape in the south west of Kenya was just amazing.
Especially watching hippos, lions and elephants (which we hadn´t seen in other parks) in their natural surroundings was impressive.

Below you find some pictures (again the great zoom of mums camera was really helpful). I also have some videos, but with the internet speed here its really not possible to upload all of them. I will maybe add some later.

Enjoy!

6 Days of intense travelling…

15 Jul

I just returned to Nairobi from six days of intense travelling… Its hard to believe how much I experienced in the last week!

Wednesday

Arrival at 5am at the airport in Nairobi and some hours of sleep I saw the university and met some AIESECers. The other interns were really friendly and we went to dinner together. My first Matatu ride (14seater buses that are more roling discos than public transport) was simply great fun. The roads are full of bumps and holes… incredibly… just imagine yourself in a Toyota bus (size of a VW bus) with 16 people on 14 seats, reggae music from the speakers jumping along the “road”.

After an afternoon wandering around the city (talking to a lot of people who know german and have some kids at home who need food… or friends who are ill… or just would like to be invited on a beer by their new white friends) and more talking to Interns I heard to magic sentence “It is easy to spend and actually waste time hanging around Nairobi.” So I decided to just pack the backpack and start travelling through the country right away.


Thursday

So we took a Matatu (they dont only cover the cities but also connect them) to Naivasha. The city mainly consists of a matatu station and a lot of street shops. We checked in to a “hotel” (5 Euro per double room). Rented bikes near the lake (those wouldnt be stolen even without a lock in the Gallus in Frankfurt) and went to the gates of the national park.

We were cycling through an incredible scenic national park called Hells Gate. There are rocks, steppe and finally the first animals!! We were so excited to spot the first zebra through the binoculars and take pictures with the 10zoom camera (thanks, mum!). Later we were cycling through big zebra herds on the gras, spotted antilopes and even buffalos near water places.

It was a perfect safari experience, cycling instead of sitting in a jeep.

Friday

On the next morning we decided to climbing Mt. Longonot, an old vulcano near Naivasha, the so called “damn, man!”-mountain. But well get back to that later.

That part of Kenya (The great riftvalley) is really dusty and so is the vulcano. The ranger at the park gate told us that depending on our speed we would reach the rim of the vulcano after 45-60 minutes and we felt really bad when two hours later we were still climbing. Busloads of school kids ran past us (I guess they even made it in 30 minutes…) and left us coughing in dust clouds. A boy was already on his way down again and literally ran down the mountain and nearly fell over creating a dust cloud which made him shout out “damn, man!”… and his teacher “dont run!”. There is nothing to add 🙂 I will post a video of that later and you will understand.

The more we climbed the view became more amazing.

On the way down we were alone in the national park, as all the kids had run down to their busses again. We werent really expecting it but the spotted a giraffe eating from the tasty trees just 50 meters away from us. More and more of them appeared and again cameras clicked 🙂

Back in Naivasha we found out that the next bus to Kitale were we would meet other AIESECers would leave around 8pm meaning we would arrive there at 2am. So we had dinner in the same (and only) restaurant again. Power failure again but no candles this time.

Then we waited for the bus to Kitale. and waited… and talked to some drunkards at the waiting place (funny thing when you dont understand Suahili and they make fun of you in front of around 20 people) Guess when the bus arrived… no, not 10pm… 10.45! And it was actually not a bus to Kitale, which meant they told us to change at 3am at some city somewhere where they would be another bus… somehow appearing out of the blue…

Our guidebook called the street to Kitale “the highway of horror” which should NEVER be used at night because of the traffic and the bad road conditions. We fully agree to this statement!

Not one minute we were able to close our eyes: The window next to me opened with every bump and as the handle was broken I had to close it every 20 seconds to avoid the cold (and dusty!) air to come in. And the bumps and holes… but what can I tell you. The other approx. 60 people in the bus also survived…

We arrived in 5 am in Kitale, ready to go on a hiking trip with the others at 7am. We just wanted a shower! Finding a hotel was not so easy, as everything was booked (weekend…) or the warm water didnt work (i am not kidding). After wandering around the city between 5 and 6 am we found a room and negotiated really well and just paid for two showers. Left the hotel at 7am, had breakfast at a cafe and waited for the others (who arrived at 9.30) which gave us the chance to go shopping and talk to locals.

Saturday

Western Kenya is very green, there are actually rainforests there!

With 3 other interns and Halima, a local AIESEC girl we went hiking at Mt. Elgon. This is the second largest mountain in Kenya, so we werent able to climb to the top. So we had a hike to some caves, saw beautiful waterfalls and creeks. Walking around the rain forest was really crazy… big trees, lianes, birds and simply the sound of jungle… amazing!!

Just when we reached a point called Elephants Viewpoint where we could actually see Uganda, Sudan and Etiopian grounds it started to rain. We were only 2.5 kms away from the park gate (said the sign) so we decided to just go there before it would get worse. But of course it got worse before we reached the gate (mainly because it was 5 kms and not 2.5… ) and any jacket gives up when its raining cats and dogs like that. All the paths got muddy and we were more gliding through the mud than really walking down the hill. We were totally drenched with rain when we finally heard cars. We hoped it would be the rangers picking us up. Although it was the rangers we had no chance of help from them because their cars were stuck in the mud. We tried to help them but without success, so we continued our gliding and slipping down to the car. In 13 years of camp experience in germany (Viele Gruesse ans Maedchenzeltlager!!) i have never experienced such heavy rains or mud!)

Finally at the car the rain had stopped and it was sunny again. We went to town to get some food and finally arriving at Halimas house I simply fell asleep after 36 hours awake and two long hikes.

Sunday

We were relaxing at the farm of Halimas mother. Well… we couldnt leave because our clothes were still dripping wet 🙂 Our hosting family organized a barbecue for their guests and our egyptian Habiba took part in the actual “preparation” of the food. Don’t wanna go into details, but it included a long knife and some palm leaves that were between the sheeps throat and the gras.

From Kitale we went to Kakamega by Matatu (no interest in busses anymore after that horror trip).. After just 15 minutes we had a punctuation. The extra tyre which was put on was flat just 1 km later… What now… There is only one extra tyre on the usual Kenyan matatu and thus we were waiting for another matatu to come by and lend us a tyre. All right. Tyre fixed, looked alright (all the passengers inspected it seriously!).. I sat down on the last bench in the car and just another 3kms later the rear door opened and the extra tyre fell out. Us three sitting in the last row of the vehicle shouted out loud and finally the driver (remember the loud hip hop music…) heard us and stopped. The conductor jumped out, ran back, collected the tyre and the next two hours I couldnt help but smiling and laughing about this comedy which actually didnt have a script. (I was searching the hidden camera though.)

We arrived at Kakamega where a friendly waitress at a bar even called the director of the guesthouse to asure that there were free beds there. After a free lift by the local police we arrived in the hotel before dark (sun sets at 6.30 and its completely dark at 7 down here. remember that the equator crosses Kenya!)

Monday

Then we went to the Kakamega Forest reserve. This is another rain forest, actually a very special one for geological and biological reasons.. Whatever 🙂 I will remember the national park for its extremely friendly people. Again it started to rain out of the blue and we were sheltering in one of the huts of a family. Now I know why they call it the rain forest!! There was even hail. Yes,ice coming down from the sky in Africa!

There are actually people living inside the rain forest and there is a school with around 400 students where we talked to students and teachers. I will post an extra article about the school later!

In the evening we took a matatu to Kisumu. We even saw the Lake Viktoria when coming down to the city. Due to some stops to fuel up or simply to talk to people passing by, we were running late (what is “late” actually…) and arrived after dark in Kisumu. Found our hostel and after a (surely) needed shower (just dont look at the ants road in the bathroom…) I had a wonderful Pizza and finally slept well under the mosquito net.

Tuesday

We left Kisumu at 11 by bus and after 6 hours arrived in Nairobi. On the journey I had a nice kenyan sitting next to me who explained me a lot about politics and the history of Kenya and was really iterested in the german Laenderfinanzausgleich.

And here I am, thirsty for more. Tired and happy. Met incredibly friendly and curious and hospitable people. Sat in a lot of Matatus between chicken (and people). Got through around 30 police controls on the way and hit my head on the roof countless times…

What can I say: Thanks Sean for your magic sentence!

Arrived :-)

9 Jul

We arrived at 5 am this morning in Nairobi. The AIESECers picked us up and took us to the trainee house where we grabbed some sleep (dont know why they dont turn off the lights during night flights…).

The city is hot, green and full 🙂

To get from the trainee house to the university we took a Matatu! Yeah! More like a rolling disco than an official bus 😉

Lets now check the rates for Safaris.
Big 5, we are coming!

Last days in Germany

7 Jul

Today was my last day in Germany. I am going to leave to Kenya tomorrow! And: To be honest I am not sad leaving the current german weather behind 😉

During the last days I had the chance to say goodbye to my parents and my friends in Darmstadt and Hanau. Today I was busy with getting the stamp on my university-holiday-certificate  (Yes! 500 Euros saved :-)) and finally putting the stacks of clothes into that backpack…

I don´t want to complain about the size of the backpack. If it was bigger I wouldn´t be able to carry it anyways. I just tried it on (22,5 kg) and I can tell you it´s heavy enough. As 20 kg (I love egypt air) are not so much I am happy to be able to fill half of Benjamin´s backpack as well… 28 kg luggage sounds way better for a 17-week stay!

Thanks to all of you for your good wishes. Keep your fingers crossed for a good start in Nairobi.