August 31, 2011

Meserani to Entebbe

So about 12 months and two weeks ago (I am running a bit behind!)…

Today. Last day in Tanzania, last day of the tour and thankfully had our last night sleeping on those hard sleeping mats. The sleeping mats won’t be missed. We got an early start, which was nothing unusual there. We left the campsite pretty much before most of the others. We’d managed to wake up a couple of our fellow travellers after their late nights, we’d packed up, made our lunches for the day, taken our group shot, given the security guard our left over food – in return I got a nice photo of him – we’d done all our dishes and packed our stuff away in the truck for the final time. The last day of a tour is always a little bittersweet. You have to say farewell to new friends, with a common bond of shared adventures, but yet looking forward to the next lot of adventures that are coming your way. Today we had a pretty big travelling day ahead of us back to Nairobi – including a border crossing where one person didn’t have a passport. We stopped off in Arusha (don’t take photos of this, this or this…) and dropped our cook off and another girl who was going on to climb Mt Kilimanjaro. We used the lovely hotel amenities, then continued on our way. We saw Mt Kilimanjaro from the distance, but that was about it.

It was really busy at the Namanga border crossing. We left CL with our tour leader and we went and did our stuff. Got the stamp on my passport, was allowed back into Kenya without parting with any more money, then headed over to the post office to post some post cards. The post office wasn’t open because it was a Sunday, but the person in the store next door said he’d ring the lady who runs it and get her to come in. So about 10 or 15 minutes later, the lady came down and helped us with our postage requirements. She’d been at church, so I had a good chat with her about Uganda, Missions and what I was doing in this part of the world. She was a very helpful lady, definitely worth a mention on my blog!

Anyway, after a while we all wandered back to the truck (on the Kenyan side) to wait for Julius and CL. Eventually, to our surprise they both got back, one very, very relieved CL and we figured the less questions we asked the better. We stopped down the road a bit for somebody who had no money to buy some souvenirs, where the highlight of that shop was the flowers rather than the overpriced souvenirs we wouldn’t have been able to get into our country.

The roads so far today weren’t too bad, in fact, we’d been warned that they were going to be pretty bad, so we were expecting worse than the Serengeti roads, but really, they weren’t bad at all. We saw a few odd sights – like the wide load where they had two guys riding on the wide load waving huge flags to warn you of the oncoming wide load. I guess it provides employment for two people each load, whereas if you had flashing lights, it wouldn’t… Plenty of typical African scenes, people wandering along the road in the middle of nowhere, barricades and detours while they built the road and cars and trucks travelling way too fast for the conditions. Despite all that, we made good progress and made it back to the Kivi Milimani Hotel in good time.

Even though we were down a couple of group members, we headed out as a group for tea at a local restaurant in the center of town. This was heaps better than the Carnivore – in terms of “authentic” African food and hands down much better in terms of price. It was pretty much a traditional African meal, I think I had talipa and some rice, got to socialise with the locals – mainly at the little washstand they had where everyone came to wash their hands. Afterwards they had a band there – we popped in to see what they were up to and when they saw us they started doing some renditions of well known contemporary songs in english – surprisingly they weren’t too bad! But seeing as most of us had pretty early flights in the morning, we didn’t stay long – but it was a good night. Oh yes, in Nairobi, we weren’t meant to go out on the streets along, even during the day. So that meant everywhere we went we had to get a taxi, even to go into the bank just down the road. That started to add up a bit. I’m not sure if that’s a general recommendation for everyone and they’re being over protective, or whether it’s really as bad as they say, but anyway, that’s the way it was.

Jen and I didn’t have a flight until later in the day. We weren’t really sure what we were going to fill in the day with – we though maybe head into town and get some Kenyan food to take back to people. We ended up making a split second decision to jump in the taxi with the japanese girls from our tour who said they were going “into town for some shopping”. We asked the taxi driver to drop us off in town when we found out they weren’t exactly going to town, but that got lost in translation, so we ended up out at the wholesale depot for Kenya Wine Agencies. It was a “hot tip” from the taxi driver and apparently you needed to know somebody to actually be able to get in to go shopping there. So we had to show our passports and sign in, follow the manager through the packing room floor to the showroom – and we were the only people in there. He took great delight in detailing all the locally produced wine and spirits and grabbed a selection for us to choose from. I can’t remember exactly how long it was we were there for, but it was a fair while. We were obviously tourists – you could tell that, so we were never going to be anything but once off customers, but he spent ages with us. He was well rewarded at the end though, when the Japanese girls loaded up more than I’m sure they would ever get through the airport or customs, let alone by able to carry. Oh – and all this was done without knowing the prices. He wouldn’t tell us the cost of anything. I grabbed a carton of grape juice as a bit of a token gesture after he’d spent so long telling us all about it – I kind of felt obligated to buy something… So after we’d selected what we wanted, all without knowing how much it would cost, the goods disappeared – they went one way, we went another. We met up with our goods at a kind of checkout – we could see them through the window and got to check what we’d selected, the cost was tallied and they presented us with one bill. Between four. *sigh*… So the taxi driver had to help sort us out, we could only pay cash and it was far more than the others expected (I mean they’d bought heaps, surely they had to have some idea it was going to be expensive…) So the taxi driver handed over the cash, but did we get our goods? Nope! Again, our goods went one way and we had to go another. We left the building – still good-less and finally when we got outside, we could collect our goods through a conveyor belt hole in the wall where there were a couple of guys sitting around waiting to help. Seemed like a lot of effort, but I’m sure they had their reasons…

So, with time running out, we headed to the Nairobi Giraffe Center. We had about 3/4 of an hour here, before we absolutely had to get the japanese to the airport – with a slight detour to the hotel to drop Jen and I off first. The giraffe center was pretty cool. The others fed the giraffes, I took photos. Those giraffe have huge tongues and slober everywhere. They even have hand washing stations at the bottom of the stairs! It’s great to see that they’re taking an interest in conserving their wildlife though and providing a giraffe experience and education for many tourists. The gift shop here is pretty good and very reasonably priced. My tip would be pay this place a visit for all your Kenyan souvenir shopping needs.

Finally dragged the others away from feeding the giraffes, but not with enough time to spare to drop Jen and I off at the hotel. So we went to the airport… and waited while the others visited the ATM so they could pay the taxi, then finally made it back to the hotel. All that used up far more shillings than we expected, we had nothing left to do anything else with and virtually had nothing left for lunch. Between us we scrapped together enough for a bowl of chips and one all you can eat smorgasbord meal (between two) at the hotel. We had booked our friendly taxi driver from this morning and pre-negotiated our fare – despite the fact that we’d given him all that business this morning, he still wanted to overcharge us for the trip to the airport! GRRRRR Another tip – be aware of those taxi drivers in Nairobi and be prepared to negotiate, because they will charge more than they should.

Airport again, got on the flight and headed back to Entebbe. Great Intrepid trip – the Serengeti Trail. If you’ve only got a short time and want to do as much as you can, this comes recommended. Headed back to Uganda feeling like I’d been on holiday, even though the pace was hectic, the nights were cold, the truck bumpy and dusty, it was very relaxing – and I did wish I was back there sitting on that rocky outcrop overlooking the Serengeti. Had to pay to get back into Uganda – thought I was going to get away without it (you shouldn’t have to if you leave Uganda for Kenya), but after he’d stamped my passport and given it back to me, he asked me for money. I argued a bit, but it wasn’t worth it. He took my money and I demanded a receipt. He looked at me and very, very slowly took the book out of the drawer – I think I was the first one he’d given a receipt to all night and I was well back in the queue. Makes you wonder what he did with the other payments he demanded from the arrivals…
Got picked up at the airport by Mike, Shirley and James, who’d been caught in the Kampala traffic jams on the way here and I think they said it took them an hour to travel 100m – thanks to the ambulance putting their sirens on they finally got moving. Had to use my limited Ugandan on the lovely taxi driver guy who wanted to take me back to Kampala, he even offered me his phone to call my friends so I could find out where they were! Stopped off at Nicky’s pizza, introducing James to real pizza and soda. Had the salmon pizza this time that we’d missed last time. Great pizza, great trip, great wildlife, great experience.


1 Comment »

  1. […] my last post, I’d just got back from my Kenya/Tanzania safari. Mike had arranged a series of meetings for […]

    Pingback by Ministry in Kampala « Thumper… — September 17, 2011 @ 6:33 pm | Reply

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