Tuesday, January 09, 2007

"My Christmas Vacation: Version the Shitty" or "DIA dude, DIA"

This is the first of two or three posts about my Christmas vacation. This version will contain only the horrible things that happened. Later posts will fill you in on how I rocked Kili hardcore alpine style.

After the nightmare with the Bank report was over, I went and bought a bus ticket to Nairobi. The bus wouldn't start, so it was an hour or two late leaving. It wouldn't go faster than about 40 km per hour, so they switched us onto a new bus in Kisumu. Ten minutes outside of Kisumu there was flooding which caused a two hour delay. I got to Nairobi in the morning and was told by 4 or 5 bus companies that all the buses to Mombasa were sold out for several days. Finally I found a matatu that was going the whole way, and I made it to Mombasa that night.

On the 24th I went from Mombasa to Twiga Lodge at Tiwi beach. I got out of the matatu and started walking the 3 km from the main road to the beach. About halfway I got a call from Willa:
"Hey. Where are you?"
"Walking down the road to the beach."
"Ummm, that's actually a _really_ bad idea. There's a lot of robberies. The last time I came here some guy tried that and he showed up in his underwear."
I still felt kinda safe, despite having a large pack, expensive sunglasses and my iPod totally visible, so I kept going. Then I made a turn and some guys headed towards me. They told me I absolutely could not keep going because they'd seen three bad guys hiding in the bushes just ahead waiting to jump me. So I went back to the small shop at the turn and waited for Willa and Eva to come in a cab. To make it worse, I called Eva, but the connection was bad, so all she heard was "theives!" and then the connection went dead. Later I read the part of the guidebook where it says the road is notorious for robberies.

Then Christmas Day we all went on a snorkeling trip. We didn't bargain well, so we overpaid. Then when the boat got to the awesome snorkeling place, they got report of a dolphin, and since lame-o's complained that we hadn't seen any, we immediately left to go chase them. We saw a lone dolphin from hundreds of meters away, then a storm blew in. It was raining crazy hard and you couldn't see land anymore, and the guys had no navigation system, so they had no idea where they were going, and I was trying to use the compass on my altimeter watch to tell them which way Africa was. We were hoping we'd be picked up by Somali pirates so that it would be the worst Christmas in history rather than just our own personal worst.

After getting some really deep coral slivers in my feet, seeing a dead body washed up on shore, and finding a scorpion under my tent, I left Tiwi and went to Tanzania. I stayed one night in Tanga and the only company was an arrogant anti-semite. Then I spent a day in Lushoto in the Usambara mountains, and realized that in Tanzania, a) my phone doesn’t work, b) they don't speak any English, c) every single price, from long-haul bus fares to hotels to food needs to be haggled over, especially if you're a mzungu d) they get disappointed/mad if you're a mzungu and try to pay in Tanzanian shillings rather than US dollars.

I made it to Moshi on the 30th, but it took me hours to find the campsite that Marcus and I had agreed to meet at and one matatu driver sent me walking a couple kilometers down the wrong road. So by the time Marcus showed up I was in no mood for the constant attentions of street touts. Marcus, of course, loved yakking it up with them, and lined up our Kili trip with one. That night in Moshi it rained non-stop, dumping meters of snow on Kili. We started Kili on the 31st at noon. Our guide didn't want to continue from the crater rim to the actual summit, Marcus barfed twice, I got a cold and a massive, massive glacier burn, and we still had to shell out a $15 tip for a porter who we never actually saw, who certainly didn't carry anything of ours, and who may or may not have existed.

On the 3rd when we tried to leave Moshi we discovered that the street tout Marcus had used to line up a special-hire taxi to Dar es Salaam was a liar, but after that fell through we managed to get bus tickets. 150 km from Dar a diversion had washed out, and the bridge was in disrepair, so we waited for 6 hours for a lone Cat to dump dirt on the bridge(?), then tow buses across the bridge when they got stuck on the newly dirt-covered bridge.

We had to go to three places in Dar before we could find a (spendy) room. The next day we bought ferry tickets to Zanzibar, then went to get buses back to Nairobi for a couple days later, but they were all sold out for a long time, so we went back and returned our ferry tickets. We arranged a flight for $212 from Dar to Nairobi, then in the process of twenty minutes of comparison shopping the flight sold out and we had to take another, less convenient flight, $267 flight instead. We finished Dar by walking around the beaches and counting the syringes.

We arrived in Nairobi at night, and couldn't get a ticket that night or the next morning to Busia to save our lives. Finally we took a supposedly "prestige" direct matatu, but we both wanted to die by the end because the road is in such lousy shape and feels much worse in a matatu than on a big bus. When we finally got to Kisumu it wasn't raining, but the boda's didn't know where the hotel was, so it was raining by the time they got there. It was full, so we had to walk to 4 hotels in the pouring rain to find a room. Marcus spent the night dry heaving.

I returned to the office on Monday to discover that none of the taxis in town have the proper license, so now that we've decided to do legit transportation this year, none of the teams can actually go to the field, so no work can get done. Also, the office doesn't have any desks or chairs.

Marcus and I finished the vacation off by going for a bike ride. In the 6 or so hours, we had 8 separate bicycle break-downs, 4 of which required a fix-it guy. The seats are about as comfortable as a brick, so my ass is bruised.

So, in summary, I was told 11 or more times that the bus I wanted was sold out, I was almost robbed, almost lost at sea, I'm sunburnt, I have a cold, and I have diarrhea. A British/Kenyan family I met at the beach had a family motto when stuff like this happens: "DIA: Dis is Africa."

DIA dude, DIA.

My flight out of here leaves Nairobi February 26th.

No comments:

Post a Comment