Friday, August 11, 2006

Pole Pole

So, here we are on holidays now, after our 6 weeks of volunteering and learning. We finished a couple of fridays ago and kicked it off with a night out in kampala, before rising after only a couple of hours sleep to hit the road in a beamer with our Kampalian friend., he was most kind to drive us all the way to the coast in kenya! The road to the border took about 6 hours i think, ,and we also had another friend along who is from Nairobi, so it was great to get the low down on what was to come. passed some electric green velvety tea plantations and then after dark (unfortunately) through the Great rift Valley.

Arrived in Nairobi late and stayed with Yassir at his mother's place in the suburbs. That was nice as by all accounts, ,Nairobi is a dodgy city and we didn't have a lot of interest in navigating it ourselves. the next morning we had to replace the brake pads (which had been replaced no less than a week earlier??!!, and which also had to be redone again after the car made it back to uganda! Not sure what the deal is with brakes here, obviously not of the same quality). anyhow, left onwards past tsavo nat parks, and saw a lovely elephant just next to the road, arrived in mombasa on the coast and stayed a night there.

For the next week we made our way north, a couple of days in Watamu, and small seaside village, with a long long beach, supposedly voted in the worlds top ten beautiful beaches). the placee was full of italians, tourists as well as residents. apparently they run most big businesses and resorts, and are there to handle the traffic of cocaine etc that passes through the ports. Very strange to be sipping delicious Italian espresso, eating gelato and pastries and many of the Kenyans even speak italian! IT was lovely to relax. the beach was nice, perhaps not in my top ten, but the weather right now contributed to the seaweed and less than perfectly turquoise appearance of the water. nonetheless, it was lovely to swim in the warm ocean! We attempted a snorkelling trip in the national marine park, which i was quite excited about. Unfortunately it turned into a bit of a disaster, as the waves were huge against our small boat, ,and 3 of the five of us were green and upchucking into the sea. The snorkelling also left something to be desired, and after a few minutes of the odd fish and murky water and gray coral, that was that.

The food in Kenya is quite a bit more exciting than uganda, they use many more flavours and spices, and our favourite, vegetables! We also spent a couple of days in malindi, another Italian town, this one larger. that is where nassa, our ugandan friend turned around for the return journey.

Chlo and i decided to continue on to Lamu, an island off the north coast, which contains a town that is now a world heritage site, and wow, it was amazing. We thought we mightn't make it all the way there, but seeing as we were then only a 5 hour bus ride away, we thought we had to do it, and it was so worth it. the road (all the way from uganda, actually,) is pretty crap, mottled with gigantic potholes or lack of pavement, not to mention the nutbar drivers. We did eventually arrive, and took a little passenger ferry 15 minutes to lamu town. The island is largely a muslim swahili population, and there are arabic and portuguese influences. Lamu is an old old stone town, with winding alleys, less than the width of a car. that is one of the best parts,  no vehicles, just donkeys!! so it was quiet and relaxed, far from anything. Pole pole,  slowly slowly,  is the operative word about Lamu. I loved just wandering the alleys, past mosques, a small market, stopping often for a fresh lime juice, or an avocado smoothie (alcohol is rare here, due to the muslim population,  this was a welcome respite from our Kampala lifestyle). There is also a beautiful beach, a lovely 30 minute walk from lamu town. It winds along a seaside path, and at high tide you actually have to walk in the water. THe sea is dotted with handmade wooden dows, complete with blue painted carved decorations on their bows. We found some very cheap digs, with a rooftop terrace, actully the tallest building on the island, at a whopping three storeys. It is amazing how the conditions become less noticeable, our bathroom was actually truly atrocious, the toilet didn't flush, the shower (not warm of course) was sporadic in its water flow, and the fan also inconsistent. But we didn't mind a bit, preferring to spend our money on seafood.. I tried to eat fresh fish and prawns at least twice a day! And lobster too. DELICous. So,  a few days of that, and then, lo and behold we 'stumbled' upon a reasonable flight ticket back to Nairobi. to be honest, we were scheming for weeks how we could avoid some of the long arduous bus journeys. so we were thrilled to take a mere 1.5 hr flight back to Nairobi, ,out of the cutest outdoor palm tree lined airport.

the next adventure, which i just got back from a few minutes ago, was a safari for three days to the Masaai Mara reserve, probably kenya's most famous wildlife viewing destination. We spent three days (granted much of it navigating more terrible roads) at the reserve. Two irish girls and a frenchmen in our van, along with our indispensable guide, Ken. We camped, which was so nice! Only my second campfire this summer, which i have been missing.

The reserve is absolutely amazing....the numbers of animals is just staggering, it's not like you drive for three days searching for a lion or zebra...they are so numerous! I loved the elephants, the lions, cheetah, the lepard, and we even saw a giraffe in labour! The other amazing thing is that the animals are totally unafraid of the vehicles,  for the most part (probably an eco disaster I am sure, but wonderful to be able to see them up close). Lions and cheetahs literally walking in front of us. One morning we watched as a pride of lions took turns eating from their recent wildebeest kill. Right now is the annual migration of well over a million wildebeest, coming north from the serengeti in tanzania. So these comical creatures were everywhere, with their ungainly bronco gait and hairy backs and long faces. they seemed so prehistoric, reminding me of ancient paintings on the walls of caves. Many of the animals happily exist side by side, zebras and wildebeests and giraffes, gazelles, all grazing together. It was truly memorable. the landscape of the mara is also incredibly beautiful...geez,. sorry for all the predictable adjectives. Vast open plains,  with african looking trees, punctuated by copses of green riverine forest, all under a dramatic sky. it was actually chilly, too, first time I've needed my fleece.

The Masaai people live all around the reserve, always dressed in red robes and carrying a long stick, as they are cattle people, subsisting mainly on the meat, milk, and blood of their animals. I find it fascinating that as a culture, they have consciously decided to retain many of their traditions, especially their dress. They often have huge elongated earlobes, with a large hole, and wear many colourful beads. It's just interesting that they seem to continue to follow these traditions, when so many other cultures get increasingly westernized. Apparently, individuals can choose to leave for a period of time,  but when they return to the village,  they must live in the traditional way. they are polygamous, ,like many populations in africa, with men having an average of 3-5 wives, each one living in her own house, which she builds, with her children. We did have the opportunity to visit a nearby village and see inside the homes and also they did some traditional dancing and showed us how they start fires by rubbing sticks. it always feels so corny being in that kind of situation, also we had to pay a few dollars each, which is fair enough i suppose. The money goes towards running the village school. It all did seem authentic and not contrived, but strange still. They have been at this tourist thing for less than two years, so I am curious about what impact it will have. They are a beautiful people.

NOw i sit here in Nairobi,  killing a few hours before boarding a night bus (14-15 hours) back to Kampala. We will spend a final weekend there, celebrate Chloe's birthday on Monday,  and then fly home wednesday morning! It has been an amazing journey in so many ways. looking forward to seeing everyone and spending the last few glorious days of summer on the coast, ,which still remains to me, the very nicest place in the world. Who knows if i will post again, probably not unless something very exciting takes place in the next few days. Will add some more photos when I get home though, so keep checking....

see you all soon,

love ais


Aisia Salo
3rd Year Midwifery Student-UBC
aisiasalo@hotmail.com
250-595-1027
mobile 250-686-7987

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