From England to Ecuador and beyond

From England to Ecuador and beyond

Sunday, 31 August 2014

Jambo! Welcome to Africa

Since this trip is mainly focused on the rich abundance of wildlife East Africa has to offer, I haven't got much of an idea re: the culture and way of living, but bus appreciation days (i.e. 10 hours driving, yawn) and a seat by the window every other day have given me a bit of an insight. 

The people 

The rugged landscape is speckled with goats, cows and donkeys & there are kids as young as five taking charge of huge herds and working in the fields (and tea plantations in Kisii, perfectly balancing big baskets of leaves on their heads). The kids are great for the most part - they wave and smile as our truck passes the little villages (one decided that pulling his pants down and using something other than his hand to wave was a more suitable approach...what a LAD). 

They take a lot of interest in foreigners: we stopped at a grassy patch for lunch as we drove to our campsite in Kisii, and within about 2 minutes of parking the vehicle a small crowd had gathered - mostly children standing and staring as we ate lunch and a couple of adults was as if they'd never seen a white person before...maybe they hadn't? A couple of the guys starting handing out sweets and pencils & it was absolute CHAOS - massive scramble for treats from the 'rich white people' (some of the kids we pass on the bus yell "Give us sweets!" so they must be aware of some sort of cultural difference). 

We also stopped off at a soapstone 'factory' the following day and part of the tour was outside close to the street, where a few people gathered not too far off to have a good look at us. But weird, not going to lie, and is taking some getting used to...all very interesting though! 

The living conditions 

The living conditions are, quite frankly, appalling: houses that are little more than tiny shacks made out of whatever people can find; dusty earthen paths carpeted in litter and huge piles of rubble; rubbish burning in the streets; medical centres advertised with dirty, handwritten signs; tiny colourful shops, hardware stores and pharmacies protected from the elements sheets of corrugated metal; gaping holes in the pavements...the list goes on. Towns and villages look more like building sites - you really feel those miles between the squalor here and civilisation at home. 

When the bus goes through these villages, some people smile and wave, some look angry and others look bewildered. It's such an eye opener just driving through these places - I knew conditions were bad but it's still shocking to see it in person; we have it pretty good back home. 

We made a half hour stop in a Masai Town before going on the game drive through the Masai Mara and that was honestly quite enough. I said in a previous post that there are some places you choose to travel to where you just want to scarper in the other direction - and fast. This is definitely one of them. It's scary: there are armed guards outside the banks, guards outside the supermarket who scan your backpack and the roads are absolute chaos - you just have to go and hope they slow down! Throw in squat toilets, persistent flies and equally persistent street vendors and you have a fairly rounded idea of my worst nightmare - eeek. Quite glad we're keeping mainly to the wilderness and the wildlife!