Thursday – July 8 – Port Victoria to Kakamega
Well, I only thought we were leaving in the morning. We were supposed to have a boat ride around Lake Victoria starting at 8am, but we didn’t even have breakfast until 9am. It turns out the toilet in the house Casey and the gang were sleeping in leaked over night. And by leaked, I mean the entire house had about 2 inches of water on the floor. The only reason they woke up was because Casey screamed out in pain because of a severe leg cramp (he’d been febrile and had diarrhea for a week – we think he got both a staph infection and some other bacterial infection from those samosas). So we were delayed.
No one seemed to know whose idea it was to have the boat ride, but there we were at 10am, ready to take our “30-45 minute boat ride” around Lake Victoria. We got on the boat at 10am. We got off the boat at 12:30pm. It was really not that interesting, but at least I can technically say I went to Uganda, as we crossed into Ugandan territory on the water. Yay for another country!
So after the boat ride, we headed back to the houses to pack up and hopped on a mutatu back to the interchange all together. That was a pretty relaxing ride actually. Pleasant air, plenty of space on the mutatu, happy chatting with all of our group. Once we got to the interchange, Casey, Eileen and Dani headed back to Kisumu because they were going to try to go spend a few days in Somalia. Yes, Somalia. They knew a business man who was apparently going to get them in the country for a night so they could say they’ve been there. Needless to say, I did not care to join them.
Stephanie and I decided that we were going to go do some touristy stuff, heading first to Kakamega National Park (the only jungle ecosystem in Kenya, with lots of monkeys and some amazing bird species diversity) and then to Nakuru National Park for a game drive.
Our “3-ish hour journey” to the town of Kakamega ended up being a 7 hour trip on 5 different mutatus. But thankfully, people were plenty nice to us on these trips. I think there is something about two girls traveling alone in places that rely heavily on tourism dollars. We might have paid a max of KSh50 too much for each ride, but every time, mutatu drivers kicked people out of the front two seats so we could remain un-squished on our trip.
We arrived at Kakamega around 7pm, grabbed the first truly hot shower I’d had for the entire trip and headed down stairs for some food and drinks. Dinner was steak and steamed veggies and french fries! Stephanie and I decided that we should have a few vodka & cokes, and ended up getting a little tipsy drinking vodka & cokes and playing cards for a few hours. Such a fun way to spend an evening!
Friday – July 9 – Kakamega Forest
We woke up around 8am, took HOT showers, grabbed our free breakfast (toast, jam, fried eg, fruit, fruit juice, coffee) and made our way to Kakamega Forest. We had to take 2 boda-bodas to the park which was about 20km away from our hotel. Boda-bodas are motorbikes that one person rides on the back of. They were only scary for the first 10 minutes or so, but then I relaxed, held on and enjoyed the really bumpy ride. Weirdly, on the way back to the hotel from the forest, I got some very weird blister or friction wounds on the knuckles of my thumbs and for the life of me I can’t figure out how I got them. They’re going to scar, I’m sure. But at least its a really neat story. “Hey, Laura. How’d you get those matching scars on your hands?” “Well, I was riding on the back of a boda-boda to Kakamega forest in Kenya…”
My boda-boda driver, Smith, was our Kenyan Wildlife Service Guide. This guy knew his birds and trees and monkeys. He knew the history of using the trees for medicines; he knew the Latin names for everything; he knew bird calls and behaviors and quizzed me on some of them because I told him how much I wanted to learn. It was so cool. We saw a ton of monkeys, which made Steph happy, and I saw a ton of birds with a very knowledgeable guide. All in all it was a wonderful 5 hours in the one surviving Kenyan jungle.
After the Kakamega trip, Steph and I had lunch back at the hotel, played some cards to kill an hour, and headed off to the bus station to catch the 5:30pm bus to Nakuru. We picked this bus so that we could be in to Nakuru well before 11pm, so as not to be out and about too late. The bus ended up leaving at 6pm and we arrived in Nakuru at 2:30am. We stopped for what seemed like 3 hours in Kisumu at the bus interchange and then we got stuck in a big traffic jam trying to get out of the parking lot.
Steph and I both fell asleep on the bus, but when we stopped for a designated bathroom break, Steph panicked because we didn’t know if we were in Nakuru or not. So she ran up to the front of the bus to ask the driver and some how talked him in to dropping us off right at the door step of our hotel! More and more I’m thinking that the right way to not get entirely screwed over in this country is to travel as just a couple of girls backpacking around. They might charge you just slightly too much, but they’re going to protect you from anything serious. Of course at this point, Steph and I crashed straight to sleep.
Saturday – July 10 – Nakuru
We woke up at 8:30 or so and got hot showers again! We were very excited about the hot showers until we realized that our toilet didn’t flush. Oh well, we were only there for one night and after the crap-tastic accommodations in Port Victoria, we could tolerate this room pretty well. We got our free breakfast in a little cafe and then found a driver to take us around Nakuru National Park and Game Reserve. Of course, he tried to completely screw us over on price, but I called Rennatus, who yelled at the guy and got him to lower his price by KSh1000 and got us 3 more hours of driving service.
Nakuru was awesome. We saw water buffalo, zebra, giraffes, rhinos, hippos, lions, and the remains of a leopard’s kill in a tree. That along with tons of fantastic birds.
The park was totally amazing. We had a baboon jump in our car because we had food – he sat in the front seat of the car for a minute or two! It was crazy, and a little scary – baboons are mean little creatures.
Giraffes crossed the road mere feet from our car – where I was sitting out the window taking photos. I could probably have touched one of the giraffes had I wanted to. We even got to see lions, which are apparently rare to see at Nakuru. Unfortunately, there weren’t any elephants at Nakuru, but I saw plenty of Asian elephants when I was in India in the summer of 2009, so I’m not too heart broken. Although they would have been neat for Steph to see.
Now you’re probably wondering why we didn’t go to the Masai Mara Game Reserve. It turns out that it’s exactly the peak of the wildabeest crossing right now, which lasts only for 2 weeks per year. It’s apparently a very National Geographic type event, with literally millions upon millions of wildabeest crossing the Serengeti. Unfortunately, this amazing event means lots of people want to come. Lots of people means really inflated prices. The cheapest, ‘local-rate’ accommodations that we could find were over US$1,000 per person per night. So we had to skip it. It’s now something that’s on my bucket list to do at some point in my life, but I need income first. (Unless one of you want to take me?)
After the tour of the game reserve, we headed to our hotel, grabbed another hot shower and headed out to a bar called Tidys in Nakuru. We got an incredibly nice guy named Peter to drive us out there (like 25km from where we were staying), wait for the end of the game, and drive us back to the hotel. Such a nice deal. We met up with Rennatus, Mike and Megan at the bar and had some drinks and watched the Uruguay-Germany game. What a sad game. I love my Forlan.
So at the pub, Stephanie, all of 19 years old, drank way too much and ended up getting sick. I wasn’t really paying attention but I think she was trying to keep up with me and Rennatus’s drinking. That was a silly move for me to try (although I was no where near any kind of black-out or danger level, but you definitely didn’t want me driving a car…), and a ridiculous move for Stephanie to try. I sobered up really quickly once I realized she was sick, and we got Peter to take us home. I’m a little mad she made me miss my last shot to see Forlan in his sexy socks, but oh well. I had lots of fun with the gang while it lasted plus I got some sleep.