Friday, September 24, 2010

Mon 13th Sept - Tanzanian Immigration

What a performance! Bureaucracy on steroids!
Ian and Fritz both had their entry visa for Tanzania already - how come my peregrine lady didn't recommend I got the visa before getting to Tanzania - would have been so much easier!
So heres how the Tanzanian immigration thing worked
I filled in the entry visa form - which is 3 sheets of carbon paper - I queue up to hand it to a bloke who stamps it, hands it back to me and sends me across the road to another immigration building where I have to pay the $25 USD entry fee.
Now Tanzania only accepts USD notes that are made after 2004 - I didn't know this and just handed over some  notes only to have them rejected by the counter official. Then I had to rummage around to find some shiny new notes. That done, the official then disappeared for 5 minutes to find some change then came back and stamped the visa form, took one sheet of it and sent me back across the road to the original building to get the visa. 
I then queued at a different window to hand the stamped form to the immigration officer - there were 6 of them behind the counter but only 2 windows were open - who looked suspiciously at my passport and handed it to another person who scanned it. I then was told to wait 'over there' until my name was called at which point they took a retina scan. I had to wait 'over there' again until my name was called again at which point I finally got my passport back with my entry visa - this all took about 45minutes....

Note to self - when going to Africa or any developing country, get all visas beforehand!

so then it was back onto the bus for more bone shaking

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Mon 13th Sept - Kenya

I get jerked awake all of a sudden - we've turned off the highway and are now bumping over what was formerly probably quite a good road - except that now its the potholes that are keeping it together! No wonder its going to take 8 hours to drive 450kms - we're weaving along at about 10km/hour trying to find a less holey parts of the road that won't rip out the axles! 

4 Wheel Drive...heard of it anyone?...anyone?

The countryside we're going through is in some ways similar to outback Australia - its desperately dry and dusty, the vegetation is very scrubby and sparse. As we pass through small towns it really hits me just how poor this country really is - most of the buildings are in a very bad state of repair, empty market stalls with torn plastic sheeting as 'roofing' lean at crazy angles looking like the next puff of wind will blow them over, there are women selling some fruit and vegetables on blankets on the ground right by the road - so every vehicle that goes by covers them in dust. Every electricity pole is leaning and has a mad web of cables leading to shacks made of corrugated steel or dried cow dung. There are skinny kids herding scrawny goats along the road, women carrying bundles of clothes or water barrels on their heads and the most common sight I see is groups of men sitting on their motorbikes or under a tree - doing nothing. The men don't appear to do anything. and those that have motorbikes - the bikes are all spotless and shiny!

In some of the towns we pass through its obviously market day and then everyone is out and about, its noisy and busy and the women are all very colourful - the women I found were always dressed beautifully in very bright print robes - and how they kept the whites, white in all the dust I have no idea!

The road system in Kenya is a crazy paving of nice smooth empty well built tarmac sections that come to an abrupt halt and we get diverted off onto a dirt track that runs parallel to the marked out highway yet to be built. On some sections we saw lots of constructions workers doing what construction workers the world over do....stand around talking about what to do and who should be doing it! :-)

its like each town has the responsibility for building a bit of highway, then when it gets too far away from the town no one can be bothered to link it to the next towns bit of highway....

As we get nearer to Tanzania we drive through Masai country - cows are the kings here, they are still a measure of a persons wealth and status - so no more scrawny goats and plenty of beautiful hump backed  masai cows. If the cows were crossing the road or being herded along the road - we gave way

The deeper we went into Masai territory the more the culture was present. The women wore traditional dress which is very bright and looks like tartan really - most of the women are also adorned with lots of silver jewelery. The traditional round houses made from dried cow dung were present amongst newer western style housing

We finally got to the border with Tanzania about 5 bone shaking hours after leaving Nairobi, just had to get the exit visa's - only 1 form to fill in, 1 queue that took about 20 mins then we had our retinas photographed, our passport stamped then back into the bus to drive to the Tanzanian side of the border (all of 10 yards!) where we had to get our entry visas.

Mon 13th Sept - Meet the group and Nairobi 'rush' hour

Up bright and early - feeling a bit better after a decent nights sleep, I was planning on having a nice hot bath, but the alarm call jsut went off which means I only have 1/2 hour to pack and get to brekky.
definately going to have the biggest brekky I can manage as I have no idea when or if we'll be stopping for lunch and after being used to 5-6 meals a day, thats going to be a bit of a shock to the system!

Ok get to reception for 7am - its bedlam - people everywhere, bags in piles and all over the floor - there's a line of tour vans outside....and....
no sign of Peregrine.

Am not filled with confidence about Peregrine right now - hope this isn't an indication of how the trek is going to work....
I find a peregrine bus in amongst the line and there is a chap coming towards me who looks like an Abdul and he has another bloke with him - phew, could this be part of my group?
So the other bloke is Ian, a mancunian pom who lives in Caulfield - cool.

I tell Abdul that I have to check out and go and join a queue at the desk - there are only 3 people behind the desk today and all are either shuffling bits of paper, talking amongst themselves or on the phone - is there anyone doing checkouts?
turns out the only person who can do the check out is the bloke in the currency cashiers box. 
This is taking forever - I can see Abdul is getting impatient, so I apologise, but he's cool and tells me 'to be free'.

When I finally check out (took 25 minutes to do the 3 people in front of me!), I get given a piece of paper which I then have to hand to the security guard at the hotel no idea what the point of that is!

Bureaucracy rules!

On the bus is Ian and also Fritz, a german who lives in Sydney. Apparently there was supposed to be a 4th person, but they haven't arrived, so we set off out into African rush hour - crazy world! we crawl along a jammed 4 lane highway at slower than walking pace - how do I know this? because there's people walking along our lane amongst all the cars! 
there are cars trying to change lane and blocking the few cars that are able to move - strangely enough nobody is leaning on their horn - its like nobody is in a hurry to get anywhere (just as well really!) if this was Melbourne, you wouldn't be able to hear yourself think for the horns!

After about an hour, we're still crawling - I'm fading again, my chest is tight and wheezy so I figure a snooze is the way to go...and promptly crash.

Peregrine do exist!

Finally, I've been here in Nairobi for 2 hours and the peregrine rep has just called to say meet the bus driver at 7am
now I can go to bed and get some sleep - boy do I need it.

Sun 12th Sept - Nairobi Hotel...eventually

Ok, I happened to notice some Europcar rental people holding up a sign with someones name on it (not mine!) - on the back of the sign it had the Peregrine logo - so I went and showed the chap all my documents that said I was supposed to be met and transferred, trouble is he knows nothing about it. At least he then went to his mates at the Europcar desk and after ringing about 10 of the 12 contact numbers finally managed to get hold of a Peregrine rep who told them to take me to the hotel

When I get to the hotel, the driver wants a tip - forgot about that bit, you have to tip for everything in Kenya! $5 USD was not enough so I gave the driver $10.

Check in - interesting - there's 3 people behind the desk doing nothing, there are people behind me waiting to check in and the guy who is checking me in disappeared about 5 minutes ago with my passport....

Finally after about 10minutes I'm checked in and have a key, but when I asked if there were other people from Peregrine here, nobody seems to know anything - great

So I'm strung out tired, sick, don't know if there is anyone from my group here, the hotel don't know anything about a peregrine group being here, I have no idea if there is a briefing tonight, I don't know if or what time the bus to Tanzania arrives tomorrow - frigging amateur hour - feeling very small and alone - not impressed so far with Kenya, or Peregrine

I want to cry.

Sun 12th Sept - Nairobi Airport - where is my contact person?

Am sick, exhausted, I ate the bread roll that was on my GLUTEN FREE (supposedly) meal and it turns out its was a NORMAL bread roll - bloody Emirates - now I'm going to have a coeliac issue in addition to this bloody chest/cough thing and 


There are a sea of signs and names, but not mine

What a shamozzle.

for fucks sake, I'm over this.

Sun 12th Sept (still) - more Dubai airport

Doh! didn't bring my travel towel - had to dry off using paper hand towels - interesting concept! do feel a bit better tho next stop I'll try and get into the British Airways lounge....

bugger, its closed.

ok have an hour to go, what now? I think food would be a good idea.

aaahhh....nachos and a cider...does it get any better than that? I think I just paid $40 for that meal, but its was sooo worth it - comfy armchair, sport on the big screen....can I just stay here? 
My row buddy from the last leg was full of joyous stories about Nairobi airport - so basically I shouldn't let anyone come within 10ft of me...hmm... thats going to be rather difficult - will be interesting to see if my south american travel smarts have been dulled by a decade of soft travel in UK, US and Australia...
am even more worried now - I really really hope the Peregrine people are there to meet me...

Sun 12th Sept (still) - Dubai airport

There is nothing worse than flying when you're sick - fortunately I caught a lucky break on this leg, one of the guys in my row got off at KL and nobody got on so had a vacant seat next to me - phew! I can curl up in 1/12 seat space so I managed to get some sleep. 
Landing is proving to be fairly torturous as my ears just will not pop, I've still got an atrocious headache and stupidly my panadol is all in my checked luggage.

ok 1st thing I need to do is get a shower and freshen up.

Sun 12th Sept - Kuala Lumpur airport

feeling crap - descending was extremely painful as I can't get my ears to pop so now have bunged up ears, a headache, my nose won't stop running and my chest is tight and wheezy. I didn't have an aisle seat, so I didn't sleep and to make matters worse as soon as I got on the plane in Melbourne I had a major nosebleed - blood everywhere! most unusual, I don't get nosebleeds so what triggered that I have no idea - poor guys sat next to me must have wondered what was going on!

so have 2 hours here, another 6 1/2 hours to Dubai, 2 hours in Dubai and 4 1/2 hours to Nairobi where god knows what awaits me....crap.

am feeling decidedly sorry for myself right now 


Sat 11th Sept

I made it to the Turf bar to watch the Bledisloe - feeling like crap so have dosed up on Lemsip and antibiotics. I'm really glad I'm at the pub - its nice to have a final curry and cider with a few friends before heading off on my 1st major solo trip for 8 years - am a bit nervous to say the least.

The rugby was a bit shonky in the 1st half - looked like the aussies were going to steal the show, but the Kiwi's decided to turn up in the last 20 minutes and gave the aussies a lesson.

Ok, 10:30 can't delay any longer, collect all my backpacks and belongings and head off to the airport on the bus. Before I drop my bags off, I have to try and stuff the purple nasty, my trekking pole and my sleeping bag into the big protective shell bag - after a bit of juggling its all in and strapped up and I head to the bag drop off queue. 

My backpack and gear weighs in at 17.5kg - not good, it means I'm going to have to trim something for going up the mountain as am only allowed 12kg - we'll cross that bridge when we get to it.

Bugger had my bottle of moisturiser confiscated at customs - its more than 100ml - damn it was a new bottle too, need some for the plane. Trouble is most of the shops are shut - its after 11, fortunately one of the souvenir shops is still open - apparently lanolin cream is a souvenir item! never mind it should do the trick for the next 24 hours.

all the club lounges are shut as well so I manage to find a row of 4 seats in a slightly darker spot in the departure lounge and get some sleep for a few hours - am exhausted already and I haven't even got on the plane!