My Europe trip finished before I knew it and I’ve already moved onto my Africa trip! Actually, once I reached my last destination in Europe (Prague), everything started to go downhill so I think I was almost relieved to get back to London. The last time I posted, I was in Belgrade, Serbia, which was really nice but also really hot! During the last week of my trip, it was a constant 33 degrees (except in Prague, where it often just rained). I did the walking tour in Belgrade and then I spent the rest of the day exploring the city. I had limited myself to 20 pounds per day (including accommodation) during my entire trip, and it got more and more difficult as I got further north. This was only the beginning of my struggles in trying to keep up with my daily limit.
On Tuesday morning, I had to catch a 7am train to Budapest. This was the first time during my entire trip when I took a train, and it also ended up being the only time. A bus ride was 6 hours and a train ride was 8 hours, but the train was cheaper so I opted for the longer trip. I ended up getting an entire Harry Potter carriage to myself, which I was so thankful for but after 45 minutes, a guy from South Korea asked if he could sit with me. I said yes, although I was somewhat disappointed. Then, he continued to talk and talk nonstop! For those of you who know me, I hate mornings, and I hate talking to people in the morning, especially when I haven’t had my coffee. I struggled for about an hour and excused myself so I could go find the restaurant carriage. As I walked over, I noticed that every other carriage was completely empty… this guy came specifically looking for someone to talk to! I wondered if it would be rude if I went and grabbed my stuff and moved to a different carriage, and decided against it. I endured his conversation for hours, even when the train stopped randomly for over and hour and a half – increasing our total time to ten hours! When I finally got to Budapest, I was not disappointed! Oftentimes, I don’t like hearing how much other people liked or disliked a city because it builds up my expectations and I end up being disappointed. Budapest is a city that I constantly hear about but it didn’t disappoint whatsoever! The architecture everywhere is absolutely beautiful, and I instantly had the feeling, “I could live here.” I went on my usual walking tour the next day, and then had lunch with some of the people on the tour. I then spent the rest of the day walking around and trying to stay cool by spending time in the stores. The next day, I was really wanting to go to the thermal baths since it was supposed to be another hot day, but it would cause me to go over my budget. I therefore decided to go for lunch at an amazing soup & sandwich spot called Bors Gasztro Bar. I then decided to walk to the city’s island, where I could sit by the musical fountain for hours and hours (for free!). The fountain continued throughout the day, but the music only happened for about 15-20 minutes every hour on the hour, and the fountain and music were synchronised perfectly! I stayed for about three hours before heading back to my hostel to have dinner.
On Friday, I took a two-hour bus ride to Bratislava, Slovakia. These buses (RegioJet) were better than most European planes I’ve been on! We each got our own TV with a selection of movies, and you could order food or drinks, and have as many complimentary coffees/teas/cappuccinos as you wanted! The time went by extremely fast and I got there just in time to do an evening walking tour – the communist tour. It was one of my favourite walking tours because the girl was so passionate about the subject and knew her information really well. The next morning, I went on the actual city walking tour, which was the history of Bratislava. It was quite interesting to hear how peaceful most of their protests were, and how they broke away from Czechoslovakia. Bratislava had also lost most of its Old Town because they had to decide which city they would preserve – Prague or Bratislava (and they obviously chose Prague). However, I still think Bratislava is quite charming and I enjoyed my time there. That day, they had a music festival happening so I was able to watch some live music and enjoy my time in the sun. The next day, I wandered across the river (over their famous UFO bridge) and spent some time in the park. It started pouring later that afternoon so I spent the rest of my time in the hostel.
On Monday, I went to my last destination – Prague. I took the same type of bus so I got to watch movies during the trip. However, I started to feel a bunch of pressure right around my nose. Halfway through the trip, the bus driver stopped for a bathroom break and as I got up, the pressure increased and I had an extreme pain go through my nose and forehead. (Warning: too much information up ahead!) When I went to the bathroom and bent over, liquid came streaming out of my nose – it was like someone had turned a tap on! It filled up my hand and it felt like a nosebleed but when I looked down, it was just like water. I then went to my phone to figure out what was happening and the majority of posts said it was brain fluid!! I then started freaking out and wrote my doctor friend in Canada (thanks Raman!) who assured me that it was only sinusitis and I had nothing to worry about. I got to Prague and decided to take it easy that evening since my head was still hurting and I still felt stuffed up. The next morning, I woke up to some bites on my arms, which made me somewhat concerned. The bites continued to add up each morning during my time in Prague – mostly on one side of my body. That morning, I took my last walking tour, which was also interesting hearing the Czech side of Czechoslovakia, and then explored the east side of the city. Wednesday morning was when everything started to go downhill. I tried to check in to my flight online and it wouldn’t let me. I then called the airline and he replied that my booking had been cancelled and I didn’t have a seat on the flight. “Umm.. excuse me?” He said I’d have to call Expedia to sort it out, and didn’t seem willing to help out any further. The thing that ticked me off about this was that at the beginning of May, I had gotten an email saying that my booking was cancelled and if it was an error, I should phone them. So I phoned them and the guy basically just laughed and said I had nothing to worry about and my booking was still there! Well, apparently not… I called Expedia and he said I didn’t have a seat on the plane and he’d try to sort it out. He asked if I wanted to stay on the line or get a call back, and he said it could take 5 minutes or an hour. I opted for a call back and I couldn’t even say bye before I started crying in the middle of the cafe. About an hour later, I got a call saying everything had been sorted out (thank goodness!), and I should wait an hour before trying to check in again. I went to check in when he said, but it still wouldn’t let me! I called the airline and they said I’d have to wait until I got to the airport. Someone else I met while travelling said the same thing had happened to him and then when he showed up at the airport, they told him that there weren’t any seats available, so I was paranoid that was going to happen to me. I tried to keep myself occupied by going to the other side of the river and exploring the castle grounds. The next morning, I made my way to the airport. I walked to the nearest metro station in the pouring rain, only to find out that the station was closed. I then had to take a tram to the next station, and eventually I made it to the airport. The weird thing about this airport is that they had security right before each gate. Therefore, if you wanted to eat at a restaurant or buy a bottle of water, you’d have to get it sealed before boarding the plane. I went through security and bought some water from a vending machine, and waited to board. They finally started boarding us when we were supposed to be leaving and then when about half the people were on the plane, one of the security guys came from the plane and started yelling at the flight attendants in Czech. They then stopped checking people in, and everyone who was on the plane had to get back off. They announced that we would find out more information in an hour. Great! Since it was lunch, I decided to go eat but I had to leave the gate, meaning I’d have to re-enter security with my bottle of water. I asked if it would be okay and the guy said he’d remember me. I went and got some goulash and then when I went to re-check in, the security guy was just leaving! The new lady seemed pretty pissed off that I was trying to bring a bottle of water in, but she put it in her box thing, saw it was safe, and let me bring it in. I boarded the plane and they announced that they were waiting for the go-ahead to start flying. We waited while sat down for over an hour, and we were 20 minutes short of getting compensation by the time we finally left (I swear they do that on purpose). By the time I got to London, I was physically, mentally and emotionally drained. And I was seriously questioning all of the bites on my body, which I was hoping weren’t from bedbugs. I waited in the long line to get through passport control and then went to get on the bus that I had prebooked. However, because the plane was so late, the driver said my ticket was no longer valid and I’d have to buy a new one. By that time, I was just annoyed and mad, and I stubbornly decided to wait for four hours until I could use my other bus ticket (which I had bought for my cancelled flight). However, I realised that I’d probably spend the same amount on food while waiting as I would on the bus ticket, and decided to just take the bus anyway. I got to my hostel, got some food, and then went to bed. My bug bites continued to swell over the next two days and became at least the size of a dime and were bright red. I became more and more concerned, and questioned everyone I met on whether they were bug bites or not. That Friday was the Phil Collins concert! The doors opened at 2 so I headed over for 2:30, and then there were five concerts. The concert was in Hyde park, so there weren’t any seats but everyone sat on the grass between concerts and then stood during the performances. After the first performance, a mother and daughter (who was about my age) came and sat beside me and I noticed a Canada flag on their backpack. They then pulled out a deck of cards, which was also Canadian. I couldn’t help but ask, and I found out that they were from Vancouver, doing a trip in Italy and Germany, and flew to London just for the Phil Collins concert. It was nice to see some fellow Canadians, and the night was so good, it helped keep my mind off of everything else. Phil Collins’ voice is still just as good as ever, but he had to use a cane on stage and he sat in a chair during the entire performance. His 16-year-old son was his drummer, which was pretty cool! Saturday was Canada day! There was a huge get-together at Trafalgar Square from 12-8, so I headed over for 12:30. I waited for one of my former flat mates to show up with her girlfriend, and then we stood in the extremely long line for Poutine. They had one line to order and one line to collect, and it took us about an hour and a half just to get through the order line so we got to know the people around us quite well. However, once we got closer to the front, we noticed there were tons of people trying to butt in line, so we had to stay glued to the person in front of us. Sam and I basically stood as a human wall so that people couldn’t get through. There was one point when I turned and told everyone that no one would be getting in the line because we’ve been waiting our turns and no one would be let in. Then when I got to the front, someone tried to cut right in front of me, so I had to say, “No, all of us have stood in line for an hour and a half so you’re going to let us go first,” which she did. If London’s taught me anything, it’s to have a backbone! I don’t like anyone getting in the way of me and my Poutine! Anyway, we finally got the ticket to order and then had to get in the collection line, which took another half hour. However, our two hour wait was totally worth it! The Poutines were delicious! Apparently the line to get to Tim Horton’s was also over two hours, so I decided I’d have to wait a few more weeks to get my iced cappuccino. One of the event coordinators said that there were 69,000 people who attended Canada day! I also found out that the Grey Cup was there! I stood in line for 2-3 hours during a blades game to see the grey cup and when I had gotten to the front, the Roughriders said, “okay, we’re done” and walked away with the Cup. This time when I went, there were five people in line so I easily got a picture! After we finished our Poutines (and my flatmate’s friend shared a Nanaimo bar!), Kim called and said she arrived. I met up with her and her friends, who I had met before at Thanksgiving, and we spent the rest of the day drinking Sleeman’s Honey Brown (until it ran out). We went out for dinner at Nando’s (a popular chicken place in the U.K.), and then we bought alcohol and stood on the street in front of the Canadian pub (the Maple Leaf), where hundreds of other Canadians were hanging out. We stayed out until about 10pm and then I headed back to the hostel.
On Sunday, I had made plans with my flatmate to pick up my mail so I had also made plans to meet up with one of my co-workers for coffee in that area. She also didn’t know what my bites were, but suggested I go to the pharmacy to ask. I got them checked and the pharmacist said they weren’t bedbugs, and I probably got them cause I was sleeping right next to an open window in Prague. I also got a message from my flatmate, who said that she couldn’t be at the flat anymore cause she slept over at her friend’s house, and could I come the next day instead. Super annoying since it costs my five pounds every time I go there, and I was already in the neighbourhood. I was also planning to drop off my Europe suitcase and pick up my Africa suitcase from Kim the following day, but she wrote and said she didn’t feel comfortable taking my Europe bag and couldn’t risk getting bedbugs in her flat. This was completely understandable but also extremely inconvenient, and I was getting to the point where I just wanted to go back to Canada because nothing seemed to be going right. I called my parents in tears and they reassured me that everything would work itself out. Lucky for me, I was able to find a company that would pick up my suitcase and then drop it off when I needed it again. However, it needed to be packed in a box so they’d have to deliver the box, then I’d have to pack the box, and they’d collect it the following day. The soonest they could deliver the box was in two days, meaning I wouldn’t actually be there when they collected the box. Lucky for me, my hostel was really accommodating and said I could leave the box with them and they’d make sure the delivery man got it.
I went to bed and the next day, I went to the bank to order the money I’d need for my African trip, which I’d have to pick up the following day. I then stopped at Primark to pick up some clothes for my trip, and then I made my way to my flat. My flatmate wrote me that morning saying she wasn’t able to come to the flat and her boyfriend would come at 4:30. I wrote my flatmate to tell her I was on my way, heard nothing, wrote her when I was at our station, still nothing, and then walked to the flat and called her when I was there. She said she was just about to message me and her boyfriend was on his way. 20 minutes later, he finally showed up and I got my mail. However, the letter I was expecting for taxes wasn’t there! I headed to Kim’s to pick up my backpack for Africa, which was also quite stressful because I had packed things in different bags and had to remember where everything was located and if I forgot anything (I’ve already realised I’ve forgotten quite a few things). Tuesday was my last full day in London, and the waiting day (which was kind of inconvenient). I had to wait for the box to arrive so I could pack my suitcase, so I went to do laundry, then went to pick up my money at the bank, and then did some last clothes shopping. Finally, my box had arrived! I packed everything up and left it with the hostel, and then headed to my other hostel, which would be closer to the bus station.
The next morning, I had to get up at 4:30 so I could make it to the bus station by 6, and head to the airport. My flight left at 10am and was about 7 hours to Dubai. I was able to watch three movies, and then I had a five hour layover in Dubai. Everything in Dubai was so expensive! Even the burgers at McDonald’s were 10 dollars! I avoided buying anything there and waited to eat on my next flight to Nairobi, which was five hours. I finally got there at 5:40am and then had to wait to get my Kenyan visa, which took at least an hour. This cut back some of my layover there, and then I had to re-check in and catch my 50 minute flight to Mombasa, which ended up being 20 minutes late. I arrived in Mombasa at about 10:30am but when I went outside, my pre-ordered taxi wasn’t there! I asked to use someone’s phone and called the hostel, who said I’d have to ask for another taxi and he’d cover the cost. What I didn’t realise was how long the taxi would take. By the time I go to the hostel, it was about 1-1:30pm! However, the taxi driver kept doing errands – stopping at the tire shop to get his tire fixed, stopping at the gas station twice, etc. It should have only taken 1.5 hours but it took way longer. I was exhausted by the time I got to the hostel, but the gave me an upgrade since the taxi didn’t come, which was great! I slept in an amazing treehouse, meaning I had to climb up and down a ladder in order to enter and exit, but it was so cool! I loved being able to sit on the private deck and watch the monkeys jump from tree to tree. The owner of the hostel is Canadian, and he also owns two other properties close by, so I was allowed to walk over to the hotel and use the pool or take advantage of the beachfront location on the Indian Ocean. Every night at 7pm, the bushbabies would come out so we could feed them bananas; it was so cool! I ended up getting 11 hours of sleep on each of the first two nights that I was there – I was obviously exhausted from all of the travelling! During the day, I just relaxed by the pool and read my book. It was a much needed relaxing holiday! On Sunday morning, I had to take the 1.5 hour taxi ride back to the airport, only to find that my flight would be delayed an hour and 40 minutes. I finally made it to Nairobi at about 4pm and I got to meet a few people who would be going on the tour with me. This time, I slept in a tent-like 8-person dorm room, which got quite cold at night! Even though Nairobi is quite hot during the day (about 26 degrees), it goes down to about 12 in the nighttime since it’s their winter right now. And this is one of the warmer places! I might have to buy a few extra blankets to survive the nights. Today, I got to go to the Giraffe Centre to feed some giraffes, and then we went to the elephant orphanage, where they raise elephants until they’re about three years old (since they wouldn’t be able to survive without the milk of their mother), and then they reintroduce them back into the wild. They have 26 elephants right now, but they said they can get up to 20 elephants each year. Although some of the mothers are killed by natural causes, most are killed due to poaching for ivory, which causes these babies to grow up without a parent. It’s quite sad! They said that the best way to help is to avoid buying products made of ivory, so I’m passing this message along for everyone to make their own decisions on the subject. Tomorrow, I’m officially starting my African trip and we’ll be leaving quite early in the morning to start the 7-hour drive to our next destination in Tanzania. I’ll try to update as much as I can, but I don’t think we’ll have much access to wifi. Hope everyone’s doing well! Love always
Another Day in Paradise – Phil Collins