LAST POST! (Zimbabwe, Victoria Falls, Botswana, Johannesburg, and Dubai)

Well, my trip is officially over and I can’t believe how fast it went! Two years in London has shaped so many memories and caused me to grow in so many ways. This past year, I’ve had many opportunities to do some pretty cool things! I went to Friends Fest, the Chocolate Show (again!), Aladdin, Kinky Boots (twice!), School of Rock, a rugby game, The Nutcracker Ballet, the Carlsberg Brewery, Stonehenge, the Birmingham Christmas Markets… I moved apartments, got a full-time job at an amazing school, went to the Lindt Chocolate Factory, had tea with cats, flew eagles and owls, saw the Grey Cup, fed giraffes and giant tortoises, pet elephants and lions, WALKED lions, jumped off a cliff twice, and went white water rafting… I went to too many concerts – Billy Joel, Ricky Martin, Empire of the Sun, Close Talker (twice!), Bastille, Red Hot Chili Peppers, The Kooks, The Beach Boys, Elton John, and Phil Collins… I went to 24 new countries (Romania, Germany, Denmark, Slovenia, Lithuania, Ukraine, Bulgaria, Macedonia, Kosovo, Albania, Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Hungary, Slovakia, Czech Republic, Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, South Africa, and United Arab Emirates) and 2 countries that I’ve already been to (Croatia and Italy). And I’ve met many new people and made many new friends along the way! Coming back home feels bittersweet, but I’m excited to see everyone once I get there.
I guess I need to catch everyone up on the last of my trip… I forgot to say in my last blog (because I thought it wasn’t necessary) that when we did the rhino trek, I wasn’t feeling very well. I found difficulty in climbing a hill and I started to feel really light-headed and hot. Towards the end of the trek, I had to speed walk back to our truck so that I could chug a bunch of water. When we went back to the camp, I was shaking and needed to eat something so I could raise my sugar levels. I didn’t think anything of it because after lunch, I felt a lot better. However, that night, I could hardly keep my eyes open during and after dinner. (Up ahead is a little too much information, so feel free to skip to the next paragraph if necessary). I headed to bed at 8pm and that night, I woke up at 2am feeling really sick and I ran to the toilet. Again at 5am, I felt sick and had to run to the toilet. This time after I was sick from one end, I turned around and threw up three times! I don’t remember the last time I’ve thrown up from being sick but it was horrible and I just wanted to cry. I skipped breakfast that morning cause my stomach couldn’t handle any food. After I threw up the first time, I ended up having to go to the toilet every ten minutes cause I was sick from the other end. The muscles in my legs were really achy and I had little energy. Lucky for me (not), it was a driving day (a long one) and I knew it was going to be horrible when within the first ten minutes of us leaving, I already had to go to the bathroom again. I curled up in a sleeping bag in the bumpy, back part of the truck (where the garbage can was, just in case) and I tried to sleep (and I think I succeeded for a short amount of time! Which considering I can never sleep in any type of vehicle, I felt was a great achievement). We stopped for a few bush toilets (aka peeing in the bush) but since I couldn’t trust my body at the time, I decided not to risk it. 
9 long hours later, we finally got to Victoria Falls! We had to sit through a briefing that went over all of the activities we could do and by that point, I was starving (which was a good sign since I hadn’t eaten all day). I ate some dinner and signed up for my activities, but my legs were still killing me and I was still feeling slightly lightheaded so I decided to stay in that night while everyone else went out for dinner. Luckily, I had some company while everyone was gone so I got to have some good conversations with a few people on the truck. My tour guide told me about how he had malaria twice and I was petrified that I had gotten it too. He said that the parasite is only active for 12 hours of the day so if I felt worse again the next day, we’d have to go to the clinic. My tentmate and I decided to upgrade to the dorm rooms while in Victoria Falls just in case I got sick again, and it only cost us $5 each per night so it wasn’t that bad! I went to bed at about 10pm and the next day, I felt great! I’m hoping my situation was just a bad case of heat stroke/dehydration, or something along those lines. That next day, I was signed up for the half-day adrenaline package, which included a flying fox ride, a zip line, and two gorge swings. I started off with the flying fox, which held me from my back so I basically did a superman flight over the gorge. It was so awesome to see how large it was, knowing that the side of the gorge that we were on was Zimbabwe and the opposite side was Zambia. I somewhat started to freak out when I stopped in the middle before they slowly started pulling me back, because I was just hanging there with no choice but to look down. The next one was the zipline, which was the easiest. Then was the gorge swing… it consisted of a 7-second freefall until the rope tensed up and then you’d just swing back and forth in the gorge. Since I had a small audience, I didn’t want to chicken out but I continued hesitating to jump off. The guide would say, “3.. 2…” and I’d be like, “Wait! Can you count down again?” “3..2..” “No, start from 10!” And then he just pushed me off! I screamed until I had no air left in me. I actually thought I was going to die but once the rope tensed up, the swing was so fun! And after I did it once, I went ahead and tried it a second time. I thought it would be easier (and it was to jump off) but the falling part was just as scary as the first time. My adrenaline was so high for a good part of the day! That afternoon, a few of us went to check out some of the markets (I found a Christmas tree ornament!) and then six of us went for high tea. It was the same as you would find in London – tea, scones, sandwiches and desserts, but the service wasn’t so great and the macaroons were stale 😦 . However, it was at a really nice hotel with a lovely view! That evening, we spent the night dancing; it was a great night!
The next day, I had no activities planned so a few of us decided to walk through the park of Victoria Falls. My body started aching again and I think it was because I was so tense during my cliff jumps the day before. It made it very difficult to do stairs though! Victoria Falls is the largest waterfall in the whole world, and it was quite spectacular to see! It took us about 1.5- to 2- hours to walk along the length of the park and it was impossible to not get wet. A few of us girls went to have slushies at a cafe that had a nice view of the gorge. Then, we met up with the rest of the group and we went to the Sunset Lodge, where we could have drinks while watching the sunset.  Because we had to leave for whitewater rafting at about 7 the next morning, I decided to have an early night. On Wednesday, I got up nice and early, and even ordered breakfast. However, by the time my breakfast came, I only had about five minutes until we had to leave for rafting. Therefore, I only managed to have a bit of my eggs and all of my bacon. We had to sit through an induction, which went over all of the safety rules and then we had to walk down into the gorge. The walk probably took about 15-20 minutes and I knew that going back up would suck. However, I was told that after rafting, we’d have a barbecue and then we’d walk up the gorge. The rafting trip included 19 rapids but we had to skip over a few of them because they were higher than class 5 (meaning extremely dangerous). It was my first time rafting and it was a lot of fun, but I started to lose all of my energy right after we got halfway through the rapids. Considering I didn’t have a full breakfast and we didn’t have lunch until about 2:30, I was completely worn out. When we finished rafting, they told us that we had to take our lifejackets, helmets, and paddles, and walk up the gorge so we could have our barbecue. I thought they were kidding! They warned us to avoid giving our paddles/lifejackets to anyone (there are people who wait at the bottom who offer to carry everything up for you) or we wouldn’t get them back. However, after about ten minutes of walking up the gorge, my legs had turned into jelly. I literally couldn’t walk up the gorge no matter how hard I tried. Someone ended up just grabbing everything from me without even asking and when I asked if we were close and he replied with, “Yes, we have about 15 minutes left,” I nearly just gave up. I’ve never been close to crying from physical exhaustion but that day, I was on the edge of tears and I was fully willing for them to just leave me there because I had no strength left in me. I think that with the combination of not having food that morning and my body and muscles still recuperating from being sick, it probably wasn’t a good idea to take part in those physical demands. The guy who was carrying my stuff had to take my hand and literally pull me up the rest of the gorge because I wouldn’t have made it up on my own. When I finally got to the top, I was so out of it. I went to get some food and all I wanted to do was burst into tears. I stared into space while eating and I couldn’t take part in any conversations until the energy started kicking in again. We got back to our hostel at about 3:30pm so I had a shower, and then a few of us went back to check out the markets one last time. I got one good deal, which I was happy with! We went back to the hostel and then a few of us went for dinner before I had another early night. Because it was our last night in Victoria Falls, most people stayed up and danced but I was completely worn out. 
On Thursday, we had to leave at 6am so that we could go to Kasane, Botswana. The border crossing was the easiest one we’ve ever done, so we got to the camp at about 9:30am that morning. We made breakfast and then we had the option to go on a game drive in the morning, and a game cruise in the afternoon. The prices ended up being more expensive than quoted so I decided not to go and instead, a bunch of us just hung out at the campsite for the afternoon. It was a nice, lazy day to have! The next morning, we had to get up early again to drive to Maun. It was my last full day with the group, and it was another long driving day. We finally got there at about 3pm and then we stopped at the grocery store so everyone could get food for their upcoming trip to the Delta. When we finally got to camp, the sun was setting so we quickly put up our tents and then I helped with preparing dinner. That night, I had to fill out feedback forms for the tour and get all of my stuff packed. Even though my flight out of Maun wasn’t until 2pm, I still had to get up and ready by 6am with the rest of the group, since the tent had to be packed up. We had breakfast and then I had to say my goodbyes to everyone else. There were only two of us leaving (the other one was Michelle from New Zealand) and most people were continuing their 73-day trips. After everyone left (including Michelle), I stayed at the hotel for a few hours until I had to go to the airport. I instantly felt lonely (which continued for the next three days). Even though I enjoy my alone time, I got used to being able to talk to one of 24 people whenever I felt like it and this time, I didn’t have that option. I caught a shuttle to the airport and then got on my flight to Johannesburg. At the beginning of the flight, a flight attendant walked down the aisle while spraying insect repellent! My flight was only two hours, and there was someone there to pick me up from the airport. I had heard a lot of negative reviews about Johannesburg because apparently there is still a lot of tension between black and white people, so I was told to always walk with someone and to not walk after dark. However when I got to the hostel, there were only two other people there (a couple) and I had a whole 12-person dorm to myself (hence my feeling lonely in Johannesburg). Johannesburg is absolutely huge – its area is four times larger than Greater London, and it has 12 million people! That night, I ordered a pizza to be delivered for dinner, I had a hot shower (which I didn’t have to share with any insects or frogs), I had a bed, and I got to watch two movies! I remember sitting in the hostel lounge just thinking about how bizarre it felt sitting on a couch and watching Rio while eating pizza. I bought a 2-day Hop On-Hop Off bus ticket so the next day, I used it and stopped at the Apartheid Museum. I spent about 2.5-3 hours there, where I learned about the history of South Africa and the separation between races. In 1913, they passed a land act, where 8% of the land was reserved for Africans while 92% was reserved for whites. In 1950, they passed the Immorality Act, which outlawed sex and marriage across racial lines. The 1953 Act prohibited different racial groups from using the same public facilities. When we entered the museum, we were randomly assigned whether we were black or white, and we had to enter through the correct door. In terms of schooling, the government would spent 40 on Africans and 644 on whites. The whites were taught regular school subjects – biology, history, etc. while the African people were basically trained to do slavework. African people weren’t allowed to vote and the whites were paranoid that if they gave the Africans too much power, they’d be taken over. I also learned about Nelson Mandela and how he was imprisoned for 27 years before finally being released and becoming president. It blew my mind to find out how long the Apartheid lasted for, and really made me realize how the British and European people took over so much land all over the world and caused so many others to suffer because of it. After the museum, I took the bus back to where I started and I walked back to my hostel, which took about a half hour. The next day, I did more of the bus tour. This time, I went to Soweto, which is a smaller community outside of Johannesburg, where a lot of the African people were sent to (because the whites didn’t want them to be in the cities). Soweto is where Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu grew up (on the same street!), so it was possible to tour Mandela’s house if we wanted to. After that, I went to World of Beer. It was about to close in an hour and I didn’t want to miss the final bus, so I decided to forego the tour and instead, just go straight to the bar. I had to pay 40 Rand (4 dollars) to get into the bar, but I got two drinks with it so it was quite a good deal! 

 

Tuesday was my last day in Johannesburg and I decided to just spend it in the neighbourhood that I was close to. It had a huge mall, as well as a market. The market was extremely expensive, since most of the items came from other parts of Africa (ex. Zimbabwe) so everything was a lot more expensive than all of the other countries I went to. I spent most of the day walking around the mall, and then I went back to the hostel to charge my phone before I had to head to the airport. My flight was leaving at 10:20pm that evening so I had to take an Uber to the airport, and then I flew to Dubai. I tried my hardest to sleep during my flight since I was arriving at Dubai at 8:20am in the morning and would have an 18-hour layover, but my body wouldn’t let me sleep! I arrived in Dubai and lucky for me, my tentmate actually lives there! So she picked me up from the airport and she showed me around the city. First, we went by the beach, where we had breakfast at Tim Horton’s(!). I was so excited, I bought everything I could. I didn’t know what the conversion rate was until AFTER I ordered so when I looked it up, I realized that I had spent $17 on Tim Horton’s. It was totally worth it though! I got an iced cappuccino, a half-and-half French Vanilla, an apple fritter, and 20 timbits. They asked if I wanted a regular or a large of both of my drinks so I said regular, and they were absolutely huge! I swear they’d be our extra larges in Canada. After breakfast, we went to The Palm, which is a man-made island that’s shaped like a palm tree (you’ve probably seen it in photos). It has a gorgeous Atlantis hotel at the end of the island, but we could only spend a limited amount of time outside since it was “feels like” 41 degrees. It was unbearably hot! We then went to Dubai Mall, which is the largest mall in the world. Just like West Ed, it has a skating rink, but it ALSO has a huge aquarium. We got to see the tallest building in the world as well – the Burj Khalifa. We went out for lunch/dinner at Cheesecake Factory, which ended up costing $27 for a lunch-sized pasta, but it was so good! Afterwards, it was about 4pm and Nicola had to go back home so I decided to go back to the airport. Even though I still had 10 hours to kill, I was quite tired since I hadn’t slept. I killed time doing crosswords in the airport and I even fell asleep for an hour right before boarding! The flight left at 2:45am and was 7 hours, and I (miraculously) fell asleep as soon as we lifted off. I slept through all of the snacks and got about 4.5 hours in! I woke up in time for breakfast and then we landed in London at 7:20am. I caught the bus back to central London and got to my hostel quite early. Since I couldn’t check in, I left my luggage at reception and then I went to Kim’s to get some more of my luggage. I stayed for a chat and by the time I got back to the hostel at 2pm, I was able to check in! I showered and then my other suitcase got delivered to the hostel so I could transfer everything from that suitcase into the one from Kim’s. I then went out for a couple of drinks with someone I met from the hostel before going back to Kim’s at about 10pm to get my last suitcase. I was finally moved out! The next day was my last day in London so I spent the entire time walking around – down Oxford Street, Tottenham Court Road, China Town, Leicester Square, Piccadilly Circus, and Bond Street, while feeling nostalgic and sad. Halfway through my walk, it started POURING (which I’ve learned to expect from London) and I welcomed it. For the rest of the evening, I finished packing all of my stuff so that I’d be ready to wake up at five the next morning. Today, I got up and requested an Uber but once he came, he said he wouldn’t be able to fit all of my suitcases in his car. I said that it’s been done before (and it has! I’ve done it twice in the exact same type of car!) and he said that he’d have to fold down the seat so I should order a bigger Uber. I was pretty upset since the other Uber took an additional 15 minutes to come, but he got me to the bus station right before the bus was about to leave and I made it to the airport! My flight ended up being delayed due to traffic control and we didn’t leave the tarmac until 50 minutes after we were supposed to leave. My flight is 9 hours and I have a 2 hour layover in Edmonton to go through customs (which may now be shortened if we arrive late), so hopefully I’ll make it to Saskatoon! Thanks to everyone who has kept up with my blog during the past two years; it’s always nice to hear feedback and know that people have been reading about my stories. Can’t wait to see everyone! Love always

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the Jungle (Zanzibar, Malawi, Zambia, and Zimbabwe)

I only have one week left of my tour! 😦 I’ve had quite a lot of fun since I’ve posted my last entry! On the first day in Zanzibar, it was very rainy for the first part of the day. We had a late lunch (not that we were trying to, but the restaurant service was beyond slow) and finished when the sun came back out at 2pm. I still had to get my laundry done but when I asked the hotel, they said that they charged per item. This meant that one pair of underwear would cost 500 shillings (which is only equivalent to about 25 cents American) but would definitely add up with two weeks of dirty clothes. I decided to just wash my clothes in the sink (which took about an hour) and then I spent the afternoon on the beach. About half of our group went on a booze cruise, where they got unlimited alcohol for $30, but my group decided to buy Smirnoff for $5 each and stay at the hotel. The pop was so expensive! Two 2-litre bottles ended up costing us $8!! (By the way, all of the dollar amounts refer to American dollars, so it would be even more in Canadian). That night, we had a dance party on the beach, which was a lot of fun! The next day was the first day that I didn’t get sick after a meal (yay!). Our group had come up with the name “The Diarrhea Club” with the slogan “Where Shit Happens” because all of us were constantly getting sick. That morning, I got up for breakfast and then spent the entire day on the beach. We had dinner as a group that night since a lot of people would be ending their trips the next day (including our tour guide). I had an amazing eggplant lasagna that night, and I got dessert as well! The payment for dinner took at least half an hour. They went to all 20 of us with a calculator, asked what we ate, looked at the menu for the price, and added it together so we could each pay individually. Because dinner ended so late and because we had an early morning the next day, we all went to bed right after dinner (after paying off our tabs). The payment of our tabs also took forever! We had to tell them our room numbers at reception, they phoned the restaurant who had to walk all of our receipts to reception, and then they added up all of the receipts using a calculator. Finally, we were able to go to bed! On Friday, we had to have everything packed by 6am and then we had breakfast and left at 7am. They had a 28-passenger van, so we had a 1.5-hour drive back to Stone Town and then caught the 9:30 ferry. The ferry was absolutely horrible that day! It kept rocking back and forth, and many people were carrying around puke bags. I don’t normally get sick on boats but that day, I was trying to keep myself occupied so I wouldn’t get sick. When we got back to Dar es Salaam, we joined a new group of people in a new truck for the rest of our trip. These people are doing a 73-day trip around Africa and were already together for about 33 days when we joined them. There were 12 of them and 12 of us so we made a full group again. In their group, they have some Americans, Kiwis, Canadians (from Whistler and Abbotsford), Belges, Australians, a Swede, and a German. Within a few days, we all integrated quite well together. That day, we were supposed to stay in Dar es Salaam but due to construction, they decided to travel a bit further in order to cut down our driving time the following day. We were able to do some shopping and we ended up finding KFC, which was so worth it! We drove to a place called Morogoro and found out that we’d have to leave early the next morning. It was already dark by the time we got there and I was on dinner duty so I spent most of my evening cutting vegetables. They have a chores rota on our truck so we’re put into groups and one day, we’ll make meals, another we’ll do dishes, then we’ll be security and make sure everything’s locked up, and then we’ll have to clean the truck out. It’s a good system and very well-organised – during the first week of our trip, our guide was just asking for volunteers and the same people would volunteer each time. The way that this truck worked, we’d often leave at 6 in the morning and stop on the side of the road at about 9:30 in the morning to set up the stove and make breakfast. It’s an interesting way of doing things but it’s hard not being able to have my coffee during the first few hours of the day! The next day, we drove just outside Iringa, to a place called Kisolanza, which was located at a Farm House. For lunch, we stopped in the middle of a random field and had cows walking 1 metre away from us while we were eating our food. We actually got to the camp at around 3 or 4 so we had some free time to shower and play card games. That location had 1GB of data (total) for internet and because everyone was trying to connect, it took way too long to look at anything. It gave everyone a good excuse to be social, although most locations have been giving us that opportunity lately. Because we would be crossing the border the following day, we had to leave the camp by 4am the next day!
On Sunday morning, that’s just what we did. We stopped for breakfast on the side of the road and we also did the same for lunch. Border control took us about two to two and a half hours to get into Malawi! We all had to fill in the forms and give $75 with our passports, and then we waited forever to get them back. We continued to our next destination but ended up stopping because we were close to getting a flat tire so they had to change it. This gave everyone an opportunity to have a bush pee, but it was difficult doing so in the dark when there were so many other people around! We arrived at our next location (Chitimba) after dark and we were apparently right by Lake Malawi but we couldn’t actually see it. We left at 8am the next morning to go to our main destination – Kande Beach on Lake Malawi. It was a gorgeous place! The lake itself takes up one third of the country so it’s absolutely huge, and the waves are humongous and can be quite dangerous.
The first night, I went to bed quite early because I was so exhausted from the previous nights. I ended up getting a solid 10 hours of sleep! The next day, we sat in the sun and then a bunch of us decided to go for a walk along the beach. As soon as we crossed an invisible line in the sand, the locals all joined us and somehow got us all separated so that we were walking with one or two locals each. Most of these locals were woodworkers and their main goal was to get you to buy some of their products, but they did quite well at starting a conversation and getting to know you first. At the end of the walk, I was already quite far from the rest of the group, and the guy I was with kept asking me to come see his shop so that I could place an order to be ready for the following day. He had shown me one of his paintings, which was a personalised map of Africa with the countries that we went to, and it was really nice! It was a painting that was made for one of my friends, so I figured she must have paid the same price that he offered me. He said it would be $35 for the painting and then he was going to design a wooden Christmas tree ornament for me as well, which would also be $35 but he’d give both of them to me for $60. While this was still quite expensive, I felt put on the spot since I had to make the decision right then, and I assumed that my friend had paid the same price. I agreed and he asked for ten dollars immediately so he could order the wood and get it sent over.  He also gave me two bracelets as a gift – one with Zambia colours and one with Zimbabwe colours. He then asked if I could take the painting to my friend (Kar), so I walked to the beach and showed everyone the picture, and when I told them I was going to pay $35 for mine, Susan said that Kar only paid $10 (she hadn’t paid yet). So I went to go find Kar to ask her how much she was paying and she said 18000 shillings, which is about 9 dollars. I had definitely been ripped off! We both decided to confront the guy together, so we went back and she said that they had agreed with that amount. He said it wasn’t enough and he’d rather take back the painting than take her money. So she gave the painting back and then I expressed my concern with getting ripped off but he just said that everything was being made new and it would be worth it. I went back to camp and asked everyone’s opinion (including my guide) and they all said to talk the price down. I was supposed to meet him at 2pm the next day so I was trying to decide whether I should go at all. Anyway, at camp, they spent the whole day roasting an entire pig, which we got to eat for dinner. It was really tasty! That night, our guide made really strong punch and we had a great night having a bonfire on the beach.
On Wednesday morning, some people in our group decided to do a village walk tour. We assumed it would take an hour, but it ended up taking over 2.5 hours! As soon as the gate of our campground opened, we saw a mob of salesmen and they swarmed around us, separating each of us once again. The person who I had talked to yesterday (MJ) found me quite quickly and he had my painting with him. He first showed me another painting, which he gave to me as a gift, and then he showed me my personalised painting, which clearly was the painting that Kar had given back. Kar is going to an extra country during her trip, so I could see that Namibia had been covered over and disguised as waves, and her name at the bottom was covered in white out and replaced with my name. I wasn’t too impressed but I didn’t say anything at that moment. He left us when we went into the actual village. However, after the salesmen left us, we were swarmed  once again, but this time by kids who wanted to hold our hands and get their pictures taken. It was quite overwhelming! In the village, we got to see the inside of a house, how they use their water pumps (both of which were donated by Canada), and we got to go into the school and medical centre. The average class size is 120 students, but it could go up to 250! And I thought my 33 class sizes were bad… The doctor said he gets about 200 patients per day, and about 3/4 of those cases are for malaria. After our tour through the village, we had to walk back to the camp, which took about 20 minutes. That was when all of the kids left and the salesmen came back. This time, MJ was back with my Christmas tree ornament, which was actually quite nice. He wanted to talk price since I had said that I felt like I couldn’t pay 60 dollars. He kept saying that everything was made brand new for me, which is when I said that the painting clearly wasn’t because it was redone. He kept denying it and then asked if he should bring Kar’s original painting so I said yes. Then he asked if he could see the painting so I took it out of my bag and showed him how Namibia was changed, as well as the name at the bottom. He said he could paint a new one and bring it, but I just said I was done. I said I didn’t want to hang up an ornament each year and think about how I was screwed over. Then I said he could keep the ten dollars and I walked away. I still ended up having the gift painting in my bag, as well as the two bracelets, which is probably what ten dollars would have gotten me, so I didn’t get completely ripped off! That afternoon, we had lunch and then a few of us stayed on the beach while the rest of the group went horseback riding. That evening, I was on dinner duty so we basically threw a bunch of stuff in a pot and added some leftover pico de gallo from the night before, and it tasted delicious! While I was cooking, one of my friends (Michelle) ended up getting caught in the riptide, which was pulling her further out. One of the people in our group (Kevin) was close to her and tried pulling her out but she kept pulling him under so he left her to go yell for help while she just tried not to pass out from constantly being covered by water. Luckily, an Aussie from another camp swam in and pulled her in about three quarters of the way, and then someone else came to help with the rest of the way. Needless to say, both of the people in our group were pretty shaken up, as well as physically exhausted. It was enough drama for the night!
We had to leave by 6am the next morning so I went to bed by 9. On Thursday, we packed everything up and then went on the road again. It was so nice to stay in one place for three nights, but now we would be going back to moving around every night. We stopped for breakfast at about 9, which I was in charge of again. We made a fruit salad with all of the fruit that we had (since it was starting to go bad), and then we made oatmeal to go with it. We had to cross the border to go into Zambia that day, and we got to the border at around 3pm. Luckily, it was the fastest border crossing ever! We didn’t even have to fill out a form; we only had to give our $50 and they gave us our visas. We ended up getting to camp in Petauke at about 7:30 so it was an extremely long driving day! We set up our tents in the dark and within about 30 seconds of being inside it, I was able to tell that we had gotten someone else’s tent because my eyes got itchy and my nose started running. I’m pretty sure that we got a tent that belonged to someone who had went horseback riding the day before. I was quite out of it for dinner, but took an antihistamine and I was fine when I went to bed. It was freezing cold that night! Definitely less than ten degrees, so I didn’t have the best sleep.
On Friday morning, we had breakfast at 5am and then left camp at 6am. We got to the capital of Zambia (Lusaka) at about noon and then we were able to go to Nando’s for lunch (an extremely popular restaurant in London). The food took quite long, but tasted good! We had about an hour to do grocery shopping but I didn’t have Zambian money since we were only there for a day. I also had my credit card locked in the safe so when I asked the cashier if they accepted American cash and he said no, I had to decide what was most important to buy with the little money that I had borrowed. I decided to not get alcohol or snacks for the upcoming houseboat trip and instead get a coffee travel mug since the handle on my mug had broken the day before. That was when my disappointment started. We got to our campsite at about 5pm and I set my mug to the side so it could be washed for the next morning, and then I went to shower before dinner. I went to grab something out of my bag after my shower (forgetting that my razor was there), and I ended up slicing the side of my finger. I then had to get dressed while trying to avoid getting blood all over everything, and then I went back to the tents so that one of my friends could play nurse and cover up my finger. We had dinner and then I went to find my mug and it was gone! I looked through all of the dishes and couldn’t find it. Because it was all I could afford to buy that day, I was not a happy camper (literally). That tiny incident finally made me reach my breaking point and when one of my friends asked if I was okay, I had to walk away so I could have a good cry. I think I just needed to have some “me time” since I had been spending 24/7 with 24 other people. I went to bed right after since I’m pretty sure I was overtired, and we got up at 5 the next morning, had breakfast at 6, and left camp at 7. We had to cross the border again to get into Zimbabwe and get to Lake Kariba, where we would be spending our time on a houseboat for the next two nights. The border crossing took us about two hours, and the Canadians were pretty disappointed when we found out that we had to pay $75 while everyone else paid $30. Not only that, but we weren’t allowed to get a double entry visa, so if we decide to do certain activities at Victoria Falls, we’ll have to pay another $75 to get back into the country. Once we crossed the border, we went straight to the houseboat, which was really cool! The bottom part was like being in a university dorm, with 2-person rooms down the hallway. It also had four bathrooms (with warm showers! -although we were only allowed to use two at a time for pressure purposes) and the kitchen. However, we didn’t ever have to use the kitchen because we got chefs for the duration of the houseboat! By the time we got everything put together, everyone was absolutely starving! We must have gotten on the boat at about 2pm and would have gladly had instant noodles for lunch. We ended up waiting until 4 to finally eat, which ended up being sausage rolls. As soon as we finished lunch, the drinking began. I didn’t have any alcohol but I luckily had some generous people in the group who were willing to share. We danced until dinner, which was at 9pm, and then most people went to bed right after dinner.
On Sunday, I woke up at 5 but stayed in bed until 6:30. We had coffee in the sun and waited until breakfast, which wasn’t until about 9:30. We then went on a game cruise; the group split into two boats and went around the shores to find animals. We found some elephants, hippos, and crocodiles, which was pretty cool! After that, we tanned on the boat and waited for lunch, which was again quite late – at about 2:30pm. Some of the people in our group had gone fishing at 6 that morning and ended up catching enough lunch for everyone – we each got our own fish and there were 25 of us! The fish was absolutely delicious, and we also got fries to go with it. We spent the rest of the afternoon lying in the sun and then went on another game cruise right before sunset. This time, there weren’t as many animals but we saw some crocodiles and hippos, and we got to see the gorgeous sunset. Once we got back, I had a shower and then we had dinner right at 6pm – I don’t think anyone was expecting it so early as it was the first meal we had on time! After dinner, the drinking started again and we danced the night away – it was a lot of fun!
Monday morning, I woke up just after 7:30, had coffee in the sun, and waited for breakfast. After eating, they took the boat into the middle of the lake so that we could go swimming. The water was so refreshing since the sun was quite hot that day. We spent some last-minute time in the sun before having lunch, packing up, and heading back to shore to get back to our truck 😦 I was so sad to leave the houseboat – I’ve missed being on the water! We stopped at a grocery store to stock up on snacks and then started our journey towards Antelope Park. That day, we stopped at Chinhoyi Cave National Park but didn’t arrive until after dark. We set up our tents and had a late dinner before going to bed, and it was absolutely freezing that night! Everything felt really damp (likely cause of the houseboat) and we changed altitude so fast, so it was my coldest night so far. On Tuesday morning, a group of us went to check out the cave. We had to pay three dollars to take a short walk down into the cave, which was filled with bright blue water. It was quite pretty! After our walk, we went to the grocery store to prepare our meals for the next three days, and then we drove the rest of the way to Antelope Park, where we spent three nights. Antelope Park was also quite cold so I spent most of my free time relaxing inside, playing cards and doing crosswords. At this location, there was horse crap all over the campground, and I was quite surprised to find a donkey next to our tent the first night. The next morning, I woke up to 7 horses just grazing outside our tent! The campsite also had a bunch of cats, which would come join us for dinner or cuddle with us in the cafe. Needless to say, I spent the entire three days having quite a bit of difficulty breathing. Antelope Park houses a lion conservation program, where they’re trying to breed wild lions from captive lions so that the cubs can eventually be released back into the wild. Most of the lions are from zoos or orphanages and will never be able to go back into the wild because they’ve had too much human contact. The company has started a four-stage program to allow these lions to live in as natural of an environment as possible, where they can still hunt game and build prides. One morning, I took part in a lion walk, which was such a cool experience! We walked with three 20-month old lions, which were basically full grown – two females and one male. We each had to carry a stick, which was used to show dominance and we had to abide by many rules, such as staying behind the lions, not crouching down, always staying with the group, etc. I was quite scared at first considering these lions weren’t being restrained in any way, but it was just like walking a dog! The lions would lead the way, and then they might get sidetracked by an impala or gazelle in the distance and run off, and then they might walk right beside you so you could pet them while walking, or they might just be bored of walking and lie down in the sun. It was such a cool once-in-a-lifetime experience; I never thought I’d be in such close proximity to a lion, let alone pet one!

 

On Friday morning, we left Antelope Park to go to Bulawayo, the second biggest city in Zimbabwe. We stopped to do some grocery shopping and then got to our campsite, which has a freezing cold pool and some very slow wifi (but the first time I’ve had wifi in over a week!). This morning, we went on a rhino trek, which was pretty awesome! The guides estimate that rhinos could only be around for up to five more years because people keep poaching them. The horn of the rhino is extremely valuable so poachers continue to skin off the faces of rhinos and leave the rest of their bodies. When we went to the national park to see the rhinos, there was someone walking around the park with a gun who is allowed to shoot any poachers that he sees. They said that they’ll catch and/or kill 20-25 poachers each month! We saw a mom and her baby, and we also saw a male rhino. We were less than 100 metres away but I think I was more scared about it than I was when I walked with the lions! Today, we’re spending the rest of the day relaxing and then we head to Victoria Falls tomorrow morning. Hope everyone’s having fun at home; be there in two weeks! Love always

Africa (Kenya, Serengeti, Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania, and Zanzibar)

Africa has been a blast so far! On Tuesday morning at 7:45, I was picked up from my hostel in Nairobi to join the tour. There were five other people at the hostel with me – three Dutch girls, one Brazilian guy, and an American girl. We joined the rest of the group who had already been travelling for over a week. This kind of caused a division in our group, and most of the newer people ended up sticking together because we found it quite hard to integrate ourselves with many of the people who had already formed relationships with each other. We were also joined by an American couple and a Kiwi girl (who has also been living in London for the past two years, and we lived five minutes away from each other for 1.5 years!). Our drive to Arusha was quite long – we ended up getting to Arusha after about 9 hours and then we were given one hour to stock up on food and water in an empty grocery store (it literally didn’t even have water). We then got to our campsite and learned how to set up our tents (which we’ll be experts at after the next few weeks!). However, we weren’t given a briefing when we got there so all of the new people have felt quite lost with trying to figure out what to do and how everything works. We had a great pasta dinner (which has been the majority of most of our meals) and then had an introduction evening, where we learned everyones’ names and occupation (mostly everyone is a teacher, and there are 22 people in our group). The next morning, we had to be ready by 7 to leave for the Serengeti. However, at 5 in the morning, we were all woken up by the (very loud) call to prayer that blasted throughout the city.
To get to the Serengeti, we had to separate into three vehicles. I went with the three Dutch girls (Kar, Susan, and Donna), three Americans (Yusef, Cassie, and T), and the Kiwi (Michelle). Our driver’s name was Hamadi, and he was the best driver! We all formed a great bond singing and dancing to endless music while being in the vehicle for about 10 hours each day for three full days together. The first day was a lot of driving! We drove all the way to the Serengeti, which is less than 300km away, but it took over ten hours. We were able to see a few animals on our trip (zebras, giraffes, ostriches, and hyenas) and watched the sunset as well. We stopped for a picnic on the rim of Ngorongoro Crater and we also stopped at a souvenir shop. Late in the afternoon, they took us to a Masai village. The Masai live without electricity, live off of domesticated animals, and still have to collect their water from miles away. Many men become “warriors” from age 14-28, and they’re in charge of standing guard and protecting the community from  wild animals. In order to become a warrior, they have to get circumcised and then they put white designs on their faces with paint, and have to wear traditional clothing for three months. Warriors aren’t allowed to get married so they have to wait until after they’re 28. When they reach this point, they have to kill a lion in order to get married. Then they have to go to another village to find a woman to marry, and bring back to their community. The Masai people believe in polygamous relationships, and one wife is usually equivalent to 25 cows. We were allowed to go into one of the houses as well as look at their school, which was just one tiny room with benches and a lot of kids. While it was cool to see, a bunch of us were wondering if it was just for show, as we all had to pay in order to see the village. When we arrived at our campsite in the Serengeti, all of our tents were (luckily) set up for us since it was already dark. We then had a late dinner and went to bed.
On Thursday, we had to be packed and ready for breakfast by 6am. We left to explore the Serengeti at 7. Within the first hour, we had already seen so much – buffalo, zebra, gazelle, and a whole bunch of lions! It was so crazy to have the lions walk right in front of your vehicle so that you were metres away from them! We also saw many giraffes, monkeys, different types of birds, elephants, hyenas, warthogs, and ostriches. It was insane! We drove around the Serengeti for about five hours total, then went back to camp to have lunch, and then we drove to the Ngorongoro Crater, which took about five hours. We got there just before sunset, which was lucky because the entire campsite was covered in poo! We set up our tents, had dinner at about 8:30, and then went to bed. As soon as we got into our tents, we heard hyenas laughing in the distance – it was so crazy! It was freezing that evening because we were sleeping on the rim of the crater, which was at very high altitude. I stupidly got the thinnest sleeping bag I could find (forgetting it would be winter in Africa), so I’ve been finding it quite difficult to keep warm. The next morning, there was a fresh buffalo poop about 5-10 metres away from our tent, so we had at least one visitor! We had breakfast at 6am again, in front of the sunrise, and then we started our tour around the crater. The crater was gorgeous! The clouds would start drifting down into the crater, so it looked like there was a constant cloud waterfall around the rim of the crater. We had to drive down into the crater, and then we could drive throughout it. Within the first 15 minutes, we saw six lions slowly pacing towards a lone buffalo. We were hoping to see an attack, but the lions didn’t seem too determined. Every time they got 50 metres from the buffalo, he would turn around and run for awhile and then wait for them to get close again. That day, we saw a lot of buffalo, wildebeest, zebras, warthogs, hyenas (play-fighting in the water), giraffes, gazelles, and hippos! One of the groups got a flat tire so we had to sit for quite awhile so our driver could help change the tire. As soon as we got going again, we saw a lion that looked like it was ready to pounce. It started sprinting towards a lone buffalo and kept clawing and biting at it while the buffalo ran away. Once it reached its pack, the entire buffalo pack turned onto the lone lion and started running towards it so the lion ran away. It was such a cool thing to see, and definitely topped the whole trip! After driving around the crater for five hours, we went back to camp to have lunch and then we drove back to Arusha. It was a long trip back, but it was a lot of fun since it was the last time we’d have with our driver. He taught us how to sing a traditional song in Swahili, which was really awesome! We got back to camp before sunset, but the tents hadn’t arrived yet so we had to wait over an hour until we could set everything up. There was quite a bit of hostility between the entire group because we were supposed to tip our drivers at the end of the trip and many people cheaped out. We were supposed to give all the tips to one person, who would split all of the tips evenly to the three drivers, but one vehicle was unhappy with their driver because he kept stalling and got a flat tire, so they wanted to tip their driver and only their driver. They ended up giving 5 dollars each to their driver, while the other group gave 10 dollars each to their driver. Our group had such a great time with our driver and I’m glad we were all on the same page cause we all gave 20 dollars each to our driver. Our group has felt quite isolated from the original group, so I’m glad we all have each other! It was some peoples’ last night, so now our group is down to 19 people.
Saturday, we got to sleep in a little bit and had to be ready for 7am. However, we were still woken up at 5 for the call to prayer. We then headed towards Dar es Salaam, but had to stop halfway in a small town called Korogwe. That night, a bunch of us volunteered to help prepare dinner, which basically just involved chopping up vegetables so the guide could add it to the soup, stew, and salad. After dinner, I saw the guide walk away with a jar of Aromat, which is a European spice that’s equivalent to MSG. I knew I’d be sick, and I ended up being sick for about four days straight. While it seems quite normal for most of us to have upset stomachs (our group is VERY open about that kind of thing cause you have to be), it’s still been difficult to be hungry, eat, and immediately be sick (and stuck in a vehicle for 7+ hours each day). Anyway, the next morning we continued to Dar es Salaam, which took about six or seven hours. We stayed in a campsite right on the beach and we had a private pool! However, it wasn’t as sunny as we were hoping so most of us just sat by the pool and visited with each other. That evening, we had a special prepared dinner (usually people take turns preparing the meals), which was great! The next morning, we had to get up early again so that we could catch a ride on a tuk-tuk to the ferry. The first ferry we took only took about two minutes and it was just to the other side of the river. We then had to walk about 20 minutes with our heavy bags (in the sun) in order to get to the next ferry. Since the ferry didn’t leave for another hour, we just sat around and cooled off in the air-conditioned depot. The ferry ride to Stone Town, Zanzibar took two hours, so we arrived at about 11:30am. Even though Zanzibar is technically still part of Tanzania, we still had to fill out entry forms and go through passport control. We went to the hotel and I was paired with Michelle (the kiwi girl). Our room was humongous! It had a king sized bed, as well as two single beds. And we didn’t have to sleep on the floor for the first time in days! We all went for lunch, where I had chicken biryani and then we were given the option to go on a walking tour (not free) or have three hours of free time. I downloaded a self-guided walking tour so the girls (Michelle, Susan, and Kar) and I did that instead. We checked out the beach and a market. Then we went to Zanzibar Coffee House, where we had dessert for the first time in over a week! I had an iced latte with chocolate mousse pie, which was amazing! We then took a walk to the food markets, but stayed closer to the outside when we realised we would get hassled. We then met up with the rest of the group at Africa House, which is a rooftop bar with a view of the ocean and sunset – it was nice and relaxing! Afterwards, we went to the night market to find something for dinner and I got a Zanzipizza, which has a crepe bottom, and then the toppings of the “pizza” are mixed with egg and then poured on top of the dough to cook. I tried to keep it simple with just tomato and cheese since I had been feeling sick the past few days, but it still didn’t help 😦 the antimalarial pills might be having an effect on me. However, the Zanzipizza was still really good! On Tuesday morning, we had the option to go to Prison Island, which was originally built for a prison but was never actually used as a prison. This is because they had an outbreak of cholera and chicken pox many years ago, so they ended up quarantining all of the people who were sick. Now, the island is used as a turtle sanctuary, where they have giant tortoises (which are an endangered species) and they’ve been breeding them to increase the population. The tortoises are huge! We got to feed them and touch them, which was really cool! After that, we got back in the boat to make the half-hour trip back to Zanzibar, but we also stopped so that some people could do some snorkelling. That day for lunch, we got to go to a local’s house, who made us a curry rice dish and it was so delicious! We all had to take off our shoes at the door, walk through the huge living room and dining room, and then there were two large rooms with only rugs and food placed on them. We sat on the floor while eating our meals and I think normally, we’d have to eat with our hands, but they gave us a spoon. After our meal, we went to the spice farm where we saw the different plants and trees that made different spices and fruits. It was really neat to hear what the locals used certain spices for (in terms of medicine and everyday needs). We got to see turmeric root (which turned our hands yellow), we bit a stem which tasted exactly like pepper, we got to smell lemongrass, cloves and cinnamon. The cinnamon tree was really neat cause the bark smelled like cinnamon and the roots smelled like Vicks rub (used to put on chests to clear the sinuses). We also got to see vanilla, jackfruit, papaya, nutmeg, durian, and ginger root. After the tour, the locals had weaved all of the girls vine crowns and all of the boys ties. We then got to sample some of the fruits, such as grapefruit, mandarin, pineapple, watermelon, and banana. We took a one-hour ride to the north part of the island, which is where I am now and where we’re spending the next three nights. Unfortunately today, it’s been cloudy and rainy all morning so I’m hoping it’ll clear up soon so I can enjoy my time on the beach. Hope everyone’s enjoying their time back at home! Love always

 

Africa – Toto

Another Day in Paradise (Serbia, Hungary, Slovakia, Czech Republic, Nairobi, Diani Beach, Kenya)

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

Hundred Miles (Morocco)

Well, this week has been amazing! For those of you who don’t know (and didn’t catch on to my Facebook posts), I spent the past five nights in Morocco. It was nice to try out not only another country, but a completely different continent. I had to keep reminding myself that I was in Africa! So crazy! I still spent Saturday in London, where I spent about four hours carving a pumpkin. Then, Jess and I went into central London to do some shopping and to check out an event called Thrill the World. Basically, it was a planned flash mob where people dressed up as zombies and danced to Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” song (also notice the play on words with his “Heal the World” song). This dance was arranged so that it would be done at the exact same time as multiple cities around the world, and they were trying to break the record for being the biggest Thriller dance in the world (I’m not sure if they actually beat that record or not…). The downside to this is that in London, the dance wasn’t scheduled until 11pm, so it was quite cold outside by the time it actually happened. It was an interesting experience though! The next day, we got an extra hour to our day, as daylight savings time was either starting or ending (still don’t really understand how it works…). That morning, we had a fire alarm mishap, where the fire alarms all went off and we couldn’t get them to stop. I called the agent and about an hour later, he showed up with another guy, who told us it must have went off because of the steam from the shower. Anyway, I spent the rest of the morning packing for Morocco and then I made my way to Gatwick Airport, which is actually a really simple trip from our flat. Going through security was the smoothest process I’ve ever seen. Instead of lining up along the security belt (like pretty much all airports do), they had about 5 or 6 lineups perpendicular to the belt. So people at the front of each line had their own section of the security belt and could easily set their stuff in the bin and set it on the belt.

Then after going through security, you go to the end of the belt, grab your bin and take it to an empty station (there were about 15-20 of them), and then you could take your time putting all your stuff back together, putting on belts and shoes, etc. without having to take up space at the end of the security belt. I was extremely impressed! Once you get through security, they make you walk through the entire duty-free department store in order to get to the gates. It was like walking through IKEA, with the twists and turns, except this time you were twisting and turning through alcohol, perfumes, cigarettes, and watches, among other things. Finally, I made it to the end but here, they don’t tell you the gate number until about ten minutes before they start boarding. I found a quiet cafe to have lunch while I waited to find out my gate number. The bathrooms here were pretty well-organised too. Each sink had its own hand dryer, which was behind the mirror, so you just had to hold your hands under the mirror in order to dry off your hands. I finally found out my gate number and headed over. There, they also did things a bit differently.. They had to scan your ticket and passport in order for you to enter the gate. So then when they actually started the boarding process, there wasn’t a long lineup to scan everyone’s tickets. I think Gatwick has some pretty good ideas that actually work! I flew with Air Arabia, and the flight lasted three hours. It’s so crazy that in three hours, I can fly over multiple countries and reach a different continent whereas from Saskatoon, I’d just make it to Toronto in the same amount of time. The flight started off with a “Travel Prayer,” which I though was kind of cool. The tv screens had English subtitles so I was able to understand what the prayer said. Then the flight started! They didn’t have individual TVs, just the one tv in front of every 4 or 5 rows. They played Mr. Bean’s Christmas special, and then they played a show called ‘Hole in the Wall,’ which is somewhat self-explanatory. Basically there are three people standing in front of a pool of water, a wall comes towards them with awkward-shaped holes in it, and the people have to try to match their bodies to the shapes of the holes in order to not get pushed into the pool. All the players really sucked at it so pretty much everyone just ended up in the pool. I arrived in Morocco at about 8pm but by the time I got through customs and got a taxi, it was about 9:30 when I got to the hostel. I was starving by that point but because it was Sunday night, not a lot was left open so I settled with getting some Pringles to hold me over for the rest of the night. That night, I had a bit of trouble sleeping, as a prayer reminder started early in the morning (they do it six times per day: at 5:15am, at sunrise-6:40am, at noon, at 3pm, at 5:30pm, and at 7pm), so there’s kind of a megaphone that blasts through the entire city and multiple men pray/sing on it for about 15 minutes. During this time, tv’s are turned off and you notice many people wandering off on their own. After the prayer happens early in the morning, all the roosters are woken up and all I hear for the next couple hours are cockadoodle-doos.

Tajine pots!
The next morning (Monday), I had breakfast and then three of us (an American and a Welsh person) decided to explore Tangier together. We just kind of wandered around and got lost in different streets (with a bit of help from the locals, who were intently watching us and would let us know when we shouldn’t go a certain way). The cool thing about Tangier is that next to Arabic, French is the most common language (then Spanish, and THEN English), so I was able to try out my French. Moroccan French is SO clear and so easy to understand, so it wasn’t too difficult to get back into the hang of it, after not speaking it for three years. Anyway, during our walk it started raining so we ran into a close cafe until the rain passed. After that, we were starving so we headed to Cafe Hafa, which was recommended to us by one of the hostel owners. This cafe overlooked the entire Strait of Gibraltar and on a clear day, you can see Spain on the other side. It used to be frequented by the Beatles and the Rolling Stones! It’s well-known for its Moroccan tea (which is offered in every single cafe you go to), which is sweetened mint tea and is delicious – I had at least one every day that I was there! After lunch, we decided to head back towards the hostel and take a walk through the markets. Then, we took a taxi to Hercules’ Caves and timed it JUST RIGHT so we were able to watch the sunset, which was amazing! The story behind Hercules’ Caves is that Hercules used the cave as his resting place after finishing his twelve labours. We were actually quite lucky because they caves had been closed for the past two years, and only reopened a couple of weeks ago. After we got back to Tangier, we joined up with another person at the hostel (a Canadian) and went for a late dinner at another recommended restaurant. We told the chef to make wherever he wanted so he made different types of tajine – a traditional dish, which is pretty much a stew. I got to try shark for the first time! It was good, and didn’t taste like anything other than another type of fish.
Cap Spartel
On Tuesday, I got up and had breakfast. Then me and another hostel-goer went for Moroccan tea and had a good visit. It’s so weird going in some of the cafés because in this one especially, I was completely outnumbered by men. It was completely full and I was the only female in there. We then went back to the hostel, met up with another girl (another American) and the three of us went for lunch. After walking around aimlessly and failing on finding the restaurant that was recommended to us, we gave up and walked into a random one (or rather, the chef walked up to us and urged us to come inside). They served us a lot of food: a salad each, fries each, tajine, couscous, skewers, and mixed veggies – half of which we couldn’t eat. And then when we went to pay, we were all shocked at the amount, as it was the most we’ve ever been charged for a meal. Which made us a lot more careful about choosing restaurants in the future, and making sure we didn’t just let them “make whatever.” After that, the guy left to move onto the next part of his trip, and the other girl and I decided to do some shopping in the markets. I found a few treasures and then stopped myself from buying any more, even though everything was extremely cheap! We went back to the hostel to drop everything off, then met up with another guy and the three of us took a taxi to Cap Spartel, which is a lookout point where the Mediterranean meets up with the Atlantic. After that (because we were in the area), we asked to go to Hercules’ Caves since the other two hadn’t seen it yet. Then on the way back, the taxi driver asked if we wanted to stop by the camels and of course, I said yes! I bartered with the camel guy to let me take a picture on the camel for 40 dirham (about 2.60 pounds). I was just expecting to sit on it for five seconds, snap a picture, and get

off. But he actually got the camel to stand up, and then took us for a short walk. The other girl decided to ride one as well and since the guy had already tried it before, he was our personal photographer and snapped a bunch of pictures for us. Being on the camel was a bit scary haha mostly just when it stood and sat because it bows down really fast, which makes you lose your balance really easily. I also felt like I was tilted to one side the entire time. But it was so cool! Definitely one more thing to check off my (non-existent) bucket list! After we got back to the hostel, Marie and I tried to find another restaurant and once again got lost. A kid told us he’d show us the way and took us on an extremely long walk in the opposite direction. I became more and more sceptical, as I didn’t think we were THAT far off from the restaurant. The kid took us to a completely different restaurant and I recognised it as the restaurant that the hostel owner specifically told us to avoid. So I said we weren’t interested and finally escaped, and then I took her to the restaurant that I had been to the evening before.

On Wednesday, literally everyone left me haha I even had the whole room to myself! But that meant for the first time, I’d be wandering around Tangier alone. Before I got there, I read that it was a touristy place where everyone hassled you, but I had never found it that bad. Probably because I was always with someone else. On Wednesday, I started to notice it quite a bit more. I decided to check out the beach and take a walk along it, as I hadn’t seen it yet. But I also noticed that there, I was followed a lot  more. It was all harmless, but it made it more difficult for me to enjoy myself. Once I got to the other end of the beach, I saw a McDonald’s so I decided to take a break there! I needed to test out the McFlurries, as I do in every country I go to. Unfortunately, they only had M&M and Kit-Kat 😦 nothing too unique. I opted for the Kit-Kat one and then headed back towards the hostel. After hanging out there for awhile, I decided to go back to Cafe Hafa to check out the sunset. It wasn’t as great compared to Hercules’ Caves, but it was still really relaxing! After that, one of the hostel owners took me and his other friend to a sushi place for dinner, which completely blew my mind considering we were in Morocco haha it was really good though!
How can you resist this?!
On Thursday, I decided to see if I could walk to Cap Spartel and then check out the hiking trails over there (since I didn’t want to pay the full taxi fare on my own). I was thinking 2.5 hours isn’t that bad, but I underestimated it and forgot that most of the trek would be uphill. I also couldn’t figure out how to get to the coast, as it was all walled off so I ended up having to walk along the main road, which was extremely hot with no shade and no wind. I guess I should also explain that in Morocco, women are still objectified so it’s important to stay covered in a sweater and pants, and even then you still get stared at and the men try to talk to you. Therefore, wearing jeans and a sweater while hiking in hot weather isn’t the best combination. I made it to a park, and then I was able to cut through the park in order to get to the coast, and then I decided to just head back down into town, since it was way past lunchtime and I was starving. By the time I finally got back and was able to eat, it was around 3 or 4pm. I had a bit of a scare because the night before, I had been playing with the cat that frequents the hostel (but doesn’t technically live there) and it scratched me. So after talking to my mom about it, and her copying and pasting a whole bunch of stuff about rabies from Google, I started freaking out and decided to walk to the nearest clinic. As I waited in the waiting room, I actually started to feel not only scared, but stupid. Out of all the ways people die, I basically risked my life because I couldn’t resist playing with a cat… After what seemed like the longest wait ever, I was finally let in. The doctor seemed confused as to why someone with a tiny cat scratch was sitting in his office. I had no idea what the French word for rabies was, so I had a difficult time trying to explain my concern. Eventually, I think he understood but said I shouldn’t need to worry, as it didn’t look infected. He wrote me a prescription anyway, in case anything changed within the next week. Hoping, it’s nothing though!!!!!!! I went back to the hostel and spent the rest of the night visiting with all of the new people who came for the weekend.
The next day (Friday), I headed back to London 😦 My flight was at 1pm, so I got back to London at 4, and got home around 5. Then, I just did some laundry and relaxed for the rest of the night. Jess is away for the weekend, so I’m going to have to figure out how I’ll spend my Halloween weekend! Hope everyone enjoys their Halloween! Love always
Hundred Miles – Yall feat. Gabriela Richardson