Africa reflections, part 1
I’ve been camping around East Africa for nearly 3 weeks and there has been very limited wifi everywhere. So as I catch up, I will break my Africa time into some manageable posts.
Before I get into the real good stuff, I will set the scene.
We spent a lot of time driving and because of that we either used the ”Bush Toilet” or something much worse than that. Here are the categories:
.5*= Squat toilet with unidentified liquid sloshing up over your flip flops while you pee. Its also stinky and dirty and you try to never touch anything in this place.
1*=Squat toilet without liquid splashing on your feet and there is significantly less smell.
2*=a regular toilet with no seat and you have to pour water from a bucket to flush it. Which means you have to touch something, so there’s that.
3*= an outhouse
4*=a regular toilet with a seat. This place might even be clean. But most likely you share it with spiders, beetles and lizards.
I should add that none of these bathrooms have toilet paper and you have to bring your own. And most campsites we were at were 3 or 4 star bathrooms, but the bathrooms on the road were never a 3 or 4.
This category covers both our tents and the truck and the food. This type of trip involves camping and helping. You are responsible for the set up and take down of your own tent. And then there is a job list as well that changes daily.
All of our meals come out of the truck. We have a head chef and his primary responsibility is not giving us food poisoning. Which as you can imagine is difficult considering its always very hot and most food needs to be cold and all we have is the truck. His second responsibility is serving good tasting food and he occasionally achieved that.
As soon as we arrived in Vic Falls, I headed out for dinner. Crocodile pasta was on the menu and promptly in my belly.
We spent many long days in the truck. Most days were 12 hour days. This got to be old. However, I did a lot of reading, listening to books and podcasts. I don’t know if I’m any smarter.
The tents were a big part of the adventure. Luckily I had a great roommate and she only snored a little. At one spot we were warned about rolling up our tent and watching for scorpions while we did it.
We had a herd of elephants charge into our campsite one night while we were setting up and hippos another night wandering around while we slept.
Almost every campsite had monkeys and baboons hanging around. We had to be very careful about locking our tents and the truck properly as they know how to open things up. Apparently we weren’t good enough one time.
We had early morning starts and so we also had early nights. We were warned about wildlife in the middle of the night and a boom slang snake(most venomous or something) so therefore i stopped drinking anything somewhere around 5pm to ensure that I would be able to wait until morning to use the bathroom.
Of course every country has its own currency and exchange rate and it looks different. This makes managing the money a bit difficult. Tanzanian Shillings to Malawaian Kwatcha, Zambian Kwatcha and then Zimbabwe dollars and South African Rand. Zimbabwe recently said fuck it, we will just use the USD. But not before they experienced some huge inflation and even had notes that were higher than 1 trillion. A loaf of bread would cost 500 million. I was able to pick up a few of these notes as souvenirs.
Getting money out of the ATMs is challenging. In Malawi, the machine shut down in the middle of my transaction. And did not return my card. So I made the security guard call the bank and they sent over a couple guys in suits to get my card out. I would like to say this was the only time it happened to me, but it wasn’t.
Tanzania, Malawi, Zambia, Zimbabwe and South Africa. These were my African border crossings. We were not allowed to take pictures at the border crossings-but trust me, they will be remembered. The places were like shacks in the middle of nowhere and the process seemed somewhat arbitrary. It took our truck nearly 3 hours to process everyone in Malawi (and $75 each for the visa) and Zambia was 1.5 hours ($50) for the visa. The worst one for me, was Zimbabwe where everyone else paid $30 for the visa and Canadians pay $75. Yes, I disagreed with the agent and challenged him on this. I still paid $75.
The other very interesting item is that my travel pharmacist INSISTED that i did not need to get the Yellow Fever vaccine and I INSISTED that I would like it just in case. Turns out I DID need it and could have had some major complications if I did not. Suck it Kevin.
Bonus item: one of the campsites we were staying at was renovating their pool. They were taking out the old one and putting in a newer, bigger one. There were no machines. Only 7 or 8 guys with shovels and sledgehammers. I asked why there were no machines. It is better for the owner of the campsite to employ these 7 guys and give them money for their families instead of paying one guy with a machine. It costs about the same, but just takes longer. I thought it was interesting.
Next post will have the good stuff.