CHAPTER #7 – Africa

A new adventure that starts at Lake Victoria and continues to the Indian Ocean, solo, without a compass, without GPS, without paper maps and without knowledge of Swahili, just another epic trip in Africa!

“The rainy season in this place has just started! Large drops of tropical rain begin to fall from the sky and hit the ground with a large “ splash „. Sudden rains are a constant presence, so you need to be prepared for a lot of mud and sticky roads, so I changed my tires to ‚even more‘ off-road.”

They finally leave the city (Kampala) and head north, into the heat…. so hot that they were forced to take a break to cool down both of them… João and his Mbuti motorbike Lilhaza (Blue Goat). Dry season, very hot in the air and on the asphalt, heat from the traffic, black smoke everywhere, stopping and moving, police checkpoints, hundreds of boda-bodas (motorcycles), truly crazy, but it’s part of the business TIA (This is Africa), so all good – ready for another day at the border! – in Malaba, between Uganda and Kenya.

“Leaving Kampala was crazy, but we finally left and we are moving forward. As we move towards the Malaba border, truck traffic increases in number (parked and moving on the road towards Kampala), Matatus (taxi vans) and tourist cars overtake kilometres of trucks and push them literally off the road, along for the ride. Driving skills are put to the test again and the madness as we get closer is quickly increasing! TIA!“

A few kilometres before reaching the border, the queues of trucks start on the Ugandan side, follow the northern corridor that connects the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda and South Sudan, on the Kenyan side, take the Mombasa port corridor to enter in Uganda and follow the northern corridor to these countries.

“The queues for the border are endless and the fuel tanks lost count when 3 lines of trucks formed next to each other, all in the same direction. When I got to the border, I didn’t want to, but I had to… On the border between Uganda and Kenya, I caught a „fixer“… called Kenneth. One thing that the African borders in some countries have in common are labyrinthine buildings that no one understands with the queues and where to go to stamp a load of papers (4x this is new) this way they get tired and if they don’t line up, they put them in partly because we are not part of the assembled system, between fixers, agents, etc. There are constant episodes about documents, obstacles, health screenings, increased costs without an invoice, but with good humour and a little luck everything went towards the Kenyan side and moved to the first city Eldoret where dreams begin and also where dreams end !”

The motto is „Welcome to Eldoret, the City of Champions!“, as all marathon runners come from this side of Kenya. Since leaving Eldoret, João has been climbing the Rift Valley, where he ends up seeing people in sweaters and woollen hats, pine forests, very cold and rain! You need a polar coat in hot Africa. At the top of the mountain, it reaches Latitude 0° | Timboroa | Great Rift Valley | Kenya | Africa, another imaginary line crossing, this time in the mountains of the Great Rift Valley, off the beaten track in Timboroa, Kenya! Climbing the mountains and heading towards the plains, but passing by a famous bathhouse with a stunning view of the Valley, The Facebook Toilet. Descending the mountains of the Great Rift Valley, you reach the capital Nairobi and with so much to do in this urban centre of East Africa.

“I manage to visit Nairobi National Park, which is located on the outskirts of the densely populated city of Nairobi. It is possible to organize a trip from there in a safari van or book in advance with an agent. If you are a resident of an East African country, the ticket is very cheap and you only pay for the day of the safari. Once in the park, you can see the city’s buildings and towers as a backdrop, which makes us think about the interaction between humans and wildlife. There is a road from the city where you can see all the springboks on the other side of the road, the cars passing by, the traffic lights, etc. It looks like the zoo is right next door.”

The biodiversity of species in this park is fair, as well as the clusters of different fauna/game that can be found, including lions, wildebeests, giraffes, zebras, hippos, rhinos, Topi, springbok, wild boars, buffaloes, crocodiles, monitor lizards, birds like Hadada ibis, turacos, marabou, crested cranes, black and white cranes, eagles, starlings, primates, baboons, vervet monkeys, etc. Inside the park, you can also visit the monument where national wildlife authorities burned tons of illegal ivory from exchange activities across the country.

“Right in the city there is also the Nairobi Giraffe Centre and yes, it’s that place where you see photos on the internet of giraffes being fed next to the windows of a Victorian house. In Kenya there are 3 species of giraffes, the Reticulated, the Masai and the Rothschild (endangered), which at one point had 70 specimens. The centre plays an important role in the recovery of the species and, after a period, can release them into the wild. After a year of the newborn babies‘ life, you can then give them a name, but at this time you can meet and feed Salma, Daisy, Kelly, Stacy, Eddy is the dominant one in the centre, since giraffes are very territorial.”

You can visit the centre online, help your cause and the giraffe population grow by adopting a giraffe. In Nairobi, there are many places to visit and things to do, such as the giraffe centre, Nairobi National Park, on the edge of the city, Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage Centre (very popular), the Karen Blixen Museum, famous for its 1937 book, ‚Out of Africa‘, which chronicles life on the property.

The next day, João leaves Nairobi for Mombasa via the A109. You arrive in Mombasa on a hot day and there is dusty sand everywhere, traffic to the island is heavy and the city is immersed in a cloud of dust.

“On the A109, I have a very close encounter with some wild animals in the natural corridor of the Tsavo National Park and Wildlife Law Enforcement Academy. It’s a rainy day, but the zebras and elephants look like they haven’t showered in days. One of the elephants started making its beating movements and kicking stones, as it was a little angry about having its family on the other side of the road waiting for it….”

What a thrill for just one day! At the end of the road, you reach the island city of Mombasa, which is crossed by a cargo ferry full of cars and vans. Once in the old city, João visited Fort Jesus, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, built by the Portuguese, upon his arrival on the Indian Ocean coast. The guide gave an overview of all the constructions and takeovers over the decades by the Omani Arabs and then the British. The fort was already a fusion of cultures, being a fortress to defend Mombasa at a strategic point in the delta and the island also played a fundamental role in trade with all the dhows (small boats with just a rod and a sail) and all the boats coming of European countries. An unmissable place in Mombasa, with stories literally written on the walls since the construction of the fort, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

“The next day, departure from the island of Mombasa on a barge heading south, along the coast. We are already in Kenya’s beach scene, Karibu, Diani Beach! A beautiful place, full of first-class hotels, bars, seafood restaurants, diving schools and beaches with clean turquoise water and extreme heat, it is a must-see destination as soon as you arrive on the eastern coast of Kenya. Heading down the coast, we reach the capital of Tanzania, Dar Es Salaam, and we passed through some drug addict streets, where I serviced the motorbike near a ghetto bar, which aroused the curiosity of passers-by in the neighbourhood and drunks, but luckily the mechanic, and just one person, spoke a little about English.“

“We headed to the port area to catch the Cargo Ferry from Dar Es Salam to Zanzibar. It wasn’t the best I’ve ever been to, a lot of port bureaucracy, boarding times and waits, schemes and tickets without issuing codes, confusion, communication, among others. After carrying many potatoes, cabbages, cows, furniture, piles of mattresses, cars, wedding, paperwork, hours of waiting, a bunch of stamps, I managed to get to Zanzibar! The pandemonium continues including the reception by a Maasai team.”

When João arrives on the island, it is very hot and the port is already full of people and cars! Upon arrival in bustling Stone Town, Zanzibar, another successful surgical operation in Mr Issa’s workshop to repair a broken radiator tube, electrical faults, water in the fuel and oil leaks. Once everything is sorted out, start crossing the island from top to bottom, in resorts and beaches on the island of Zanzibar, from the northern tip of the island, the village of Nungwi, on the west coast, to the village of Kendwa and, to the east, in the central part of the island, on a peninsula, the village of Pingwe, where the famous ‚Rock‘ restaurant is located.

“I visited the ruins of a Portuguese Mvuleni Fort on Zanzibar Island. Some of the ruins that remain, but with new buildings around it, others for support, plus a metal roof that was built to protect the fort, including a staircase to the cellars and caves of Fukuchani with the presence of water that the population uses to drink shower and wash clothes. Some children were taking care of the ruins or supposedly working for the government, but without any identification, without a ticket price, just a log book. I noticed that they were not in line with the asking price for my visit and possibly they should have been collecting for their own fund just to show the Portuguese legacy across the waters of the Indian Ocean on the island of Zanzibar, Tanzania, Fort Mvuleni.”

They continue their journey, back to the continent and moving south in the hemisphere, dripping a huge amount of sweat, Mbuti Lilhaza drips huge amounts of oil. They arrive at the Horohoro One stop border post, the best they have seen so far in Africa, no street vendors, no fixers, no appointments, they were the only customers at that time! All the staff were spectacular and polite… beautiful things!

“Very grateful to Horohoro customs, between Tanzania and Kenya.”

“I pass Kilimanjaro Mountain, Mero Mountain, and continue through wild lands in the region of the Maasai tribe in search of mountains among acacia trees in a completely vast and arid place where only reticulated giraffes, donkeys, goats and cows appear. It’s hot, I’m still dripping sweat and Mbuti Lilhaza continues to drip oil, so everything remains normal. That day, I manage to catch a chameleon on the ground and the Maasai women rush me until I finish this fantastic ride, the Indian Ocean Dhow!”

João’s final message:

“SUPPORT LOCAL ARTISTS! Even if they want to sell you ridiculous statues! Don’t haggle for a few dollars, that’s ridiculous too! Artisans also have families to feed and art cannot be cheap just because it is made in Africa. Pay the price „Muzungo“, which is the African form, the African currency that must be paid and you will improve international relations and ethnology. Don’t buy everything in one store, go around the craft market and buy an item from each store, the Mama Nyabos will understand and congratulate you on this action. Do not buy shells or corals, as you are promoting a market for killing and harvesting these species from the ocean. If you take a morning walk on the beach, you will find shells and pieces of dead coral in the sand or rolling in the waves. Don’t go shopping while you’re drunk, otherwise you’ll end up buying everything in the store and that’s not a good thing due to the lack of space in your bags. At the end of the purchase, give a strong handshake, a big smile and walk out the door greeting with a Khanimambo, Jambo, Mambo or Webale, everyone at the craft market will remember you and you will always be well received.”