2nd Day in Nairobi: Jan-1-2014

I ordered breakfast to be delivered to my room--I hung the order on my door handle last night.  I guess when Stephanie had left she had 'checked out' and told them she was in room 329 (my room).  Becuase of this they assumed the only person in room 329 had left so they didn't delivery my breakfast.  I called after 10 minutes of waiting and they told me it would be right up.  I called after another 30 minutes and told them I still haven't received it.  It finally came, but my order was missing the eggs and bread.  Cereal and fruit will have to suffice.  I relaxed a bit and repacked my bag.  I dropped off my stuff with the front desk and met up with Vince and Debby to go into town.

We walked into the center of the city but there wasn't much going on--actually almost everything was closed for the new year.  We found out that the Maasai market was actually near the airport and would require a 6km taxi drive.  I will do that later (it's 1:15pm now and we're eating at our hotel's restaurant.)

We were talked into going to a "Maasai Market Workshop" somewhere off the street.  We were there for 30-45 minutes and I had picked out a bunch of bowls, a small wood carving, and a dozen or so keychains.  I would ask how much for a given item and he would take it and say I will add to your basket and we talk later.  I got so frusterated, but just went with it.  I finally said I was ready and asked him to go through each item and tell me how much?  For the first bowl he had asked 6000 shilling (well over 70 dollars).  I told him no way and said I would pay 3500 tops for everything.  He looked at the other man and laughed.  I got up and walked away.  He followed me and said, "ok, ok, we talk".  I said I am set on my price and then walked over to Debby and Vincent--they were negotiating.  They paid 4000 shilling for a carving and a painting.  It was WAY too much, but it's their money.  They followed us to the ATM as Vince and Debby needed to get out more money.  The guy had continued to negotiate with me but I told him that I was firm.

There wasn't much else in the city and unfortunately I learned that the post office was closed today.  I will not be able to send my Maasai Sword (Seme) home.  I think it will get confiscated at KLM customs.  I'm pretty upset becuase I want it but the more and more I read online leads me to believe I'm pretty much screwed.  I'm going to try to take some snapshots of some website stating the historical significance of the blade and that it's very old, thus an antique and not a weapon--I give it a 25% chance of success.

Camel ride at a festival in downtown Nairobi, Kenya
We continued to walk along the main road.  Men on the street kept harrassing  us about taking their safaris, taking their taxis, etc..  We stepped into a 'city market' but it was just a meat market that smelled like death's evil cousin.  We continued onwards and found a park with a festival.  There were camel rides, icecream cones, face painting, boat rides, and a few other rides.  It was a very 'budget' festival but we walked around and took a brief rest on the grass alongside a pond.  We people-watched for a while.  We were the only white people in a field of no less than a thousand locals.  We were getting stared at as if we were exotic animals.

We walked back to the hotel and on the way back I bought a bowl.  I dind't really want it but they kept harrassing me and I said I have no money but I will take that bowl for ____.  And I offered a VERY low price.  They said no but continued to bother me as I walked towards my hotel.  They came running towards me and I bought it for 150 shilling (<$2 USD).

We arrived back around 12:30 after a nice 2.5 hour saunter throughout the city.  I joined Debby and Vincent at the bar for a while and searched the web for information on how I could 'get' my Maasai blade into Amsterdam.  I said goodbye around 1:00pm and planned on taking a taxi to the Maasai market, which moves around every few days.  Yesturday it was in the city center but today it is out near the airport.  The taxi at the hotel said it would be 1000 shilling each way.  This was around $24 and it seemed like a bit much.  I told the guy no thank you, but then he suggested a great idea.  He said my friends, meaning Debby and Vincent, are going to the airport at 2:00 and that I could join along and get dropped off en route.  I said thanks and that it was a deal.

I headed back to the bar and explained to the two that I will be joining them.  Now I'm just relaxing, writing this blog, and waiting until 2:00 so that I can leave for the market.  It's open until 5:00 or so.

It's 4:00 and I just got back from the Maasai market and am at the hotel's bar drinking a Pilsner Lager (Kenyan Beer).  It's the best local beer I've had since I've been in Africa.  The Maasai market was a thrill of a lifetime.  I cannot even start to imagine how to put into words my experience.  The market was outside and there were 3 or so rows of vendors.  They sat on the ground with their products, which were layed out in front.  The very moment I stepped up to the first vendor I realized what I was in for.  The first place was run by a woman who told me today was very slow and that I was her first customer.  Not sure if she was being truthful--however, other than myself there was probably only 8 other people shopping around (2 others that were white).  I looked at some keychains and asked how much.  Like EVERY OTHER person there she would not give me a straight answer--she told me that she will hold everything and then give me a price after I was done looking.  I said thanks and that I will look around at every 'stall' and will come back later.  She grabbed my wrist and said, "OK!, I give you good price".  I told her thanks but that I wanted to look around. She continued, "Ok, ok, 150 but you have to buy more than 1."  I said I would pay 700 for 10 and she laughed and countered 1500.  I said I will pay 800, which is close to a dollar a keychain.  I went on the tell her that I will not negotiate any more and that I will walk away if she countered  I learned that it didn't matter what I said.  To be fair, most ignorant tourists walk around with a wad of cash in their pockets ready to buy, buy, buy!  It's utterly disgusting and the Africans have learned how to exploit that weakness.  They call out, "Hi, my friend" as they offer you their hand.  We, as polite tourists, take their hand and say hello.  They use a gentle but persuading tug on the arm to tug you towards their shop and tell tell you that they'll give you "good price" and "new year price" or "first customer price".  They demand you "look at [their] stuf" while calling you "[their] friend".  They inquire where you're from and try to relate to you somehow.  They smile and act casual.  I always told them I was from the US but I also told them that I've been in Africa for a month and have been through over a dozen cities and know what's a reasonable price.  I wonder if this made any difference at all?  Maybe?  Probably not.

Maasai Market in Nairobi, Kenya

That first lady wanted to also sell me an oil painting "something else, please, anything else".  I told her I will come back if I was interested and gave her the 1,000 shillings for the 10 keychains.  She tried to say 900 and asked me to pick something else out.  I stood firm on my 800 and said I'll take the 200 please.  I told her, "Asanti" and was on my way.  Immediately I was beckoned by a man just opposite of the vendor I was at...still at the entrance of the market.  I told him I wasn't interested, shook my head at him, refused to make eye contact and continued walking away.  He wasn't that bad, he only followed me for 2 minutes before retreating to his place of business.

I walked the rows, harrased, as how I imagine a playboy model would be as she strolled through a federal prison.  I was being shouted out and told to come look at their stuff.  They were very aggressive and seemed to take offense that I told them "No!".  I wanted to buy some hand carved wooden bowls but only two people carried them and neither of them had the type of detailed carvings I wanted.  The prices and selection in Malawi were leaps and bounds better than here.  I walked away from both vendors without any bowls becuase they wouldn't accept my offer.  I didn't even ask what they were asking...it didn't matter.  I am in a dessert with a village of people without water and I have a purified gallon of water--my bargaining power is extremely high, these people will have to impress me to take any of my money.  Ok, this may be the worst analogy ever but I'm trying to liven this up.  Anyways, the prices here are inflated because Nairobi is a relatively a popular place for tourists and their products can demand more money--simple economics.

I probably talked with no less than 40 people while at the market.  Many were very nice despite the fact that I walked away from them as they were still talking to me.  I ended up buying some napkin rings for Kim, a couple of hand carvings for my family (or maybe I'll keep one for myself), keychains for friends and family, and an oil painting.  I almost didn't buy the painting as I had negotiated with half a dozen people and walked away from all of them at least once.  As I was walking back to meet my driver two of the vendors had tracked me down.  One had claimed to be the artist but I took note of the arists name on the bottom of the canvas and I put pieces of the puzzle together and decided he was not the artist.  Having done a fair amount of negotiating I had a vague idea of the go/no go price point that the vendors would consider.  I knew Debby and Vincent had paid ~4000 for a painting and a carving.  The painting I had wanted was larger than theirs.  The vendors had started at 12,000 shillings ($160).  It's funny becuase I never even asked, "how much".

It's a VERY typical, and extremely successfull, marketing tactic that corporations have been using for decades.  Setting a certain price and then charging a different price causes the emotional mind of a human to make a comparison--not on the 'value' of the product and final cost to the buyer but the 'price' of the product versus the original price.  The irrational mind assigns the 'original price' to the product's 'value'.  Just walk into a TJMax--all those price tags with 'retail price' listed just above their sale price.  The value of the product does not depend on its 'original price', but too many people get swindled into this tried and true marketing ploy.  It's called pegging.

Another ploy they use here, also extremely irrational, is also employed by: car dealers, cable companies, gym memberships, and so many others.  The concept of 'getting more for your money' is used but in fact people end up paying for more products.  When a car dealer bundles rust proofing, delivery, etc. charges into the final bill the end buyer has trouble assessing the true 'cost' of the product.  Suppose a cable provider offers you 94 TV channels and high speed internet for $88.  Now suppose you get 'limited time' offer that is for 500 trillion channels, super-high speed internet and 3 phone lines for only $99.  How much are you paying for the faster internet?  What about the extra channels?  How about the 3 phone lines?  Case in point--they just want you to focus on 'how much you're getting' and forget the fact that you really only need high speed internet and your typical cable networks.

I offered 300 for the napkin rings (~$4 USD)--I had offered $5 at that overpriced market several days ago and they just laughed at me.  This vendor said 1000 shilling.  I told her no and that 300 is my final offer.  She said how about all 12 for 1000.  Did you catch the tactic she just used.  I only want 6 and she's trying to 'bundle' to make it seem like I'm only paying 500 for each set of 6.  But I only want 6 and I wouldn't have taken the 12 for 301 if she had asked for it.  YOU MUST BE WILLING TO WALK AWAY AND NEVER GET EMOTIONALLY ATTACHED TO STUPID MATERIAL ITEMS!  That lesson is free, it's too valuable to buy anyways.  She said ok 300, but you have to buy something else--I told her no!  It's 300 for only this or I walk away.  I'm not sure if I ended up walking away and had her chase me down or if she just agreed...it could have gone either way.

Hand carved figure I bought in Nairobi, Kenya
I picked out a hand carved figure that I liked and told her I will take two for 600 and she said 1 costs 1500.  I told her 2 for 600 as I walked away.  She kept grabbing my forearm each and every time I walked away.  I hate using these negotiation tactics but many of the skills I typically employ only work when both parties are  rational and educated.  She said 2 for 1500, I said no.  2 for 1000.  No!  2 for 900.  No!  She then took them and wrapped them and gave them to me and said ok.  I asked she clarify that she was accepting my initial offer of 600 for both of the carvings.  She said, "Fine, 800".  I walked away and she grabbed me once again and said, "you wait here I have to ask my boss".  She came back and said ok 4 for 1200.  Can you see which tactic was used here?  If you answered BOTH then you're right.  We played this game for a while and I stayed firm on 600 which, mind you, was a completely arbitrary number I had chosen.  She finally complied and I told her she was a good business women.  "Asanti" and I have her a hug.  Then I kept mooving.

Long story short--I bought an oil painting that I had walked away from previously.  Luckily the vendor tracked me down because if I had come back to him it would have seriously hurt my bargaining power.  He told me to give him my best offer.  I told him I didn't want to offend him and that I'm sure his piece of art was worth every amount of $$ that he was asking.  I said I had limited funds.  I pulled out my entire wad of cash and credit cards in my pocket.  Well, actually, I did this after 10-15 minutes of bargaining.  He had started at some very very high number and after 15 minutes he was down to 6000 shilling.  Then 5000, 4000.  This is when I pulled out my wallet.  Mind you, I had planned for this in advance.  I made sure to put the rest of my money in another pocket and pulled out the most I was willing to spend on this painting.  I offered him 'everything I had' which was 1250 shilling (~$15 USD).  He looked unhappy and continued to ask for more.  He saw that I had $20 USD in my pocket and said he would take the 1250 shilling + $20 USD and that 'we would have a deal'.  I made up some bogus excuse about how I needed that money for airport transfers between connecting flights.  I essentially just kept talking about my travel plans until I had him lost...it worked.  He said, ok how about just $5.  This went on for another 2 minutes--have you ever counted 2 minutes when you were in the middle of a high-stress environment, it's actually quite a long time.  He finally agreed and he wrapped it up and handed me the painting.  Its of 2 Maasai men jumping, as they did for us when we visited them in their village.  $160 down to $15, I would call that at least average bargaining skills.

My last dinner in Africa in Nairobi, Kenya
I did walk away from alot of things I really wanted, but getting good deals involves having discipline.  Some may call this cheap, some frugal, and others just 'too much'.  But I ask you this, why is it that 'people' are 'willing' to pay so much more for products than I am?  It is likely their ignorance, lazyness, or maybe their lack of understanding the true value of a dollar.  But it most certainly is, at least in part, that people form some irrational connection to a product and they believe this product is somehow connected to their happiness.  This really saddens me!

It's 5:10 now and I'm going to grab a bite to eat at the hotel's restaurant.  I am going to post this now since I've written so much.  I'll finish up today's 'adventures' in tomorrow's posting.  Cheers!

Nairobi, Kenya: (Day 21) Dec-31-2013

We had a feast last night--bread, butter, some type of lental/split pea soup, beef with garlic, rice, pan-fried fish, vegetables, and some chili (pili pili) sauce.  To our  surprise Godfrey made us some pudding.  I am currently being told that it was a 'trifle'.  It was a mild creamy custard tossed with fruits.  There may also have been a biscuit crust.  It was really good.  He made it one other time during our stay on the northern beach at Malawi.  I guess it is a fairly typical--and easy to make--english dish and it is oftentimes mixed with some type of liquor.

I had trouble falling asleep, probably becuase of the coffee I had at dinner.  I had dozed-off for a little while getting ready for the night so I needed a little pickmeup to make it through my meal.  I watched an episode of Doctor Who.  I probably fell asleep for good around 1:00 or so?

SOME COMMENTS ON TRIP:  Some things that come to mind about my trip that I have left out.  I've been too preoccupied by recording the events that occured to discuss any of them in much detail.  During my time at the Maasai Village we went to their primary school, which was a simple wooden building about the size of a small New York studio--probably even smaller (under 300 sq ft.?).  It was positioned just outside their village's protective fence.  The children were in the classroom counting aloud from 1 to 30.  This was on Sunday and I have no clue if this means that the children attend school 7 days a week?  Perhaps they were putting on a show for 'us'?  There children were between 4 and 7 years old, but that's just a guess.

The children were happy to see us and were grabbing our arms, legs, and bodies.  They would reach for my camera with their chubby little hands and try to grab it.  They just wanted to see what I had and play with it.  I took their photos and then bent down to show them their pictures.  They giggled and make funny hand gestures (spasmatic almost) into the air, towards me, towards the camera.  I accidentally bumped one of the young boys in the eye (or nose) with my camera eyecup and I saw that it hurt him.  He started to cry but stopped within 2 seconds.  Had this been in the states the kid would have cried for a while.  Kids are tough here and to a similar degree in all of Africa.  They do not have the support structure from their family/parents that we are used to here.  I don't think I have seen one child cry during my time in Africa.  I had noticed some eye gunk, or mucus, on my camera's eye piece--I wiped if off and hoped for the best.  Many of these kids had yellowish-green mucus running completely down their noses--meeting their mouths.  Like most of the children in Africa both the boys and girls had nearly shaved heads.  The ringworm infections, which spotted their scalps, were clearly visable.

We we informed that the children must attend secondary school away from home.  The goverment provides free schooling to the Maasai within the Ngorognoro Conservation Area.  Becuase of the large area and the decentralized nature of the Maasai villages the kids must be boarded at the schools.  Sending these children to boarding school, though free in tuition, ends up being very costly to the families.  The families must pay for the children's books, transportation to/from the school, supplies, and a uniform.  I asked why the children needed uniforms and the Chief's son explained it to us--it leveled all the children such that the kids could not distinguish which families were 'rich' and which were 'poor'.  The reason I call out 'rich' and 'poor' is becuase these terms are relative to eachother.  One cannot possibly understand what it means to be 'rich' or 'poor' in a given society/culture without some type of level-setting.  Take this for level-setting--A family which owns 100 cattle is very 'wealthy' and they can afford to buy their child new shoes every few years.  A 'poor' family...well...you can imagine how 'poor' they must be by comparison.

In the event that I ommited the type of shoes the Maasia wear, they have rubber thongs made from recycled automobile tires.

The Maasia don't actually eat the cattle, though they do own them--it is their main source of wealth.  Their status and ability to find wives depends on their cattle.  Also, the woman's family pays the man's family in cattle as a dowry.  The Maasia own cattle (cow), goats, sheep, and donkies.  They eat the goats and sheep.  The man that was showing us his house told us they do NOT eat their cow, but Debby just informed me that her guide told her that they do eat them.  The donkies are used for labor only.  They do NOT eat chicken, eggs, veggies, or fruit!  Sounds like a good diet to me ;).  Just kidding, I am a rabbit--without veggies I wouldn't last 4 days.  They do drink the blood from the cattle however and sell the cows once they have reached maturity.  Cattle is one of their very few assets of the Maasai people.

It's 10:10am and we're en route to Nairobi--we've been on the road singe 7:45am.  We stopped for 30 minutes so Godfrey could pick up something at DHL.  We had 15-20 minutes to get out and look around.  I left the truck to stretch my arms and buy a 1.5L cold bottle of water (cost was only 1,000 shilling or about $0.60).

On our way to the Tanzanian/Kenyan border we stopped on the road due to some commotion.  A person had been stabbed and killed on the side of the road.  The man was being carried out by 6 men.  The police officers were there.  A man stabbed the guy using a Maasai blade...the very same type that I bought the other day.

I knew I would have no issues taking the sword into the states, but I am not sure if I will be allowed to take it with me to Amsterdam.  There are a few options I'm investigating:
   A - I just take it with me, don't declare it, and hope it is not found
   B - I take it with me declare it and convince the agents that it is a relic and not a weapon
   C - I ship it back to myself while in Nairobi.  This can be expensive, so I may want to buy 'more stuff' just so the fractional cost of the shipping to the entire cost of the goods is minimized.
   D - I can take it with me and try to check it in a locker in London/Amsterdam and then pick it up on my way back to the states.  This is the least likely option.

It's just before 1:00pm and we are not in Kenya.  I had taken 0.5mgs of lorazepam and another 0.5mgs of alrazopan 4 or so hours ago.  Appearantly these dosages are too low becuase I still feeel as if I can hike a mountain.  I don't want to take any more even though we stil have 200kms through traffic until we arrive in Nairobi.

It's nice to be back on our truck--It's so much more 'enjoyable' than those 4x4s.  Alot of this trip has involved viewing the countryside during long truckrides.  Stamping out of Tanzania was simple, though we were queued in a line to get into Kenya for well over an hour.  It moved slowly, the person working my line didn't speak english, and it was hot.  Finally it was my turn, we had already filled out the extensive paperwork so the process once I was at the counter went reletively quickly.  I paid $20USD for a transit visa and that was it.  I am not sure for how long the transit visa is good, but I cannot imagine it is less than 1 night.  My flight is just prior to midnight tomorrow so I will be checking out of the country on January 1st, 2014.  The family of aussies (4) all bought single-entry visas which cost 2.5 times what the transit visas did.  They are leaving at midnight on the 2nd.  This just speaks to their mentality.  They are such 'push overs' never wanting to take chances in life.  If their flight is at midnight they have to be at the airport well before that and will have to stamp out tomorrow sometime.  However they were worried that a transit may only be good for 24hrs.  That ridiculousness is another prime example of the people on this trip.  All passports are stamped with the same type of stamp.  You know that type, it has the Money, Date, and Year--the same stamp your old librarian used to use on the punch cards in the back of your books.  There is no mention of 'time' on a visa/passport so the idea of 24hrs vista is ludacrous.  I know this all sounds like I'm being overly-critical, but you have to realize that these are just examples to help draw the picture of many of charecters we have on this trip.  If America ever neded more land, Australia would probably tuck their tails between their legs, give us all their land, and then apologize for having been on it in the first place.  I am not saying people should/need to break the rules to be decent people.  But I DO expect people to think for themselves in a critical fashion and to stop being such goddamn pushovers.  There are always pros and cons when traveling with a group, but it kind of sucks when many of the younger people traveling are mindless sheeple and their herding parents are opinionless pretentious sheep themselves.

On a side note:  I love the ductch.  True there are dutch people I'm not a fan of, but I've met so many along my travels to 'get' (or grok it - props if you get the R. Heinlein reference) their culture   They share many similarities to Americans.  Also, people who are from Berlin are crazy-cool.

On my way out of the Kenyan border crossing building I was being accosted by 16 women in Maasai shalls.  I wanted to buy a couple bracelets so I offered them 300 Kenyan shillings (82 Kenyan shillings to the USD).  They told me 1,000.  After the useless back and forth dribble I got three bracelets for 300 shilling.  Debby and Cara both counted 16 women...that's how many were trying to sell me their products.  They were all the same--the products, not the women--and they would put the bracelets and necklaces on me and tell me how good they looked.  Apparently they were not allowed to come onto the sidewalk of the immigration building because they were leaning towards me.  I wish we were allowed to take pictures at border crossings because this would have been a site to remember.

We're back on the road and Godfrey has told us that the remaining 200kms will take 2-3 hours.  We'll see if we arrive between 3 and 4 though.

Debby and Vincent at our hotel in Nairobi, Kenya
As usual we arrive later than we have been told.  Today we get to the hotel around 4:15.  About half of us stay here and the other half take taxis to their own accommodations.  Nomad orinally stayed at another hotel, but due to the proximity of recent terrorist attack they moved their hotel of choice to this place, which is right in the city center.  Debby, and Vincent are staying here.  Cara and Stephanie need to find a place but most are far away and the few that are available are in unsafe areas.  The cost for them to get a room here was $200.  That is outragous compared to the $72 that I paid when I booked through Nomad.  After much deliberation I extended them an offer to stay with me in my room--I had an extra bed for Stephanie.  Cara stayed up all night becuase she had to leave before 3:00am to catch her 5:40am flight to Dubai.  I had been looking forward to a night alone in peace and quiet with a room to myself--however I would not feel right for a couple of reasons.  First, they should be able to feel safe, we ARE in Nairobi.  Second, Debby and Vincent are both here and we are all planning on going out and spending new year's eve together.

Street signs near our hotel in Nairobi, Kenya
After laying my things down in my room I wrap up the chairs I bought with the 3 top sheets and blankets that I have been 'collecting' from various hotel rooms along my travels.  It's pretty well packed, very heavy, and hopefully sturdy enough to survive the journey through the cargo bays of 4 flights.

I joined Vincent and Debby (as well as Tabby) in the bar for a drink.  They were having chicken fingers and a beer--I had a Kenyan Pilsner beer for 350 shilling ~$4.  These prices are a bit more expensive than what I'm used to but I ago along with it.  Stephanie and Cara join us by the time I'm half done with my beer.  We all chat for another 15 minutes.  We talked about the tour and some of the people on the trip.  We talk about how we all thought there would be more 'young' people on the trip and that the fact that not everyone camped in tents made things very hard for the campers.  We decided it wasn't really the ages that would have made a difference, because Hans and Sonya were older and they embraced life to the fullest.  They are such great people and we talked about how lucky we were to have met them.

Bar in Nairobi, Kenya
I paid my tab and then we all left (excluding Tabby) for the city.  I finished my beer as we walked to the front gate and we gave the empty bottle to the guard in front.  It was around 6:00 (or maybe just before) at this time.  We walked into the city, over a bridge, and went directly to an ATM--I had changed money at the border though.

We walked around a bit and crossed a bar that we had all agreed to go and eat at.  They served different meats straight off the grill.  They offered them just as the skewers or as an accompaniment, which included a meager serving of some type of vegitable, and ugali (with is pap in Zimbabwe).  Every country calls this 'ugali' dish something different.  In place of the ugali you could also get chips (french fries) or rice.

We sat down and saw one other white guy in a field of black faces.  He was sitting alone and we asked if he wanted to join us--he did.  His name was Lawrence and he was from Norway.  He had some free time back at home--so 2 weeks ago he bought a ticket to Nairobi.  He's spending 3 weeks in Africa, but doesn't have an itinerary.  He just come back from the Masa Mara and said it was great.

A SIDE NOTE:  it's 7:40am Jan 1st, 2014 and I've been trying to get internet signal in my room.  The ONLY place that I can comfortably be with signal is near the door.  I have moved my bed 1m closer to the door and am laying down such that my tablet is in the most bottom right corner.  If I move 2 feet away the signal drops to poor and if I move 5 feet away it's to week to connect.  Fuck it, T.I.A.  (this is Africa).

Ok, back to last night...through the course of the entire night, after leaving the hotel, I had 2 small castle lite beers, while the others (except for Stephanie) had quite a few more.  I ordered the 1/4 chicken w/ ugali for 650 shilling (~$8.50 USD).  It was pretty good, but a meager portion, for me that is.  After a bit I ordered a skewer of chicken giblets.  I've never had these and wanted to try them.  They were tough with not much flavor.  Sort of grissely.  I tried to ask what it was but they couldn't give me a straight answer.  I think they were chicken kidneys, but I'm not positive.

After I was seated I had gotten up to look at the food on the grill.  During my walk back to my table 2 women, who were sitting in a group of 6, called me over.  There was a man with the ladies dressed as tacky as ever.  They were asking me where I was from and how long I've been here.  They were being very flirtatious and asked what I was doing tonight.  I told them I was with friends.  They both asked if they could come and join us--I told them we are a close group of friends and don't have any room at our table.  One of their names was Beverly--I can't recall the name of the other.  I said I have been in Africa for well over 3 weeks and asked them what I should do tomorrow.  They told me to go to the Masa Mara.  I told them that I was flying out during the evening and would not have the time.  They asked if I like to have fun--I knew where this conversation was going before it started but I still wanted to treat these 'ladies of the night' with respect.  I told them I didn't understand.  Then they told me they can take me around tomorrow.  They smiled and said "you like fucking?".  I smiled and said I didn't understand.  They said "[they] will fuck me really good".  I thanked them for the gesture but said that I would have to pass  They asked if I was a virgin and I asked them if I looked like I was a virgin and they laughed.  I was still standing up at this point in the main hall of the outdoor bar we were in--only 5-8 meters away from my table so I knew my safety wasn't an issue.  They asked again and then asked why not?  I told them I had a girlfriend and explained how this type of thing is wrong.  They asked why again, as if they didn't fully understand.  I told them that my heart is with her and that it would hurt her and that I would not want her doing the same thing to me.  They looked at eachother and it was at this time that I saw them for who they truly were.  They stopped trying to push themselves on me and told me that I was a good person.  They said that "my type" was rare.  They looked at me as if they thought I had just sacrificed myself for all humanity.  The sole fact that these women stopped trying to hook and respected what I told them helped me to realize that these women are just trying to make a living.  They are not moraly bankrupt but enterprising women.  I told them it was a pleasure talking to them and that I hope they have a good night.  As I walked back to my table they said goodbye and I told them to be safe.

Back at my table we chatted about...well everything.  We saw a very tall and very black man that was dressed in green army fatigues.  He wore a red berret and was held up by two canes that had arm cuffs.  When I looked down I noticed he was missing his left foot.  A man had apprached me and told me ths guy was from the South Sudan and was very upset about the war going on--I am assuming he was involved in the war given his stature, clothing, and injury.  I guess the Sudanese are known for beeing VERY tall.

Cara had wanted a smoke and she had gone over to a table to ask this lady for a smoke.  However there is something you need to know about Nairobi, and Africa to a lesser degree.  Women don't go out.  You see swarms of men together--sometimes you see a man and a women together but they don't sit together like we do in the west.  The concept of dating doesn't really hold here.  When women 'go out' they typically are out in a groups and often are accompanied by 'one' man.  This is the typical pimp/prostitute set up.  As I looked around it amazed me that at least 80% of the women in this bar were hookers.  I think Cara's gesture to go over to the man's table and ask for a light gave the wrong impression.

About 15 minutes after she had walked over to the table the man came to our table and asked me to 'box it' which mean to bump his fist.  It's like when we say 'bump it'.  He asked if could speak to me privately...I obliged him.  He said men are visual creatures and other things that seemed half poetic and half nonsensical, but I knew what he was implying.  He was trying to be smooth about it and trust me he was...very smooth about it.  A translation of his pimp-tastical rhetoric went more or less like this, "I like how the woman sitting across from you looks, what is her situation?"  I am about 75% sure this man was asking if she was available for the night?  I thought it was creepy but I can't blame him.  I mean typically when there are 3 guys out with 3 girls the last thing these people would expect is that they just friends or that some of them are 'dating'.  The assumption here is that we are currently being 'entertained' by some and the other women may just be there awaiting future business oppourtunities.  I said she is not intersted and he got the message and laughed and shook my hand again.  He left and went back to his table.  He approached me 2 or 3 more times over the course of the next 2 hours.  Each time his approach was different, but I respected him for the fact that he didn't go up to Cara or any of the other girls directly.  The more I am thinking about it I don't think he did this on their behalf.  I am quite certain it was that he did not want to show disrespect towards me.

Dancers in a bar on new year's eve in Nairobi, Kenya
There was a live band playing.  There was a guitarist, bass player, a drummer, and at least 8 other people who just danced.  They were all dressed in yellow shirts and the the dancers were just terrible.  Their moves were rythmic, but simple and silly.  They were acting as they were 'the shit' though.  They all had the fake gold chains, flat brimmed hats, sagging pants, rediculous belt buckles, etc. that you would come to expect.  It was a great pleasure watching them.  There weren't people dancing, but this is probably typical since, like I said, women don't go out here in Africa.  One tall man in a muslim-style tunnic and hat danced alone for a bit and then sat down.  There was, however, 1 older woman dancing by herself.  She left NOTHING to the imagination as our new friend Lawrence had pointed out.  She was unattractive, had a large belly, and was letting nothing get the way of her having a good time.  We enjoyed watching her dance.  I had wanted to go back and the rest said they would accompany me.  I told them I was fine to catch a cab alone.  Debby told me that it is customary in Holland that "those who go out together leave together".  I thanked them and we took a taxi back to our hotel.

For 500 shillings we managed to get 6 of us inside a small taxi cab.  The driver wasn't happy about this.  Back at the hotel we sat at the outside restaurant.  We had joined the two from Costa Rica and Tabby.  They had beers and some light fares.  I had chocolate icecream.  Yum!  I went up around 10:45 to relax.  I was dosing on and off.  Stephanie and Cara had showered, I wont shower here--too much work.  Just before midnight I had forced myself to get up and go into the hallway and shake Tabby's hand and tell Vincent and Debby "Happy New Year".  I then went back to bed and passed out.

I must have been sleeping deeply becuase I didn't hear when Cara had left at 3:00am or when Stephanie had left at 6:00am.  I woke up just before 7:00am.

Introduction and Itinerary

Hello All,

I would like to take this time to introduce myself as well as the following blog.  I am Scott Biales, as most of you likely already know. I will be traveling to Southeast Africa for a camping safari and ending my trip in Amsterdam.  I will be gone for a total of 30 days, from December 6th thru January 5th.  For the first leg of my trip I will be in Zimbabwe, Zambia, Tanzania, and Kenya for about 25 days.  I will then be flying from Nairobi, Kenya to Amsterdam where I will spend three nights with my friend Kim for the second leg of my trip. 

Although I will not be visiting the following locations, I will be stopping at their airports:
  • London, England  (I have two layovers in London that are ~9 hours long so I may get some time to spend there.)
  • Johannesburg, South Africa

In the past I've kept a travel blog alongside a personal written journal.  Given the nature of this trip (long bus rides) I will not be keeping a personal handwritten journal.  I will use this blog as my main travel journal.

Nomad Tours Video


(NOTE: "Organized Portion of Trip"  is a trip provided by Nomad Tours.  Day 1 denotes 1st day of tour.  A negative number indicates relative time with respect to tour start date.)

Day -5 Philadelphia (Philadelphia -> London)
Flight leaves Philadelphia at 10:00pm, 

Day -4 London (London -> Johannesburg)
Flight arrives in London at 10:10am. 8hr 35m layover in London then 6:45pm departure to Johannesburg

- 8hr 35m layover in London -

Day -3 Johannesburg (Johannesburg -> Victoria Falls)
Flight arrives in Johannesburg at 7:35am.  3hr 50m layover in Johannesburg then 11:25am flight to Victoria Falls.  Arrive Victoria Falls at 1:05pm.  Have half day to check in to my hotel for the next three nights and relax after a 3 legs and 2 long days of flights.

Victoria Falls, white water rafting, game drive in Botswana, etc.

Victoria Falls, white water rafting, game drive in Botswana, etc.  Get rest for early start tomorrow, when our tour meets up and leaves early.

Victoria Falls (START) to Nairobi (END)

Day 1 Lusaka (Zimbabwe)

Leaving behind the natural wonder of Victoria Falls we begin our expedition. After Livingstone we journey towards the bustling Zambian capital of Lusaka. You will notice the vegetation becoming sub-tropical and the roads a little rougher.

Meals: Lunch, Dinner

Day 2 Chipata (Zimbabwe -> Zambia)

Today is a long drive through lush country, crossing rivers en-route to Chipata, the gateway to the South Luangwa NP. Zambia is truly African and an adjustment from the more Western ways of Southern Africa.

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Early in the morning we drive from Chipata to the border of the South Luangwa National Park where we spend the next two nights right on the banks of the Luangwa River. You can often see hippos and other animals from the camp bar. This afternoon we enjoy a sunset game drive in the South Luangwa NP.

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 4 South Luangwa National Park (Zambia)
In the morning you have the opportunity to take another game drive. The park is known for its high concentration of leopards and hippos. After lunch we visit the community run tribal textile project and a local village. Optional Activities: Morning Game Drive, Game Walk inside park.

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 5 Lilongwe (Zambia -> Malawi)
Today we visit the Lilongwe Wildlife Centre, Malawi’s only sanctuary for rescued, orphaned and injured wild animals. The Centre is set in 180 hectares of beautiful woodland, Lilongwe’s only protected wilderness.

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 6/7 Kande Beach (Malawi)
This morning we have the opportunity to participate in a 2 hour city tour, before we take a scenic drive to Kande beach. We will spend the next 2 days enjoying the many optional activities available, such as horse riding and different water sports. We will go on a guided village walk in order to meet the local people and learn more about Malawian life. Optional Activities: Scuba diving, snorkeling etc.

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 8 Lake Malawi - Chitimba (Malawi)
We travel further north and spend our last day in Malawi at Chitimba beach.

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 9 Tanzania - Iringa (Malawi -> Tanzania)
Today we leave Malawi and enter Tanzania. We ascend out of the Great Rift Valley through some spectacular mountain passes, passing vast tea plantations in the highlands before arriving at our camp outside Iringa. This evening our dinner is in a local Masai Hut where we enjoy a traditional Tanzanian evening.

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 10 Mikumi (Tanzania)
We leave Iringa today and head north to the Mikumi National Park. Mikumi is home to lion, zebra, wildebeest, impala, buffalo and elephant and today we have the opportunity to enjoy an optional afternoon game drive through the park.  Optional Activities: Afternoon game drive in Mikumi NP.

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 11 Dar es Salaam (Tanzania)
Our journey today brings us out of the cool highland region to the humid Indian ocean coastal city of Dar es Salaam. Meaning ‘house of peace’ in Arabic, Dar es Salaam is the economic and trade capital of Tanzania, but inland Dodoma remains the official capital city.

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 12/13/14 Zanzibar (Tanzania)
A local ferry will take us from Dar es Salaam (where we leave the truck) to Zanzibar. We take a transfer to the northern part of the island where we will spend our time relaxing on the beach. On the 3rd day, we head south to Stone Town, the capital of Zanzibar, where we will spend the night. Here we have time exploring the historical and unique architecture. There are also spice and seafood markets to be explored. Optional Activities: Lunch and Dinner, Motorbike hire, Spice tour, Walking city tour, Swimming with Dolphins, Scuba Diving, Snorkelling etc.

Meals: Breakfast x 3

Day 15 Lushoto  (Tanzania)
Today we leave Zanzibar and catch a ferry back to Dar es Salaam and return to our truck. We continue on to Lushoto, the major town and district centre, albeit small, in the Usambara Mountains, halfway between the coast and the parks. The popular pot plant Saintpaulia has its only wild occurrences in Tanzania, and particularly in the Usambara Mts. Here you will have the chance to hike in the surrounding area, or just relax.

Meals: Breakfast, Dinner

Day 16 Karatu (Tanzania)
Today we take a scenic drive via Arusha to the picturesque town of Karatu. The area’s cool climate, verdant hills, and pleasing views made it popular with settlers and farmers. Vast and extensive fields cover the slopes of the volcano and the lands around Karatu town. Karatu is also a stone’s throw away from the world famous Serengeti and Ngorongoro Conservation Area.

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 17/18/19 Serengeti and Ngorongoro Excursion (Tanzania)
These 4 days are set aside for the optional 3-night camping excursion into the Serengeti National Park and Ngorongoro Crater. This area has one of the most densely inhabited large animal populations in Africa. On the first day from Karatu to Ngorongoro, there will be time for visiting the Oldupai gorge and museum.
The Serengeti excursion is in open topped 4x4 safari vehicles in order to tackle the challenging side roads in the parks. For those not going to the parks, take this chance to absorb some of the fascinating local culture. Optional Activities for those not doing the Serengeti Excursion: Various Serengeti & Ngorongoro Excursion packages, Lake Manyara game drives, day hiking & village tours and many more various day trips.

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 20 Arusha (Tanzania)
Today the group meets up again and we have the chance to exchange stories of the various adventures that we participated in over the past few days. In the afternoon we visit the local Masai Mara Museum and Snake Park in Arusha. Optional Activities: camel ride to local Masaai village.

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 21 Kenya - Nairobi (Tanzania -> Kenya)
After crossing the border into Kenya we continue to travel towards Nairobi and the end of our journey. Usually we end the tour with a group meal out at one of Nairobi’s excellent restaurants. Optional Activities: Dinner out.  Check into my hotel for the evening and likely lay low for New Year's Eve..

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch

- End Organized Tour.  New Year's Eve Tonight -

Day 22 Kenya - Flight Out (Kenya -> 11pm Flight)
Spend New Years Day in Kenya keeping a low profile and repack for this evening's 11pm flight to Amsterdam via 9hr layover in London, England

- 9 hour layover in London -

Amsterdam Portion of Trip

Amsterdam, Netherlands

Day 23 Arrive Amsterdam 4:55pm
My friend, Kim de Winter, has offered to have me as her guest during my stay in Amsterdam.  She has also offered to both pick me up and drop me off from the airport.

Day 24 Amsterdam

Day 25 Amsterdam

Day 26 Amsterdam (Amsterdam -> Philadelphia)
Depart Amsterdam at 10:35am.  Arrive London at 11:00am with 1hr 15m layover.  Depart London at 12:15pm and arrive Philadelphia at 3:10pm.

- End of Entire Trip -