Weirdo Looks For Baby Moses

IMG_1487 

I have no idea how Cleopatra found a baby in a basket on this wide, rushing expanse of water. That’s how the story goes, right?

I spent my last few dreamy African days on the banks of the Nile River. After returning to Kampala following my Troop to the Gorillas, a couple of guests at my Kampala hostel strongly recommended a little island about two hours away in Jinja with a most unappealing name of Hairy Lemon (I’m terrible with accents so at first I thought they kept saying Holy Lemon, which, having been brought up in a Christian home, I thought was fitting for a Nile River island, but alas…). 

The first thing I read about this place was: to get to the island, you must stand on the banks of the Nile and strike a gong, after which a boatman will collect you. I was sold.

My ride

 
 
The Island was a purely tranquil delight. There was only one other guest during my stay so it was the perfect way for me to relax, unwind, and happily reminisce the adventures of the past 18 days. 

   
 
I stayed in the Kigelia Kabin, which had room for four people (full board with meals included for $42 USD/night), but seeing as I was only one of two guests, I had the whole banda to myself. It overlooked the Nile, where I sat, read, drank endless cups of coffee and watched chickens, monkeys, lizards and various other small wildlife putter around next to me.

    
When it was hot, or I heard the gleeful screeches if white water rafting tours floating down the river, I’d wander to the riverbank, read, tan, and amusingly observe.

IMG_1504

#omgsunset


Next up, I go home after a short layover in Amsterdam and a trip to a “coffee” shop.

Weirdo Goes Tarzan In The Jungle

I literally swung off trees. Mostly to catch myself from slipping down the muddy slopes of the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest or to frantically leap from beehives, but whatevs. Me, Jane.

I spent my first six days in Uganda on a Topdeck “Troop to the Gorillas” Tour run by Acacia Africa and I can’t recommend these guys enough. I’m not much of a tour person and this was my first (more than three-day) tour, but it was full of awesome people, an incredible tour leader (Elton) and driver (Marc), delicious food, and great ease in knowing what, when and where you’re going next. We covered so much ground from Kampala to Lake Bunyoni, including a visit to Queen Elizabeth Park, chimpanzee trek, gorilla trek, optional day trips to Kigali and we still had plenty of time for some downtime at the lake to catch up on postcards, journals, reading, sleeping, cleaning your belly button, or whatever the hell you wanna do. It’s vacation, after all. TIA.

Mountain Gorilla 1

The biggest reason I was there was to see this guy and about 19 of his family members and the experience was so surreal that it’s been four days and I still can’t properly put my emotions into words. My camera handling was shit that day – whether due to my overwhelming excitement or damp jungle conditions, I don’t know – but most of my photos are blurry. After awhile, I stopped taking photos and just watched in awe, fear and respect.

Bro's not havin' it

Bro’s not havin’ it

Out of the family of 20 that we saw, there were three silverbacks, one of which was notorious for charging. During debriefing, we were reminded more than thrice how to react if a gorilla charges you:

  1. Don’t yell
  2. Don’t look him in the eye
  3. Don’t run away

About two minutes into our first sighting, notorious Rumanza was just chillin’ out by his tree and I guess he wasn’t cool with eight people interrupting his “me” time, so he charged and I did the exact opposite of all of the above. Hey man, all logic goes out the window when a 400 pound silverback rushes at you. I may have peed a little but I blamed it on the rain.

Bring it on, Rumz

Bring it on, Rumz

I like this tree. This is my favourite tree. Leave me alone under this tree.

I like this tree. This is my favourite tree.

I'm shy

I’m shy

Next up, I relax in Jinja in denial by The Nile.

Weirdo Makes It On Time To The Airport

I don’t really believe in a world governed by time (damn you, Sir Isaac Newton) but my bestie convinced me to leave earlier than I usually would. This means leave my house no less than 3 hours prior to my flight for the 25 minute train ride to YVR. I was close and left 2.5 hours prior only to breeze through security in five minutes thanks to my Nexus. I genuinely waited four times as long for my lunch Combo B at Hanami Express (really shitty food, by the way) than I did in the security lineup. I’m currently sitting at my gate, watching people that have been standing in line to board for the past half hour, even though we didn’t technically start boarding until about 10 minutes ago. Maybe if you stand closer to the doors they’ll let you on sooner, guys.

I kind of want to show off my planning skills as this is the most prepared I’ve been for any trip. Excel is my life now. I’ve had to carefully budget, plan for the hottest climate I’ve ever been to (I’m a fainter), and schedule sitters, pick-ups and school/soccer drop-offs for my son.

I’m actually a major geek and love Excel-ing (see what I did there), but about 85% of this template came from these fellas. It’s helped me budget, have an idea of what to expect to spend, and know how much money to exchange and tuck away. I love it. It’s also pretty. I’m a nerd.

In a non-spreadsheet nutshell, I’ll be in East Africa from October 9th – 27th, looking for good eats, interesting people, tremendous adventure, and a lot of weird stories to experience, live, see and tell. So if you or someone you know or someone you don’t know will be in the vicinity, and wanna get weird…

Come at me, bro.

Weirdo Prepares to Travel to East Africa

Recipe for Misadventure

  • Ingredients: ~47
  • Prep Time: 3 weeks
  • Cost: Priceless (just kidding, this is running me like five grand right now and I haven’t even left yet)

Ingredients [Essentials]:

I’m a notorious over-packer (and over-spender, and over-thinker–that-I-have-time-er), so take some of this with a grain of salt. However, I’ve been packed for about a week – not because I’m in any way particularly prudent, but because I lost half of my travel gear after my trip last year (RIP, Trevor).

1. Backpack

Firenze

Since the untimely departure of Trusty Trevor the Travel Trundle, I’ve been on the hunt for a new and reliable friend and I found him in this slick, compact and durable package: the Farpoint Osprey 55 [aka: Firenze]. This comes in all sorts of lovely colours, has a detachable day-pack, great back support, lockable zippers, LightWire frame…but mostly, it makes me look really fucking cool. Check that sleek material and tight straps and sturdy handles and majestic logo.

For real though, if you don’t believe me, check the reviews (I mean regarding the specs and features and shit).

2. Packing Cubes

eBags

I kept reading about these things and back in my day, we just threw things in hat boxes and owl cages and off we went. But with my over-zealous packing, these were life savers. They forced me to actually think about what I needed rather than shove whatever could fit into any random [beautifully crafted mesh Farpoint Osprey] pocket. I purchased the eBags Slim Packing Cubes – Assorted 3PC Set with the only wish that I’d gotten the Slim Packing Cubes 3PC Set so that I had bigger cubes (I had to forgo taking my poncho and woolly scarf; the horror). Nonetheless, this is a picture of all cubes containing: 10 pairs of knickers, 7 pairs of socks, 2 sports bras, 2 bathing suits, 2 pairs of shorts, 1 pair of trackies, 1 pair of jeans and 2 pairs of leggings.

Let’s face it, though: I’ll probably only wear two items of clothing this whole trip ’cause I’m gross like that, but I really do recommend giving these a go if not for the satisfaction of cramming half your wardrobe into three tiny compartments.

3. Trousers

Please don’t ask me why I’m using British terms for clothing. Trousers, knickers, jumpers…whatever, eh? Aside from my super sexy new pal, Firenze, this is my new favourite purchase. I previously scoffed in the face of friends that searched tirelessly for travel convertible and/or cargo pants until I feasted my eyes on these North Face Paramount II Convertible Pants (I only found them because I was drunk and reading reviews online). Yes, they meet the sexy requirement (especially when rolled up as cargos), but they’re also lightweight, convert to not-too-short tween shorts and not-too-long grandma shorts; plus, they’re super thin to pack.

4. Sleeping Bag and Sleeping Bag Liner

Last thing, I promise. As part of my trip, I will be spending 10 days in hostels, homestays, treehouses, etc in Kenya before I spend 6 days camping in Uganda to meet some of my gorilla friends. This meant lugging around a sleeping bag I wasn’t likely to use for the first half of my trip. Lo and behold the Outdoor Vitals OV-Light Mummy Sleeping Bag (3 Season, Lightweight, Ultra Compactable) that compresses so small it’s pretty much the size of my super cool NY Giants hat (included in picture for size comparison. Also included in picture for excuse to post a picture of my super cool NY Giants hat.)

Now because I was (again) drunk and reading sleeping bag reviews, because that is what my life has come to, I decided it would be a good idea to get a liner. Sober-me is thankful for drunk-me’s brilliance, as not only do I run cold, but I wouldn’t mind that extra layer between me and the hostel/treehouse/camper van sheets. This TETON Sports Sleeping Bag Liner‘s really lightweight, and so teeny tiny that I’m tempted to carry it around in my pocket just because I can.

Prep Time [Visas]:

I made most purchases (other than my flight and tour) around a month in advance, trying to catch deals, drunkenly online shopping, selling off parts of my soul to pay for Firenze, etc, but if there is one thing you make sure you have time for: get your Visa done and sorted. Rules and fees for Kenya visa-on-arrival are constantly changing in Fall 2015 so keep an ear on the ground.

FYI, I sent in for my East Africa Tourist Visa and received it back from the embassy in Ottawa in just over a week.

Cost [Budget/Mid-Range]:

I’m going to goddamn Africa so PRICELESS with all capitals and bolds and stars and all that CSS shit I don’t know how to do. But if you’re wondering, with all transportation, accommodation, tours, trains, planes and automobiles (they have Uber in Nairobi!), I’m currently running at just under $4,800 on a budget.

Next up, maybe I’ll actually tell you exactly where the hell I’m going. Or maybe I’ll forget I even started this blog like how I forgot to pick up toilet paper again yesterday; thank goodness Dominos always ignores my “eco-friendly” request.

***Disclosure: I’m not making money off any of these links. I wish I was though. If you are a CSS or know of a CSS or have a CSS and can tell me how, I’ll give you the other half of the Ben & Jerry’s ice cream.