Well today was our very last day in Kenya and all of East Africa. Our African adventure has come to an end, that is sad, however we did have some fun experiences on our last day. We got up relatively early in the dungeon rooms at Wildebeest Eco Camp and packed up our stuff so we could put it in storage for the day. Check out is 11 or something and we were not catching our flight until 11 pm, so we are going to come back and shower after our day out. Bags packed we headed up for breakfast and to store the bags. After a somewhat slow breakfast we headed out to the gate at around 10 am to catch some bodas to the elephant orphanage which feeds the large little guys from 11 until 12 and that is the only time they are open. It is a good thing we went early. The front desk had told us to get the security guard to call some bodas for us. If you mistakenly stay here for some stupid reason ignore everything the front desk tells you, they are useless! We did manage to find the security guard and have him call for us, however it didn’t seem like he did it very often. We then stepped outside to wait for the bodas. They did not come. Eventually a lone boda happened past us and at this point we were still waiting for our supposed ordered bodas so we just wait. Then many many minutes later a boda showed up that had been called for, but we had asked for two deciding to be more comfortable this time. We waited another 5-10 minutes, no boda. So we hopped on the one boda and put putted towards the main road.
A little ways down the dirt road the other boda showed up so I got off and hopped on the new guys bike and we headed down the road. We made it to the road, turned left, which was expected, and started down the main road. There was a bit of traffic so the bodas started their weaving through traffic which is expected. What was unexpected was when my driver decided to go way left, a 90 degree turn off the road, the wrong direction. I was a little confused but he said we were taking a shortcut. It turned out to be a large shortcut around the traffic but 10 times the distance. Needless to say, it wasn’t a shortcut and when we got back to the main road Lindsay and her boda were no another 10 cars ahead of us. My boda caught up by running the edge of the road. At this point Lindsay and I figured we should be turning right to go to the orphanage since we had looked at a map. We each separately told our drivers this but both of them told us we were wrong and they knew where we were supposed to go. Turns out they were taking us to the Park Headquarters for Nairobi National Park. THIS IS NOT WHERE THE ELEPHANTS ARE! Do not let a taxi/boda take you there. We knew we were in the wrong place so we wouldn’t get off the bikes since they were hard enough to get to begin with. Finally a park employee happens by and explains to the boda guys where they are supposed to be and how this is not it. We knew this already, but white people never know where they’re going, heaven forbid I can actually read a map and you have no clue how to read said map. Oh, boda drivers.
So off we go again, this time we have about 20 minutes to get there and 4 times the distance to go. Back down the main road we shouldn’t have been on, which of course has all the backed up traffic. Then turn left on the road we should have taken the first time. A few kilometres down the road and many minutes later we pass a gate, not that one, a little while later another gate, not that one. I don’t have the map so I get my guy to stop and wait for Lindsay to make sure. She says one more gate, so we keep going. Finally we make it to the right gate, drive inside and down the road for aways with us pointing which way to go when we read the signs. Then we make it to the parking lot of the actual orphanage with about 4 minutes to spare. Whew! Lindsay, and I, were a little peeved at our boda guys by this point as it was their fault we almost missed this last activity on our trip. Lindsay goes to pay the boda guys what we had agreed and they start up with the whole but we had to drive farther routine we need more money. Well, that was a dumb idea on their part 🙂 Lindsay ripped into them about not listening to us, taking us to the wrong place, and it was a joy to watch their faces as they got reemed out by the white lady. I’ve been on the receiving end more than once so it was rather funny from my perspective. We ended up paying them more just to get rid of them, but definitely not what they were asking. For all of our boda experiences on the trip this was the lot with the worst drivers.
We walked into the shade as it was apparently a very hot day now that the wind wasn’t blowing on our faces on the bikes. A few minutes later the gates opened and the pile of people, with us miracoulously at the front, walked through the orphange to the outside viewing area. The viewing area is a large rectangle area of very red dirt roped off. The middle has a mud hole that fills with water when it rains and luckily it had rained the night before. All the people gathered around the outside of the rope, which is at hip height, and waited for the elephants and their caretakers to show up. A few minutes later off in the distance you could see a caretaker come out of the bushes and trailing behind him in a perfect line was a whole bunch of little orphaned elephants. Too cute. They were walking in line, some holding onto the tail in front of them and heading straight for the viewing area where they knew they were going to get fed. They even seemed to split the line as if choreographed once they made it to the feeding area, one going left, the other going right. The caretakers all took up positions around the feeding area and grabbed very large bottles of milke to feed the elephants with. The elephants were very excited to see the milk of course and grabbed for it very excitedly. Cute hilarity ensued. After getting their fill they began to play and eat some leaves and some even paraded around the area with their caretakers and people could pet them. Lindsay managed that, but I missed my chance, too busy taking a ton of pictures and video of the going ons. About 30 minutes later they all got together and left.
A few minutes later, the slighly bigger elephants, the teenagers if you will, came out for the same thing. They’re a little more self sufficient so the caretakers would just give many of them the bottle and they held it themselves and drained the milk. They stripped the branches they were fed of leaves and then they rolled around in the dirt cleaning and playing themselves. Then one of them discovered the mud pit was muddy so he went in. He was shortly followed by all of the other elephants until there was a giant mud pit romp going on. Quite fun to watch. I got lots of fun pictures of elephants rolling around in ways that doesn’t seem like it should be possible for an animal of that size, even if they aren’t full grown yet. As the elephants played one of the caretakers was giving an educational speech, most people didn’t hear a word he said amongst the noise and the business of watching everything else going on. Then just like that, 30 minutes was up and off they went back to their more private pastures. The throngs of people began to disperse and as we stuck around to the very end we were there to hear one caretaker left point out to the people near us that there was a lion over in the bushes watching everything. I brought up my camera and sure enough, not 40 feet away was a lionness, or a young male perhaps, hiding in the bushes looking at us and the now departed elephants. I was so shocked to see a lion so close, while I was on foot, that I forgot to push the shutter, so no picture, just the memory of it.
Immediately following spotting the lion we headed back to the gate of the orphanage to head into town for some shopping. We were going to catch a matatu (public bus in itty bitty passenger van format) back up the long road to the shopping centre for some food then scope out souvenirs somewhere. The problem was we had to walk back down the road through the park that our boda/picky picky drivers had driven us up. No problem, however Lindsay was a bit leary that we were now walking down a road, alone, not 50 feet from where we saw a lion. Needless to say we walked in the middle of the road, that way we could see our deaths coming and I could trip her or something and run away 🙂 We made it back to the park entrance gate and the only other lion we saw was the cutout on the gate.
Eventually a matatu came along that we caught back up to the “modern” shopping market. Got out, looked around, everything was too expensive and way to Western. Felt like a mall at home and I hate malls and they are not very African and not at all authentic. So we started walking down the road back towards the road to our camp remembering there was some sort of roadside shop. We made it there and the guy had a lot of statues and souvenirs for sale, but they were all of rather poor quality, and he wanted atrocious prices for them. So after not finding anything we really wanted, getting asked to change money for the owner (which we didn’t), we continued on down the road in hopes of something better, and some food. We did find another market/store on a corner a few “blocks” past our turn off back to camp. This place was huge! It was a masai run market and they had absolutely everything. They also knew they had absolutley everything, and were on the corner that turned to the Giraffe Centre, so all the rich tourists drove by on a regular basis, so that all equaled expensive and terrible bargaining. We knew we had no time to go anywhere else and that this place would have everything we needed, so we took our time looking around and seeing what we wanted. Then we proceeded to argue, I mean haggle, with the one guy running the store to get to a reasonable price. We never made it. For the price we paid for the few paintings, Bao game, and carved gourd, we got, we could have purchased most of Uganda, well at least it felt like it. I don’t mind spending more money on something I’ll keep forever, but it really bugged us that he thought we were that stupid that we would think we were getting a good price. We told him as much and he even said that he was giving us a better price because we “walked in” and didn’t show up with the tourists, but it was all still a rip off by African standards. Lindsay had a great debate with him about the cost of Masai blankets and how they were cheaper in Uganda, where they aren’t even made and have to be imported. He made some story up about them being fake and not of good quality but we know they all come from the same factory(s)! We bought slightly cheaper blankets back at the camp instead unfortunately giving them more money.
Finally we left the store a couple of bags in hand and started our walk back to the camp. We found a boda driver sitting right outside the store on the street almost as if he was waiting for the white people. We hired him to take us both back down the road to the camp and we hopped on for our very last double boda ride, and boda ride in general, for our trip. It was a precarious balance with me sitting barely on the back holding on to Lindsay quite tightly as this was a relatively small motorcycle compared to others I had been on in this trip. We headed back down the paved road and as we turned onto the dirt road down to the camp we saw one of our terrible boda drivers from the morning trip and he and I nodded at each other. It was funny seeing him again. We made it back to the camp, hungry since we hadn’t eaten anything yet and ready to relax the afternoon away before heading home.
(Warning we’re going to bitch about the camp again in the next paragraph)
We got our stuff out of storage and ordered some food. The afternoon was much less than relaxing as the staff started the blame game again with our room problems and eventually that led to the owner herself, who lives on the property with her family (hotel owners should not do that, it’s weird and unprofessional), coming over to talk to us. Her tactic to make up for all mistakes was to waste our time. She spent an hour talking to us trying to win us over with friendship I guess. It was going on so long that Lindsay went and showered, then came back, then I bailed after an hour or more and went to shower. When I got back Lindsay was still sitting there with nothing apparently having been brought up about them screwing up our tents. The lady was temporarily gone looking after some problem with her kids in the house (again not a good business idea). Finally she comes back, we talk some more finally about the issue at hand. She essentially blames the problems on us and her staff. She tries to blame away her staff’s issues by saying their Kenyan and that’s just how they are. What the hell kind of answer is that? Racist to start, but completely incompetent as a business owner to boot. Your staff is your staff and they do what you train them to do, whether they are black, white, tall, small, or just plain dumb like the owners here seem to be. Then she had to leave again. Eventually, after having spent 2.5 hours of our last afternoon having to listen to this woman drone on and on avoiding her job, we got fed up waiting and started heading to get our blankets we were buying. We hunted her down on the way and directly asked her what she was going to do to make up for mistakes. She looked at us like she had no idea why she owed us anything-wasn’t wasting our time talking for the afternoon making things up to us? She has yet to discover that words don’t fix problems in the hospitality industry and she’s trying to be a western quality establishment. If you can’t tell from these two post we were very unhappy with how this place treated us, and for the price they demanded for it. We told her that we wanted something in the form of an apology like perhaps dinner on them for the evening (not asking much since it is a buffet that everyone is eating at). She crankily agreed to this and we parted ways hopefully to never see each other again. We shall preech the problems and badness of this place to all that will listen, so don’t go there. It really is too bad as the place overall is quite nice (it is new though), the staff, and worse the owners, make it an unfortunate place. Don’t expect customer service, the customer is always wrong.
We purchased our massai blankets, then relaxed a little longer on the porch before dinner started. We sat with a girl from the USA and chatted while having dinner and then a little while later we got ready to go catch our cab. Wonder of all wonders the cab was actually there on time (I did triple check with the desk guy, since he is so reliable). We threw our bags in the trunk and started our night drive to the airport. The cab driver and us spent some time talking about Kenya and ending our trip and then somehow we got talking about the price of cars in Kenya versus back in North America. If the numbers all check out right he has his Toyota Camry that he drives for like 13,000 brand new where as in Canada your paying 23,000 or something similar. Are all the parts the same, is it reall new, who knows, but he seemed quite shocked at the price of our vehicles and we in turn at finding out how cheap it was (for us at least) to buy a car in Kenya. It may be correct because clothes, shoes and other goods were actually quite cheap in our travel, not just for us but for the Africans. Luxuries were still luxuries but most Africans we talked to were able to dress them selves for way cheaper than we would back home (taking the different prices and wages into consideration, particularly in Nairobi). If you know different I would love to find out the truth. We made it to the airport and joined the “cue” to get into the airport. Security is on the outside before they let you in the building. Then before we knew it we were in the airport and strolling around waiting to catch our flight to London. Almost bought some backpack sew on patches but couldn’t stomach the airport prices so ended up passing, not the same buying a Tanzanian patch in the Kenyan airport either, loses all meaning.
Eventually after a few more security screenings we made it onto the airplane for the seemingly short 8 hour over night trip to London. Our plane left Nairobi around 11 pm and our dream African trip came to an end. It was crazy, awesome, expensive, cheap, dirty, expected, unexpected, and about a thousand other things in between and we loved it. The bonus trip is that we get into London at 6 am and have most of the day to run into town and walk around before catching our last flight home.
Good Bye Africa.