Arrive Kenya. Old airport. None of the plumbing in the toilets work. The button to operate them has been ripped out.
Go through baggage check to the new airport. Smell the new paint. Power points in the restaurant do not work. A cleaner sees us trying to charge devices. She leads me to the disability toilet. The toilet works. As does the power point. Plug everything in. “I watch for you while you eat”. Wonderfully helpful.
New airport Kenya. Two staff for every passenger. Most staff staring into space.
Arrive Rwanda. (Background – plane delayed by three hours. Been traveling 30 hours by then). No tour guide to meet us. We are told “he was here. There is his vehicle”. Our cell phones do not work. 4 or 5 people offer to help. Lend us cellphones. Talk to hotel. Help arrange taxis. After 5 false starts with the Hotel – “our limousine is 30 minutes away. Take a taxi and if you do not have money tell me at reception, I will pay and add it to your room bill”. The number of people looking to help is amazing.
Arrive at the hotel. Armed guards at the gate. Taxi inspected for bombs underneath. Baggage has to go through a scanner. Oh shit – what sort of a country is this?
Those beautiful african smiles everywhere.
The next day traveling through town. Armed policemen everywhere. Driver “there is no crime problem here”. Travelling out of town. Armed policemen in pairs every 5 km or so. Scans before we can go into museums and cultural sites. It gradually dawns on us – the issue is not crime but one of “terrorism”. I use inverted commas as I know there has been a long history of overthrows of government etc. Who is the terrorist and who is not. They seem to swap sides regularly.
Our tour guide can give us detailed malaria statistics but will not acknowledge HIV.
We arrive at a flash hotel. Six staff to meet us. Wonderful.
I go to the gym. Extemely expensive equipment. It has not been calibrated. Eg the cycle tells me my power output is 145 kwh. I know it is about 250 kwh. The TV is carefully placed on the side wall where no one on the equipment can see it.
There is a swimming pool with 2 full time attendants. (Background – it has been raining at 5 minute intervals since lunch time). As I arrive it starts to rain. Chair cushions and towels are removed. Stops raining. Chairs dried and cushions put back on. Starts to rain again. Cushions and towels removed. Ah Africa.
Start the chimpanzee trek. 7 of us plus a guide. There are 15 men standing the looking to offer a porter service. It made me feel sad.
At lunch yesterday I was was approached by a young girl with a baby. (Background I always say no to beggars). I said no. Her look of desolation. I gave her USD 1.50. The look of joy, relief and excitement on her face. She was still dancing as we drove away. I felt both so good and so bad.
We could be in most any country in Africa.
One thought on “This is Africa – impressions from Peter”
Oh dear Peter , That is the sadness of travelling in Africa- theres always a certain level of guilt/responsibility of how hard some peoples lives are. I often feel sick at the excess of my travel and the difference it could make to one life. I counter it by telling myself that it is at least of benefit that I visit their country and my tourism dollars are at least doing something. How else could they employ a swathe of people to put out and remove cushions 20 times a day. There is always at least one beggar that for some reason one just can’t say no to and their faces stay with you for a long long time. Enjoy Gorillas wish we were there.