East Africa Loop

Posted by on Jun 14, 2007 in Kenya, Uganda | 9 Comments

A lot has happened since my last post. My seven days in Nairobi were all about getting money, eating food and booking a flight home. I spent the entire time scouring websites and travel agencies to find a cheap flight home. From Africa, I was considering anything under $1,000 cheap.

Trouble is it’s high season in Africa and Europe. When I asked travel agents for a price most looked at me like I was crazy and said “you know it’s high season, right?” Many told me to check the web instead and a few suggested I not go at all. In the end I was torn between flying to London on Kenya Airways or Qater. I figured that it might be worth paying an extra $100 to stop in Qatar for a day or two. But, on the last day, when I was making my final decision the Qatar agent told me I’d have to arrange a hotel through them. I walked out.

I paid, in cash, for my $500-ish one-way flight from Nairobi to London on Kenya Aiways on Monday afternoon. That’s a student fare, folks. I was quoted the fare at $490 but when paying in shillings she figured the price at $1 to 69 shillings when the banks are all charging 66 shillings. That adds up. I’ll stay in London for a few days (I haven’t been back in about seven years) and then fly on American direct to Chicago. My flight lands around 3pm which should land me back home before rush hour on the I90 is in full swing.

My transit visa was ending so on Tuesday I took a direct bus from Nairobi to Kampala, Uganda. I paid extra for the luxory bus with wide seats because many people told me the regular bus often breaks down and takes 20 hours. This bus had three less seats than the seating chart listed which meant I had no seat. I made a fuss and they finally gave me a single seat, which is what I had booked. We were even served breakfast—two pieces of fried bread, a small sausage and passion fruit juice.

The ride was completely uneventful and I surprised myslef by not reading my novel or listening to my novel for the entire 15 hours. I have become a master at passing time. The nun sitting across from me was overly concerned about where I was going and when we got off the bus at 10pm she took me aside to arrange a taxi. I just stood back and let things happen and in the end a Korean missionary from my bus took pity on me and gave me a ride with his Kenyan missionary friend. It took us an hour to find the place and I felt bad for inconviencing them.

My first full day in Uganda I rode a boda-boda (motorcycle taxi) into town with another American girl who’s traveling alone. We were both hunting for spare gorilla permits but didn’t come up with anything. At the moment permits for Uganda are $375, ut they raise to $500 July 1st. Rwanda has already raised it’s fees to $500.

We had a nice lunch at a Western mall and then saw Oceans 13, which just came out here this week. We walked around lookgin for internet and shopping a bit before landing at an Irish pub for the night. She had met a drummer a few nights before and we sat and listened to a Uganda band play mostly American music in an Irish pub. It was probably the least “Ugandan” day I could possibly have.

There are a lot of activitie here including white water rafting on the Nile, gorilla and chimptracking and a few chill-out lakeside spots. I have some plans in the works and will let you all in on what’s going on as soon as I’m back in internet range.

One of the more significant things that has happened to me recently is my iBook screen dying. It’s been a slow death but the Apple dealer in Nairobi proclaimed it “too expensive to fix.” I left it in a locker in Nairoi. What that means for you is that there will be no map, budget, sketchbook, souvenir or gallery updates until I get home in August. I’m as sad about it as you, believe me. My iBook has been my best friend on this trip and I already miss it.

9 Comments

  1. Ant
    June 14, 2007

    Hi Megan, amazing as always. Just wondered though, are you actually a student? I’m heading off RTW pretty soon and was considering whether it’s easy to claim student rates?

  2. Kimberley
    June 14, 2007

    Wow I can’t believe you’re already making arrangements to come home, that seems so surreal!

    Sorry about your laptop, I bet it was like leaving a friend behind.

  3. Jung Yeon
    June 16, 2007

    Hi,
    when I searched urumqi’s pictures in google,
    I found your homepage.

    I’m korean.
    My English is not good.
    But, When I found pictures of korean,
    I wanted to send you message.

    Your homepage is very funny.

    My major is China area study.
    So I visited China three times.
    (Beijing, Tianjin, Urumuqi, Etc.)
    I missed urumqi, so I searched pictures of urumqi
    at google.

    anyway,I think you have a very fun time in your life.
    ^^
    Good luck to your life.

  4. Jim
    June 18, 2007

    I sympathize with the loss of your computer. My ipod died in Bolivia and my trip just wasn’t the same afterwards.

    My condolences…

  5. Jan Blake
    June 18, 2007

    I am sorry to hear about your computer problems, I would not have settled for one “it would be cheaper to buy a new one” and tried in UK. You are so brave wandering ab out as you have done. Did you run into a lot of language problems? Did you find it a problem getting used to different curencies? I am off to Thialand for 3 weeks July 8, hope the heat doesn’t kill me.

  6. Megan
    June 22, 2007

    Ant,
    I was taking classes before I left the US… you need to have an ISIC card to get most student rates.

    Kim,
    I know it’s been a long trip but traveling just feels normal now.

    Yeon,
    I’m glad you liked my photos. I don’t think Urumqi is a place many people take photos of!

    Jim,
    My iPod got corrupted in India so I can’t plug it in to my computer or add songs but to reset the hard drive would erase all of my music. Yeah, I miss my computer… thanks.

    Jan,
    I will investigate my computer problems more when I get home to see what I can do.

    There are language difficulties, Madagascar (French) being the worst… more so than Chinese for me. Currencies are no problem really. I just need to looks closely so I don’t give 10,000 instead of 1,000! Enjoy Thailand and get a pineapple shake for me.

  7. Mary Bowman-Kruhm
    July 19, 2007

    I have been following your adventures and hope you can help me re: purchasing Apple (or really any!) computer. I am writing a book for US students ages 9-14, about a young Maasai man. We currently exchange information via snail mail–URG! He must pay to use the camp’s computer and is able to do that only every few weeks for short messages. I cannot text message him from my US Verizon account. I bought an audio recorder for my iPod and an international phone card to record conversations but Siana Springs can’t get a signal, although he can from his village, but setting up an appointment to talk when he is there is hard. Well, you get the picture. Jackson suggested that if I could purchase a computer for him, he would pay the Internet charges. I have spent hours phoning and emailing Dell, Apple in Nairobi and US and no satisfaction. Any ideas for paying for computer in US and having it safely delivered to someone in Mara?

  8. Nick
    March 9, 2008

    How much did your flight to Africa cost? I am in minnesota and am looking for a flight to Kenya for under $1,500. Any good sites?

  9. Megan
    March 9, 2008

    Nick,
    Leave your email next time, I like to respond to people individually when they comment on old entries.

    For my flight costs check out my finance page (under the details tab at the top of the page). My flight costs are called out at the bottom of the page.

    I bought two one-way flights from Africa so it’s a bit different than buying in the US. I think airfares to Africa are the highest of anywhere in the world. Nairobi and J’Burg are probably the cheapest places (besides Egypt) to fly to.

    Try Kayak.com and JustFares.com. If you’re a student try STA. It might be cheaper to buy a flight to London/Frankfurt/Paris and then another flight to Africa. I flew Kenyan Airlines to London and then American to Chicago.