Takawiri Island

The time is 5am, its really chilly outside. We’ve just woken up even before the sleep could completely rejuvenate us. But none of us wants to seem the odd one out. Not when that portrays a slack in your prayer life.

You see, we were waking up to pray. At 5am. It just was. No one explained why or who thought it brilliant to wake people up at ungodly hours to pray. So together, each one on his or her own corner, we prayed. And prayed some more. And prayed some more just in case whoever had the day’s word wasn’t ready. Then the word.

But on this specific day, the one with that day’s word stretched it out a little further. They told us to ask for anything we desired from the Holy Spirit that we hadn’t asked before. Something we didn’t necessarily think it necessary to bother the Holy Spirit with yet we desired.

So in a chilly morning in Machakos, on a Christian mission, I asked for three things to be fulfilled before the end of that year. 2017 that is. 2017 ended. I thought it might be just as well..I mean there is a reason some of us don’t necessarily put our hopes up when asking for some things from God.

Fast forward to today. I’m seated inside a tent. And out of my 3 prayers that I made on that chilly morning, this is the 2nd one that has come to pass this weekend.

I don’t remember when I first heard of Takawiri Island, but man, the pictures of that place left me with a desire to come see it. Who would have imagined white sandy beaches in Lake Victoria? Complete with palm trees? Certainly not me. I had actually never thought much about how Nyanza looks like.

Except the Rusinga Sunset. I think its the most famous sunset in Kenya. People come to Rusinga just to see that sunset. A friend of mine who has travelled extensively made me jealous a few years ago when he showed me the sunrise and sunset of this place.

All the same, one way or another, i’m here. Camping in Rusinga. Having visited Takawiri Island during the day. And having sat for hours just watching the lake and listening to birds. And waiting for the sunset. And philosophising.

Before I came here, on Friday and before, I was in a really bad place. Like really bad. And today I saw how simple and magical it feels to have your dreams come to pass.

And as I listen to the lake’s waves( we are sleeping a few metres away from the lake), I realize that this trip was more than just travelling. It was a dream come true.

Sometimes life breaks you. Literally. Till I can’t recognise what dreams still hold water in the various pieces that were once a whole me. And during those times, its easy to focus on what to eat and what to wear, but most importantly, just to make sure I wake up the next day.

But this beautiful place has reminded me that maybe there is still hope. That I shouldn’t forget to want. That in the struggle to stay alive, I should keep the fire burning. It may be just one tiny log burning up, but what matters is that its there.

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Nairobi National Park

I’m sure you’ve heard the most interesting thing about this park.. Its the only park in the world within a city. Like all around it ,its surrounded by infrastructure of one type or another. Which is a plus for a city because rarely, or rather it has never been done before in the world that a city, a major city at that, sets aside a huge chunk of land just for wildlife instead of erecting buildings on it.

That makes it really easy to visit. Since its just here. But surprisingly, most people who live in Nairobi have never visited the park yet they have been to other parks far away. The reason could be finances. Most travel agencies charge the same amount to go to Hell’s gate as to go to Nairobi National Park just here, so people prefer to pay the same amount of money and travel a bit out of Nairobi.

So it was a pleasant surprise when I saw that one of the Tour Operators I follow ( Safiri Nasi) had shared a post asking people who’ve never been to the park to pay up and go. It was the cheapest offer I had ever seen for going to Nairobi National park. So despite my broke self, I knew such kind of an offer won’t land on my laps any time soon. So I paid up. I invited my friends and only 1 showed up at that short notice.

Our journey started at around 11am from town and 12.30 noon from the gate. Which is way late or early if you are planning on seeing Lions. Lions are majorly only seen early in the morning, at 6am that is, or in the evening, at 6pm. And since the parks don’t allow people to be in past 6pm, most serious tourists brave the cold in the morning.

Anyway, just at the entrance we were graced by a huge warthog. And not very far inside we started seeing other wild animals like antelopes, buffalos and giraffes.

We had a tour guide who explained the various behaviours of the wild animals. For example, when male antelopes mature, they fight off among themselves. The winner gets all the females. As in, we could see a herd of antelopes made up of many females and only one male. That male was the strongest who won the fight and would therefore get the opportunity to serve all females when in heat and thus sire the next generation of antelopes. That way, only the strong genes are passed on to the next generation. We saw herds consisting of males only, with some having broken horns showing that they lost the fight. We knew they were male or female using the horns. Females don’t have horns.

I love learning stuff about wild animals or birds when on the ground or in the wild. I could have googled the information, but being there to see what we are talking about made it all the more fulfilling.

When I buy my car, I think one aspect of the kind of travelling I do now that i’ll miss will be travelling with strangers. All brought together by the love of travelling. We had so much fun digesting the information the tour guide was giving us about the animals as a group.

We as humans couldn’t understand just how this animal kingdom works. Like who tells them what they are supposed to do? How do they know its time to fight?

But the best part for me( coincidentally its always my best part in almost all safaris I’ve gone) , was sighting the animals as a whole bus. At some point, some lady and one man told us that they had seen Rhinos. Wacha tuzitafute! They kept on directing people as to where those rhinos were but all everyone could see were the bushes. Only later when we got to a more level place did we all see the said Rhinos. But the laughter in between as we looked for them certainly made my day.

Travelling makes me happy. Makes me euphoric. Gives me peace. Calms my world. And gives me hope for a better tomorrow. That for as long as I haven’t been to Congo, Gambia, Victoria falls, Mozambique, Ethiopia up here and Tunisia, then I have a reason to live, to hold on even when my today isn’t a good day.

If you haven’t been to Nairobi National park, make your way towards there..it’ll be worth your visit.

Kigali


I’m falling in love with this city. Its really hard not to. Everything about it is just on point! 

So I had always heard about Kampala and Kigali being Cities of hills or something of the sort. In my head, I understood Rwanda to be a country of many hills. What I didn’t expect at all, would be that the city is actually on hills. Not one hill, several hills. To explain it a bit, take Ngong hills, move them around to be like a circle around each other..not a straight line. Then now imagine buildings on the hills. 

Some hills look really official. With tall buildings only. I saw it and thought damn- that’s a real beauty right there. Yaani tall sophisticated buildings on top of hills. Its like God meeting with man. The beauty that ensues. At night that hill is the most lighted one with kinda yellow lights because of the working streetlights. I saw it the first time at night and its like a sky on earth- the lights look like many stars have fallen on that hill. 

Still on the hills, what that means is that everything is scattered around the hills. To visit Kigali Memorial Genocide center, I had to pass by or across two hills. For me it was an added adventure. Then to get from there to another place- same story, meaning I went through almost the whole of Kigali today. 

Besides those beautiful hills, comes their boda bodas. Those things are efficient. Like really efficient. To move around Kigali, I would highly recommend them. I saw some buses plying the city but for a newcomer like me, that would need really detailed instructions and directions of where to alight and which corners to take from there. Something I can’t risk right now. 

Why? Language barrier. As I mentioned here, the number of people who speak English here is limited. Really limited. Even the manager of the place I’m staying knows some English, but not in a deep way as to hold a long conversation with. What that means is that I’ve gotten lost twice. 

So I get from the Genocide Memorial Center and decide to visit the Presidential Palace Museum. I stop a boda boda guy and ask if he knows the place. He repeats the words presidential palace and nods and I get on the bike. And we go from that hill, through the official hill i’m telling you about. The roads are cleaner than you’ve heard and they’ve planted some really beautiful palm trees in between the roads. Yaani even the ride felt heavenly on those roads. 

So anyway, we go and go and swerve and go. Longest ride I’ve heard so far and the most beautiful. So guess where my boda guy takes me? To a school. Kigali Secondary school or something of the sort. Its really posh though (hehe), I think only rich kids go there. Anyway, it wasn’t my destination, so we kinda ‘argue’ for 5 minutes as I refuse to alight. In my head, this boda guy is tired of me and wants to drop me here and leave( forgive my experience with Kenyans). But he convinces me to get in the school by going in with me. I walk while opening google map to check how lost I am. The reason I never wanted to open the phone in the first place was because my phone was almost off. Like 5%remaining, and as I mentioned, I was going to a museum, at least I wanted a pic or two, plus to get from the museum to anywhere else, I certainly needed my phone- coz clearly, my word of mouth was misleading me to schools instead of museums.

So a man sees us coming and comes to greet us. The guy talks Kinyarwanda with him and after they finish speaking, he asks me where I want to go. Guess where the problem was? The word Palace or place. I think in their language one of those words means a school. So this guy brought me to where he thought I wanted. Just to be surprised when I say ‘School NO’. He explains to him where I want to go..and we laugh about it as he takes me only 10 minutes away. 

For me I think my experience here has been made more beautiful by the language barrier. It forces me to get out of my comfort zone completely. Including using hand gestures. I remember in high school we had this teacher who used to speak with a lot of hand gestures. That used to fascinate me , but I thought that with my quietness, I may never get to use them- since talking itself is getting out of my comfort zone to begin with. Now it comes naturally when I have to explain using signs and symbols that I’m looking for a charger- reminds me, incase you are coming to Rwanda- carry a two pin charger. All their sockets are two pin. All of them. Designed in such a way that a three pin one can’t enter. 

But I’ve met a drunkard who speaks English. He was drunk already. You should have seen my joy! Which brings me to the last thing about Kigali;

The people of Rwanda. 

Kindest souls I’ve met. Like real kindness. All boda boda guys have been really patient with me. To the extent that I now have to throw my Kenyan mindset away. They mean good( even when they take me to schools hehe 🙂 . To the hotel I took lunch today. To the hotel I’m staying at. They are so kind its almost magical. Its not something they show to foreigners, its who they are. Their goodness shines through in the way, if I ask one who doesn’t speak English, instead of leaving me alone or walking away, they take me to someone who does and wait till I get help. That has happened to me so many times. Their kindness kinda makes me wonder though, if they are this good from the soul inside out, how on earth did the Genocide happen? Read about my Kigali Genocide Memorial Center Here. 

Otherwise, I need to get out of this town..before my thoughts tell me otherwise. I have other places to visit but my whole self feels so at home here that I found myself thinking of extending my stay here. But so far, Kigali is that soothing City that makes you forget your worries and instead just live in the moment. It soothes in such a way that you just don’t want to leave. 

Language barrier in Rwanda?


In my head I thought Rwandans speak Kiswahili. Then after a small search as I was preparing myself to come, I realised they don’t. They speak English and Kinyarwanda. So I thought ‘no problem, we’ll communicate using English, right?’. Well shock on me. 

So I arrived and had a set of around 4 hotels I wanted to stay in. I show them to around 4 boda boda people and they know none. They all ask me to call the places so that we can get directions. Unlucky for me, I didn’t note down the contact numbers of those hotels. So after a 10 minute wait I decide to just move. So I tell this young boda boda guy to take me to any hotel. 

We start moving and we enter into a petrol station. But he doesn’t ask for fuel, instead he talks to the pump attendant. That’s when this pump attendant explains to me, that the boda boda guy doesn’t understand English so I should explain to him what I want, then he’ll in turn explain to him. We end up agreeing on a plan. 

My boda boda guy turns out to be such a good guy. He even waits for me as I register a line, something I doubt a Kenyan boda boda person would have done, unless at an extra cost. So I come to the hotel and same story, the lady i meet doesn’t speak English too. And even the one I finally get we have to use a little phone’s help to agree. 

But the lady at the MTN service shop spoke English eloquently. 

For some reason this had caught me totally unawares. I was ready for new things, but I didn’t expect a language barrier in Rwanda. And I’m not surprised in a bad way, actually two days ago I was wondering what it feels like to go to a new land where they don’t speak any language at all. And how it’ll be crazy going around. 

For me these are the things that make my trip interesting. There is the usual tourist attraction sites and travelling to places and then there is interacting with people on a one on one basis like with my boda boda guy. Experiences I wouldn’t trade for anything. 

Tattoo


I got a tattoo today. It was time anyway. The damn thing was chasing me every time I was in town. I couldn’t look ahead without tattoo parlours screaming at me from the advertising signheads put on buildings. It was the only thing I saw when I went to town. It was the only thing I saw when I counted my left over money, my mind would go into, ” hope you’ve left enough for the tattoo”

So I searched for a credible tattoo place and contacted them and went. And as I sat there waiting, the thoughts running through my head seemed to suggest that that would be my first tattoo. Emphasis on the word first. 

I felt exhilarated. Like I’m finally doing something I’ve been wanting to do since last year when I got my first peako tattoo. I thought of how I would send her the first picture. How I would post it and take pictures of it. 

Shock on me when the tattoo guy finished and I didn’t like the damn thing. Yap! I know. I can hear your chest falling. Mine did too. 

I felt as if the image was too big. Too black. Too out of the place I wanted it to be . Too conspicuous. Too too too…

So I came into the house, scrubbed it in a bid to make it go away faster and decided to actually just look at it. 

The stars are bigger than I wanted. The last one doesn’t even resemble a star. But you know what? 

I fell in love with it all over again. What I thought looked too dark, now looked so pretty against my light skin. The last star might not be a star as much, but ooh well..its mine. 

So yeah. I finally have a tattoo. Nowadays I’m ticking my bucket list like crazy. Had you told me last year the kind of things that would chase me around town refusing to give me peace of mind, I would have laughed at your crazy imagination. 

Now look at me. Aki si I’m loving this person I am right now! Sometimes I sit and laugh at my priorities in life and how I enjoy things I would never have considered a while ago.

Anyway so now that the tattoo is in place, next in line are some shoes I’ve been having dreams about. I see Bata anywhere and my mind reminds me I have a debt to pay to my feet. I want those shoes. 

See how much of a child this grown me is becoming. I’ve barely relaxed from getting one thing and my eyes are into another. 

But you know what finally gave me the push for the tattoo? An Oprah Winfrey book. The first chapter was on Joy. And how despite life’s circumstances, she goes after joy ,every single day. If drinking a certain type of tea makes her happy, then she’ll enjoy it every day. If travelling gives her the high kind of joy, then she’ll go somewhere once in a while.  

What makes you happy? Both low key happiness and high end happiness? What made you happy today? What will you do to give yourself some joy tomorrow? 

Mine was a tattoo among many things. And I’m really glad I put a smile into Mercy’s heart finally.

Nairobi to Kigali by Bus


 bridge at Jinja
You know the way when travelling through Kenya, the climate changes after every few hundreds of kilometres? Well, here, the scenery is kinda the same from one side to the other. Green and more green. Tens of hills, and more hills. Thousands of banana trees. And lots of trees. This place is deep green. Its like it came with a manual that that’s its default setting. 

And their roads are quite good. Like compared to Kenya, they have less potholes. Which means its easier to read a book here than back home. However getting to Kampala took us almost 3hrs for a very short distance. The jam was moving, then it stops then it moves. I think its because all vehicles have to pass through the city center. 

I like the designs of their houses. They are small according to me, even the huge ones have a tinniness to them. Kampala has really beautiful tall buildings. You know the way Nairobi has buildings resembling all complicated mathematical shapes you can think of? Kampala’s are quite simple..and in such a beautiful way. I love simplicity- maybe thats why I’m biased to Kampala. But the smaller towns have this habit of stretching along the road for kilometres and kilometres. Like we can move at a high speed and still after 20minutes, its the same town along the road stretching. But the houses don’t go far in from the road. 

I’ve never seen so much continuous green in my life. It stretches and stretches. 

But I’m tired, very tired. Its like time isn’t moving. We are supposed to get to Kigali at around 5pm today. But we’ve had so many delays since yesterday that I think we’ll be late. I want to eat something hot and sleep. And curl inside a warm bed and just hurtle to dreamland. 


Modern coast’s seats are pretty comfortable by the way. I can’t complain. But travelling for 24hrs even in the most comfortable seats can be quite a task. We had some babies who were alighting in Kampala and they kept on wondering why the journey never ends. They knew it was far, just like I did before boarding, but you never realise how far until you experience the distance literally. 

Travelling alone? 

I’ve already booked my ticket. Like 5minutes ago. Now this trip feels real. Like its on man! I feel excited, not like yesterday’s excitement though. Today’s excitement is calm. Very calm. Its almost mother like. Reminding me the things I’m supposed to do and park and prepare. 

Today will be spent doing last minute preparations. Ensuring I have comfortable clothes for the journey. My documents should be in order. And things like that. 

But above that..its psychologically preparing myself for the journey tomorrow. There are all these loose ends I have. Like the hotels to sleep in. In every town I have like 4 options and I’m not sure on how close they are. Choosing one seems kinda risky because what if I get there and I don’t like it or the prices differ from what they had on the internet? 

This has a feel like the time before an exam. When you’ve read really well..but just minutes before you start panicking, what if that paragraph you skimmed through is where the compulsory question one comes from? I feel prepared one minute and the next I feel utterly unprepared. 

But I’m happy. Low key happiness. Like the brides on their d-day. You hope things fall into place. That your event planners don’t mess up, that the decor will be as planned, that the cake will get to the venue in one piece, that the food will be on point and enough, that no woman pops up in church with kids resembling your husband-to-be, that you’ll get in church on time, that the matrons of the little girls control them, that…that..that..you get the point? Its a little million and one things to hope that they go well. 

But I’m not nervous. Not as the day before yesterday. I think I’ve admitted that i’ll forever be the odd one out. The ones who do things their way and not the way things are done. That has helped me with all questions people had. 

You are travelling alone? To another country? And you’ve never been there before? Hold on…ALONE?? 

I’ve answered that Alone question five hundred and twenty nine times now. Besides Sharon who’s a friend of my mind, everyone else thinks its a bit crazy. Like how now? What is wrong with me- they ask. 

I’ve always wanted to travel alone. I went to Meru alone in 2016( i’m not sure even whethet its 2016 or 2017)..but i think its 2016. I just upped one day, looked at the Kenyan map, chose a place i had never been to, took a KCB loan, and went. I didn’t even take a single picture. I just took everything in with my eyes. And slept at a really good hotel. And had a black forest( don’t I just love chocolate cakes or anything close to it?). And came back. And saw cassava plants for the first time in plenty. I didn’t even know what they were. 

But point is, there is something travelling alone does to me. Maybe i’ll tell you what it is after I come back. For now..wish me a safe journey.