Posts tagged Kenya
So far, our Amateurs in Africa interview series has introduced us to Benny and Mitch and discovered some of the highs and lows of their African adventure. As we wrap up our interview this, the last part of the series, we get some advice from the Amateurs on exploring Africa and find out what they miss most about Africa, now they are back in Europe.
Back-packing through Africa to be a part of the World Cup takes some commitment. Was this your first World Cup experience and how would you rate South Africa as a host?
South Africa took our World Cup virginity and did it in a way that was not only unforgettable but totally satisfying. We loved everything about the World Cup and yes – blow your vuvuzelas!
You mentioned in Part I of our interview series that you exceeded your budget. Did you find Africans obliging when it came to accommodation, transport and the like when funds were running short?
We were running short of funds when we reached Southern and Eastern Africa but luckily it was also a lot easier to find help in these areas. We presume this is because there were just many more tourists and readers in these parts of the continent that were interacting with us.
When money was tight, we were tighter so it was street food and local transport all the way. This was always cheaper and travelling with locals was always far more exciting than when you travel with corporate companies. Eventually, we decided it wasn’t real transportation if there weren’t at least 2 live animals and 5 too many people on board. Locals were always quick to help out and point us in the right direction, which is definitely something we’re missing back in the west.
We’re sure that after 130 days in Africa, you’ll have picked up some great tips on back-packing. What advice can you share for other travellers wanting to back-pack in Africa?
If you’ve ever thought of travelling Africa or are wondering what Africa might be like, just book it, do it and experience it for yourself. We can’t recommend West Africa highly enough. There are things you can do and see here that you could only imagine elsewhere. For the most part its dirt cheap, none of your friends have been and unlike some places, you won’t be bombarded by other tourists.
We believe it’s one of the few parts of the world that is still truly original and authentic. This makes it both challenging and pretty special. Everybody thinks of South Africa and safaris when it comes to travel in Africa but we’re trying to change that and if you ask us – the West is the best. Actually, if you’re going to travel Africa, there is a great website with everything you could want to know. Yes, it’s our own website, http://www.amateursinafrica.com. We think you should check it out.
Do you have any recommendations for travellers to Africa on places to avoid or must-see places?
Avoid Nigeria and avoid Mozambique police (see Part II of this interview series).
If you miss out on Mali, Burkina Faso or Ghana, you’re dreaming. These 3 are a great mix of West Africa and are relatively easy to travel through. Cameroon, Benin and Togo are also amazing and if you venture to Mauritania you must stow away in the Iron Ore train. It’s seriously the most epic train ride in the world.
On the other side of the continent, in East Africa, Kenya is outstanding, as is Zanzibar. It’s practically paradise. We could go on forever and we haven’t even mentioned Cape Town or Timbuktu but that’s because Africa is full of great places and great people. We’ll leave the rest up to you and hope you’ll share your stories with us.
Living out of a back-pack for 130 days must leave you craving some of your creature comforts. What’s the first thing you did when you got back to “civilisation”?
Africa is home to some of the world’s oldest civilisations. In some ways, the way most Africans look out for each other and the way Africans interacted with us was far more civilised than in many other parts of the world. When we did eventually make it back to Europe the first thing we did was invite all of our mates to an Australian bar. From there you can probably guess the rest.
We’re guessing it has something to do with parties and alcohol. Now that you’re back home and out of Africa, what are you missing most about being on the road?
In terms of what we miss not being in Africa, a lot. We could start with the prices, the people and the places. It’s raining in Berlin as we speak and I know many beaches in Africa that would be heavenly right about now. Most of all we miss the resilience of the African people, the strength of African women and knowing that as you walk past someone in the street they’ll stop to ask how you are doing and offer to help you out.
It sounds like Benny and Mitch had, for the most part, a fantastic experience in Africa, and it’s good to hear that they’re already missing the continent. We hope you’ve enjoyed this three part interview series and, more importantly, we hope it’s encouraged you to investigate your own African adventure!
Part I of our Amateurs in Africa interview series introduced you to Ben and Mitch, intrepid Australian explorers who chose to back-pack, overland through West Africa, challenging misconceptions about Africa and raising awareness of grass-root local projects. We continue our interview with the Amateurs…
Africa is pretty wild in parts and “darkest Africa” is not known for its culinary excellence. What were the oddest things you ate and drank during your trip through Africa?
We definitely ate some bizarre food, so here are our top 3 oddest eats and drinks from our travels.
The Top 3 Oddest Eats:
3. Cameroon: Walkie Talkie – Chicken head stuffed with chicken feet and grilled. Crunchy.
2. The Gambia: Poached goat brain served in a cross section of a skull.
1. Mali: Kitty Cats – In Timbuktu the local children catch stray cats, skin them and throw them on the grill. It’s a local specialty.
The Top 3 strangest Drinks we came across:
3. Ghana: Local Gin sold in plastic packets. Not only is this stuff lethal, it works out to be about 30 cents for a double shot. A few of these on a Saturday night will knock you out.
2. Kenya: Palm wine, freshly taken from a tree. Please strain before consumption to remove the bugs and limbs. Although the taste & smell of insects remains, so it can be hard to digest.
1. Malawi: Shake Shake. Dirt cheap and sold in milk cartons. It’s a type of beer usually served warm and it needs to be shaken to break down the lumps. We swear it isn’t vomit.
Those are truly revolting dishes. Moving right along, you visited Benin, the birthplace of Voodoo. What did you find out about this mystery religion?
We were on a mission to uncover the secrets of the mysterious Voodoo culture, so we headed to the birthplace of Voodoo – Benin. What we can tell you is that it’s still as mysterious as ever. We searched the sacred village of Ouidah, and wrestled pythons in a temple to find out what Voodoo is all about. In the end it was a failure but we’re not totally unhappy about it – it’s a traditional culture in which the legend lives on and, as visitors, who are we to mess with it?
It’s almost impossible to believe that you had a great time in every country you visited. Are there any countries that you would say “Never again” to, even if we paid you?
It almost rolls off the tongue – Never again in Nigeria.
We spent most of our time in Nigeria battling authorities, answering questions and paying ‘additional fees’ for imaginary issues. Aside from that, we came, saw but didn’t quite conquer Lagos, the biggest city in West Africa. We’d also say it’s probably the most chaotic city in West Africa. Nigeria sits on its own as the only place we wouldn’t recommend. It’s incredibly expensive, you’ll definitely have problems at any border crossing and in many places it’s relatively dangerous to travel as a westerner. Did someone say corruption?
Nigeria does have a bit of a reputation as being a corruption hot-spot. It wasn’t just Nigeria though; you had a horrifying experience in Mozambique. How did that affect you and your perception of Africa?
We’re pretty chilled out guys and it was undoubtedly a totally crazy event (click here to read the full story on the Amateurs in Africa website). Overall it added to the African experience as it would be ignorant to think that problems like this didn’t exist. In saying that, it was an isolated incident and it wasn’t at all reflective of the time we spent in Africa; more importantly it wasn’t reflective of the people of Mozambique.
On a side note, having a gun pushed in your face, dealing with drunken officers on a rampage and negotiating a safe to what was essentially a hostage situation might sound bad (actually, it was), but it’s a great story to run with afterwards, particularly when you’re single and out at a bar.
Not that you’re the kind of gentlemen who would use your heroics to impress women! Moving on to more positive topics, tell us more about some of the social initiative projects you got involved in during your adventure.
One of the most important parts of our trip was to raise awareness of various projects that are tackling current issues in Africa. We particularly wanted to focus on those that receive little or no media coverage. Throughout our trip, we tried to get involved with as many local projects as possible, highlighting various organisations, community groups and people doing amazing things within their local African communities.
We were fortunate enough to get involved with projects like the granite mines in Burkina Faso where child labour and education are massive problems; medical care in Togo where people will travel for days and spend everything they have just to seek the most basic of medical treatments; and a project in Kenya building a classroom to provide a safe learning environment for hundreds of young children.
It certainly does sound like the trip of a lifetime, with a greater purpose. Can you share one or two of the positive moments that will stay with you forever?
It’s hard to pinpoint just one, although when you possess no special talents whatsoever and you get the chance to feel like a rock star – it’s pretty special. We experienced exactly that, arriving to screaming fans in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso. The crowd may have been made up of 90 children all 8 years or younger at a small school, but that’s beside the point – it was an unforgettable experience.
We’ve battled Saharan sandstorms, ridden in empty iron ore train carriages, travelled on car rooftops, saddled horse drawn carts, been in a couple of car accidents and been to Timbuktu and back (literally) – those are all special memories. We hallucinated in the heat; bashed bongos on beaches; hand fed live crocodiles; toured Togo; mixed it with UN officials on dance floor; visited the home of Voodoo in Benin; followed the slave trade in Ghana; rocked it at reggae raves and bounced to African beats. Yes, we loved it in West Africa.
What an adventure the Amateurs in Africa guys have been through. Join us for Part III of our interview as we wrap things up and find out what they learnt that can help you better prepare for your African experience.