19 Jan 2010

Not posted for a while, I will fill in quickly and then try to keep on top of it...

Yeah, i've spent the last month in Hong Kong at my Uncle John's house. Hi Uncle John. It's been good to relax for a while, and christmas was great.

The last week or so in India was good, although I was sick for most of my time in Calcutta, so that wasn't great. There was some kind of lurgy going around the dorm that I was in, and no matter what time of day there was always at least one person in there trying to sleep it off. I went round the taj mahal and the fort and the baby taj in Agra with a guy called Raz from rajasthan, who was on his way to a job interview, so he had a day to waste between night trains. After Agra I went to Varanasi, thats the place on the ganges where they burn the dead bodies on the side of the river, a really crazy place, everytime I was out and about at least one dead person was carried past me through the narrow streets towards the river. Then I want to Calcutta and was ill for three days, before going to Hong Kong.

Hong Kong's been great, had an awesome christmas, although it did feel weird not being at home. On New Years Eve we went to a 70's fancy dress party, I dressed as John Lennon from the sergant peppers era, not quite 70's, but the trousers of the Evil Kinevil costume were too small, and my uncle dressed as Elvis from the fat vegas years. I did a bit of tourist stuff, but I was here 4 years ago and saw most things then.

Tonight I go to Perth, where I meet relatives from the otherside of the family, hi Auntie Karen and Auntie Julie. I'm planning to buy a bicycle and ride it from Perth to Melbourne, then work for a while, we'll see how that works out.

I'm going to keep a diary on the bike ride so I can tell you all how it was when I finish.


7 Dec 2009

More India...2


After my adventure with the old man in Mumbai I just monged around waiting for the train. The train ride was fine and I got to Ahmedabad early in the morning, 6:30 ish I think. There was the usual annoyances at the train station and, being early, I wasn't in the mood to entertain people. The last person to bug me was a rickshaw driver. I knew the score, they take you to various hotels that you don't want to go to because they get commision, and they use excuses such as "Your hotel has changed its name, its now called this" or even "Your hotel is rubbish, this one is better". I told this rickshaw driver where I wanted to go, asked him how much it would be, he said 10 rupees, and then I said, in exactly these words "If you take me anywhere I don't want to go to, I will get out and not pay anything". He seemed to accept this and we set off. Five minutes later we arrived at a hotel I didn't want to go to. He told me to have a look, I told him to go to the hotel that I wanted to go to. He asked me to show him in the guide book, I did, and he took the guide book into the hotel, presumably wanting me to follow. I turned the key in his rickshaw and pressed his horn untill he came back outside. He was understandably annoyed, people were sleeping. After his outburst I asked if we could go to the hotel I wanted to go to. He said it had changed its name and was now called something else. I told him that when we got there I'd check on the map to see if we were in the right place, before going into the hotel. He looked at me stupidly, trying to think of his next move, and seeing that this was going no where I got out of the rickshaw. He then proceeded to shout at me, saying that it was 50 rupees. I reminded him that he had said 10 at the trainstation, presumably because he thought i'd go in and out of hotels getting him commission, which I have done good naturedly in the past, but wasn't going to do this time as I had told him specifically that I didnt want to. I also reminded him that he hadn't taken me to where I'd asked anyway. If you booked a taxi from Harwood to town, and the driver took you to Moss Bank Park, you'd be pretty annoyed and against paying for the trip. Blah blah blah 50 rupees, blah blah. He was growing incomprehensible, in the end I gave him 10 rupees and we parted ways. I walked to the hotel I wanted to go to, it hadn't changed its name. The reason I wanted to go there was because it had dorm beds for 80 rupees a night, and I was only there for one night so I didn't mind how crappy it was. I asked for a dorm bed and he showed me a single room, for 150, I said it was very nice and asked about the dorm beds, which I could see through a window to my left. He said no. This was confusing. They weren't full, I could see empty beds. I asked why, but he failed to give any response. I told him that either I stayed in a dorm bed or I went to another hotel, possibly more expensive, but I didn't care. He let me go and I found a hotel with rooms for 250 a night, I took it, it had a tv in the room. I was annoyed for the rest of the day, the last few indian people I had met were awful, annoying people. I wandered around ahmedabad in a huff, and watched tv. Ahmedabad sucked.

Next I went to Mt. Abu, I walked to the train station to avoid anymore irritating rickshaw drivers. I got the train in general class, it was packed, I stood up for 5 hours. To move around the carriage, some people managed to walk above everyones heads, holding onto the walls and luggage racks, which also had people sitting in them.

Mt. Abu was kind of boring, I went to a temple, which was pretty good, the people that carved everything were paid according to how much they shaved off, so they'd put in a lot of detail in order to gain more rupees. I wasn't allowed to take pictures though. It also has a lake, which was uninspiring to say the least.

Next I went to Jodhpur. On the morning of the bus ride I met two guys and a girl, all english, who were getting the same bus as me. Hugo used to be a naked butler and was travelling after quitting his job, not the naked butler job, another job. Joe and Katie were 22 and much in the same position as me. Out of the 4 of us, only Hugo had an idea of somewhere to stay, so Joe katie and I followed. It was a little pricier than where I usually stay, but it was only for one night so I didn't mind. That night we went out to a bar/club which we later found out was male only, but not gay, they let Katie in because she was foreign. After a few drinks we danced with indian guys on the dance floor, which gave it a far greater boy to girl ratio than 5th Ave has in Manchester, along with a far worse soundtrack. But it did close at 11:30, so if we were in Manchester we probably could have got the last train home. We went back to the hotel and had more beer on the roof, before going to bed.

The next day we went to Jodhpur fort, it was impressive and I took some pictures, then I got my bus to Jaisalmer.

I was only in Jaisalmer to do a camel safari. It has a good fort aswell, but I was kind of bored of sight seeing, and I never got round to taking pictures. I went round a coulpe of camel safari companies before finding one that said they had a group of 7 for a 2 night safari leaving tomorrow, so I did that one. After booking it I walked past a shop that I had been in previously and told him the details of the safari i had booked. He guarenteed me that I would not have a good time and that there wouldn't be 7 people for 2 nights. He was funny and we chatted for a while and I told him that I'd come back after the safari to tell how how bad of a time I had had.

The safari was really good fun. Ishra was right of course, there weren't 7 people for 2 nights. The first night there were 5 of us, me, and australian couple called Ben and Gail, and two english brothers called Ben and Mark, then on the second day Ben and Mark left and there were 3 of us for the second night. It was really fun though, besides the pain of sitting on a camel, which I was prepared for after riding one for 4 hours in Kenya. I named my camel Henry, after the camel in Kenya. It's real name was Papaya, not suitable for a male camel. He had tendancies to walk away from the group a little bit, the camel drivers said this was because he didn't like other camels. Most of the desert was scrubland, but there were a few sections of sand dunes, and we stopped at these to sleep. It's pretty good sleeping on a sand dune all night under the sky, although the stars were often obscured by dust.

After my third day I went back to Ishra's camel company shop and told him that it was really good, but that he was right, there weren't 7 people. I'm probably not spelling his name right, but he can't read or write in any language, so I don't think it matters. He was pleased that he was right, and after a while he took me to the local restaurant that he eats in twice a day everyday. All the other indians were talking about me, I asked Ishra at one point what one of the others was saying about me, he translated it as "its good that you are here". I don't know if this is the truth, I remember in Kenya, at the start when me, doug and Njeroge went to buy the cow people were shouting mzungu, I asked Njeroge what it meant and he said they were saying hello. It just means white man, if I haven't mentioned that before. Anyway, after dinner we went round a market that was closing, then Ishra left me in an internet cafe. I met him again the day after for lunch. I was waiting for my train to Delhi, which I was pleased to book with him after denying him my camel safari custom. Stuck for anything better to do I sat with him in front of his shop and watched him harass tourists, "Hello Sir, what have you planned for the desert" was what he shouted at passers by, he knew it in loads of languages and seemed good at judging where someone was from. I joined in whenever I could, vouching for his safari and saying I had a great time on it, even though I hadn't been on it. After a couple of hours I had to get my train to Delhi, so I said bye, and didn't offer my email address as it would have been rather pointless.

The train to Delhi was loooong. While in Delhi I was still kind of bored of sight seeing. I was there for two days, I went to see the red fort, but was more interested by the chipmonks than anything else. On my last night there I talked to a german guy who lived up in the mountains in Kashmir. He could speak hindi, much to the delight of the bar staff. I also went to connought place, which has lots of shops and stuff, but I don't really shop, so it was boring.

Today I got the train to Agra, it's horrendously touristy, I managed to buy an ice cream earlier, managing to say hi just before he asked if I wanted an ice cream, something that I imagine is a rare ocurance here. I'm getting up at 5:30 in the morning to go to the Taj Mahal before it's flooded with tourists. Oh, when I got the rickshaw from the train station I went around a few hotels with the rickshaw driver, I wasn't tired or in a hurry though, so I beared it and eventually we got to one that I accepted. I didn't tip the guy, and he asked if I wanted a tour after resting for a while, I said no.

That's it, next is Varanasi, and then Calcutta, then I fly to Hong Kong for Christmas.


24 Nov 2009

More India

Hi everyone.

The night that I did that last blog post I met up with two indian fellows, the guy from the train museum, and another guy. I don't remember either of their names, but I do remember enough to know that I wouldn't be able to spell them even if I did remember them. We went out to eat, then went to a bar. It was a standard indian bar, lots of men stood around drinking whiskey with lots of water. While there we met a very drunk man, who said I should call him Willy or Billy. Knowing I wouldn't be able to say Willy without grinning, and not wanting to offend, I chose Billy. As the night went on, he told us a lot of times that he was a drummer in a band, and that it was his birthday, he told us again and again and again. He also did a few renditions of smoke on the water. It became obvious that he wasn't a drummer, and it probably wasn't his birthday, he was a bum and was going to ask for money after he thought he had befriended us enough. He asked if I played any instruments, and I told him I played the trombone. It was a fun night, but at the end the two indian guys from the hostel got a bit spooked by Billy and were determined when we left the bar that he should walk in the other direction to us. He did ask us for money and one of the indian guys gave him some. Then on the walk back, one of them was yelling at me telling me i wasn't safe in India and I wasn't cautious enough and blah blah blah. He was kind of drunk, and everytime I tried to speak he was just talking over the top of me, telling me that if they hadn't been there I would have gone off with Billy and woken up dead and with no money, not much of a problem when you're dead. He told me about how I was becoming his friend and wishing him happy birthday and about how impressed I was that he was a drummer and telling him I played the trombone. When he quietened down I told him that I didn't play the trombone and that shut him up all together.

I think I stayed in Mysore one more night, then I went to Bangalore. Oh, on the last day in Mysore a guy came over to me and talked at me about various places he could take me. This happens a lot, most of the time I ignore them, other times I tell them I've been to all the places that they mention, sometimes I tell them unpolitely to go away. I asked this guy where an internet cafe was, he led me there. I came out an hour and a half later, and he was waiting for me. I was kind of impressed by his presistence, so I went with him to an oils shop, then I told him I don't really care about oils, said thanks, and left.

Bangalore was next on the list. I stayed there for two nights but it was kind of uneventful. There are a couple of nice parks that I went to. There was a good science and technology museum. There were lots of bag shops near my hotel, and everytime I walked past them I had to tell them that I already had a bag... It wasn't the most interesting of cities really, and I didn't meet anyone that I have stories about.

I took a night bus to Hampi, which is my favourite place in India so far. It's a small village really, so its very obvoiusly just aimed at tourists, and lots of rickshaw drivers were shouting names of guest houses at the bottom of the bus steps. Not nice to deal with after a nights kip on a bus. I got in a rickshaw with a French girl called Alice, the only other westerner on the bus, and Moss, the driver managed to find us a place where we could get two rooms with attached bathrooms for 150 rupees a night. Alice has a brother that works in India, and she's been living in Delhi for one month, translating things from french to english and vice versa. She was in Hampi on her way to Chennai. Later that day I walked up a massive hill to take in the surroundings. Hampi is an incredible place, the story goes that the Moneky god, Anuman or something, took a rock from the himilayas, and flew and dropped it in the sea to make Sri Lanka, but on the way a few pieces broke off over hampi, and that's why there are huge smooth boulders for miles and miles around. There are also lots of deserted ruins, which makes the surrounds even more spectacular, I took some pictures.

The next day Alex, a postman from England who arrived that morning, Alice, and I all walked to another big hill. The map in the lonely planet said that there was a bridge over the river, so we headed for that. On the way there we met a french couple, called Ann and Laurent, but it's not said Laurent, it's said in a french way. When we got to the bridge, we found it had broken down, so we had to get some weird little circular boat across, we had to space out around the edges to stop it from tipping over, it seemed pretty unstable, but coming the other way was one with two motorbikes on it! There were lots of monkeys around the big hill, and puppies aswell, a strange combination. The views from the top were again fantastic, I took pictures, but I don't think pictures of views are ever anywhere near as good as actually being there. That night we tried to go to eat at a few places, but apparently Hampi basically shuts down after 9pm, we eventually found somewhere open, although there was a kid in a bed on the floor next to us while we ate.

Alex the postman had planned a day of sight seeing with a rickshaw driver for the next day, so me and Alice went to a few of the ruins we hadn't seen the day before and then met up with Alex and the french couple later for dinner.

The day after the three of us went to some water falls, they were ok, and then I had to get the bus to Goa.

The bus to Goa was a "sleeper" bus. Basically it has beds, the same width as the width that two seats would be on a bus, so you share a small double bed, with someone you don't know. On this occasion it was a girl I guess from Germany or somewhere, I didn't speak to her much, she kept to her side, I kept to mine, I slept quite well.

In Goa I went to a place in the north called "Arambol", on the reccommendation of Alex. It was pretty good, served it's purpose, I just wanted to relax on the beach all day and eat and drink and swim and read. I did this in the same restaurant three days running, as they had loungers outside. On the first evening I just had a few beers and an early night, the bus ride had caught up to me. The second evening I met two guys, one from South Africa, called Reese, and an Australian, called Nick. They had met in their guest house, and were quite different people, Reese was a hippy, had a shaved head apart from one dreadlock, and carried around a bongo, while Nick was a brash Australian who told me lots of crazy stories involving lots of drugs. Over the night we briefly met some guys from yorkshire and a german guy, they all seemed more normal than Reese and Nick.

The next day I saw Reese sat on the beach, facing the sea, playing a digeridoo. Nothing weird about that, I went over and said hi, we chatted for a while, he had brought the didgeridoo from South Africa, and he did agree with me that that was a bit of an effort, especially as he also had another digeridoo with him. He started playing, and I patiently waited five minutes for him to stop, before telling him I was going to leave. It would've been rude to leave while he was playing.

Later that evening I bumped into the guys from yorkshire, called John and Luke, and the Greman, called Christian, and I tagged along with them for the night. We also met a girl from sweden, another German guy, a guy who claimed he was from yorkshire, and his friend from Ireland who told us he was actually from Derbyshire. It was a good night, and I got on with these people better than I did with either Nick or Reese.

The final night in Arambol I met with the yorkshire guys again, John didn't want to drink, so in the end just me and Luke went to the bar, where we bumped into various characters we had already met, along with some new ones. Suddenly I started to feel ill, so I bought some water and went to bed.

I awoke at 4Am and spent most of the hours untill 8Am throwing up into a bucket. At 8Am I shakily went and bought some more water, then managed to get a bit of sleep. I don't know exactly what caused me to become sick, but a guess would be the mushroom lasagna that I had for tea the previous day. I hadn't eaten any meat, or drunk any bad water. Anyway, I was due to get a "sleeper" bus to Mumbai that evening, so I didn't eat anything all day apart from a mars bar, hoping that in remaining empty nothing could go wrong on the bus, and thankfully it didn't.

This time I was sharing a small bed with a biggish Indian fella, I tried at first to keep to my side of the bed, ready to sleep as I was still feeling unwell, however, Indian ways are different from western ways. With the German girl, if I kept to the very right hand side of my bit, she wouldn't spread out onto the bit I wasn't using, she'd stick to her side, thats what westerners do, along with waiting in orderly queues for things and letting people off trains before getting on. Indians don't do any of these things, in India, you take what you can. You get on the train and to a seat as fast as possible, you push your hand through to the front of the queue with money in it and shout your destination in order to get your train ticket first, and if the guy next to you in the small bed on the bus isn't using all his space, you use it. So he was always touching me, not like groping me with his hands, but lieing right up next to me, spreading out more everytime I manage to take up less space. Eventually I gave up, and pushed back, deciding that if we were going to sleep touching each other we were going to have the same amount of space.

I didn't sleep well.

When I got to the Hotel in Mumbai, the receptionist asked me if I wanted to do some extras work in a bollywood film the day after. I said yes, as I'd heard about this, and he put me on the phone to some guy who explained it all to me. They picked us up at 7:30Am, provided food, and paid 500 rupees per person. The rest of the first day I just wandered around a little tired from the bus. The next morning while I waited to be picked up I talk with a guy in the hostel who told me that he had done extras work a few days ago, but it was just for a tv show set in the 19th century, and wasn't that good. I was a little dissappointed, but in the end we, in total there were 9 of us from the hotel, were all taken to a different production. Its a film called "No problem", and we were extra's in scenes where the good guys, or bad guys, came into the "international diamond trading centre", which was supposed to be in canada, so I guess I was supposed to pretend to be canadian, anyway, they came in and there was shooting and stuff, in one scene there was loads of us and we had to crouch and put our hands over our heads and run around, while gun shots went off. I also had a ridiculous costume, a pair of white trowsers, a yellow shirt, a pink jacket, and a red tie and briefcase. It was all good fun for the first 3 hours or so, but then it started to drag, and we were there until 9:00pm. Still it was a good experience, and it'll be fun to watch if it ever comes out, even though it look kind of crappy.

Yesterday I had a massive wander around the city, looking at a few of the sights, the Haji Ali Mosque, the temple I can't remember the name of, a couple of markets. I also went to the train station to book my ticket for the night train tonight to Ahmedabad. Last night I met a guy called Walt "Like Walt disney" who was from Taiwan, but has lived in London since he was 12, we got on pretty well, had a few beers, I told him about a hippy that I saw walking to the train station with nothing on his feet, he agreed that was pointless and just for attention.

So, today i'm stuck with my rucksack again. Earlier I went in a cafe, and an indian chap entered at the same time as me, we had tea together and some cheese croissants, he talked about cricket and John Major, then he said he could show me a few places, and listed a lot of places i'd seen the day before. I said, I thought quite clearly aswell, "I have already been to most of those places", he said a couple of others that I hadn't been to, I said ok then, the guy said I should use the opportunity to break a 500 rupee note, not a bad idea, so I gave him one and he went and paid with it, but didn't give me any change. The guy was at least 50 and wore a shirt and tie and didn't look very fit, I didn't think he was capable of mugging me. We got in a taxi and the guy said a load of stuff in Hindi or Marathi to the driver, and we were off. First stop, somewhere I told him I'd already been, he insisted on taking me photo there, then we got back in the taxi, went some where else I had already been, quickly got out, and back in the taxi again. It was really weird, and alarm bells were ringing, but I was being careful, and I didn't have anything else to do, so I let it continue. We stopped after a while and got some juice a place near the Haji Ali mosque, I had of course been there the day before, and of course told him that in the cafe earlier, we got the bill, and I just stood there, as did he. "You've still got my change from the cafe" I said, he responded, then paid the bill. By now our food and drink bills had come to about 300 rupees between us, and it had all come out of my 500. We got back in the taxi and briefly visited a few more places, the meter went up and up. Knowing that I was going to be hit with a big taxi charge at the end, I eventually asked how much the taxi was so far. Lots of theories had been running through my head about the plans of this guy, and maybe the taxi driver too, he could have been in on it. I think he most likely was and the plan was to take me on a big taxi ride, briefly jumping out and in again at different places, taking photos. Whether they knew each other before we got in, or maybe we got in and the guy told the driver what he had planned in hindi so i didn't understand, I don't know. I could have misread it completely and he was just a really odd old bloke. Or maybe he didn't know the driver, and he was just trying to get a free day out from me. Anyway, I didn't get a straight answer from the driver about how much the taxi was so far, and eventually the guy changed the subject and said "what do you want to do this afternoon?". I switched to blunt mode and said i'm on a budget, you've had 500 from me already today, of which I've spent roughly 150, i'm going to go to an internet cafe and waste some time before my train. He said some stuff about what he was going to do that afternoon. I knew that he knew that I knew that he (hahaha) was taking the piss a little bit, and I think I managed to give the impression that I wasn't scared to just walk away, or if it came to it, hit an old man like himself in the face. Eventually we pulled up at the cafe where we started and he asked for any contribution I liked towards the taxi fare, I said "Oh, thanks very much" and started to get out of the taxi, and he quickly added "lets say minimum 200 rupees". "How much is the taxi?", "Well I need to carry on a bit, but lets say you pay 200 rupees and then I'll pay the rest, probably around 300 rupees, and we'll call it even", "Oh, ok, so the taxi costs 500 rupees? I gave you 500 rupees for food earlier and didn't get any change, and I suspect there's around 200 left of it", "No it's all gone", "Ah well, so I spent 500 rupees on food for us, you can spend 500 on the taxi, that splits it 50/50 we're friends aren't we, its been a good couple of hours, bye" I started to get out again, "ok, just 100 rupees...", "bye bye." and that was it. Although I probably would have prefered not to have met this guy, and still have the 500 rupees which I could now go and spend in Mcdonalds or something, we didn go to a couple of places I hadn't seen, briefly, and I think I came out the winner. If they were working together, they wasted a couple of hours and petrol on me and probably gained 50 rupees each and a mango smoothy.

So, now i'm in the internet cafe, and I still have all my things, I just hope I dont wake up dead.

I really need a wee now, so bye

7 Nov 2009



Currently i'm in Mysore, which is in the Karnataka region of India.

My flight to India with Air Asia was fairly bog standard, efficient and without any niceties, which is exactly what I expected for the price. I just read the whole time, so it passed fairly quickly. I only noticed 2 other non-asians on the flight, which the rest of the passengers seeming to be made up of Indians and South East Asians.

I'd decided to get a bus from the airport to Trichy Junction, which was the area with all the hotels. The guide told me which bus numbers to get, but not the direction, and as I approached the road a bus with one of the numbers was just leaving, so I jumped on it, found out it was in the wrong direction, and got off at the next stop. I found the hotel I wanted to stay in pretty easily, but the guy at reception said I could only stay one night as they were booked up the day after. I went to a bar that night, which was called "Nice Bar", and had a couple of beers with a guy who told me that he was black because he was a child of God, and I am white because of... and then just started laughing. I think he was only half joking. He also had a load of quotes in text messages in his mobile phone, which he showed me, for about 20 minutes. The quotes were from a range of people including Hitler and famous cricketers. He gave me his phone number before he left, which I unfortunately left in the bar...

The next day I'd planned to go to three temples mentioned in the guide book, but first I had to find another hotel that wasnt booked up. This turned out to be difficult, as all the scheaper hotels seemed to be full because of some kind of religious festival. While looking for a hotel I ran into one of the white people from my flight. We talked for a while. Ernesto, from Chile, South America, not near Mexico, as he had to explain to all but two Indians who asked where he was from. had two weeks in India and no plan at all. I told him of my problems in finding somewhere to stay and we went and tried his hotel, which was a bit more expensive, but he checked out of his room and we shared a double room which made it cheaper. The we both went to the temples. First was the Rock Fort temple, which, unsurprisingly, is inside a rock fort, and is on top of a big hill in the centre of Trichy. The views from the top were great. Next we went to Sri Ranganathaswamy temple, which was dissappointing, with a dissappointing "view point" and a dissappointing man that was obviously trying to con us. The third temple was maybe Sri Jambukeshwara, but I'm not too sure. There was an elephant there that was blessing people by putting its trunk on their heads, I bought some bananas and fed them to it. Getting back to the hotel area took ages, and we had to get 3 buses I think, which makes me think that the last temple wasn't the one that the guide said to go to, as it says you can just get the same bus round in a circle.

The next day we got the bus early to Tanjore. When we got there we found the cheapest hotel that was in the guide, left our stuff, then walked to the palace. It wasn't much, but it did have a good tower with good views from the top, the rest of the palace was a bit neglected and overgrown though. Then we went to Brihadishwara Temple and Fort. This is probably my favourite out of the temples that i've visited in India. In general Hindu temples are often quite similar, with multicoloured towers made from carvings of different gods and godesses, but this temple was made of sand stone and left unpainted. It also had an elephant, but I didn't give this one any bananas.

We stayed just one night in Tanjore, then headed for Madurai, where we stayed for 3 nights. While there we went to another palace, which was a bit better than the one in Tanjore, but still not amazing. We went to a Ghandi Memorial Museum, which was very blunt about the British, using phrases like "The Indians were spurred on by the English Mens bloodthirst" when it was talking about the battles that occured when India was fighting to gain independance. It was a good museum though, and it had the loin cloth that Ghandi was wearing when he was killed. We also went to another temple, my second favourite, which was huge. It's called Sri Meenakshi and has 12 of the big multicoloured god and goddess towers. It also had elephants, I was becoming less and less entertained by them.

We decided to get the train to our next destination, Kanyakumari, because it was a 6 hour journey and we didn't fancy doing it on a bus. The only problem was that the train left at 2:35 am, so we wasted time in an internet cafe, and then a bar, but everything around seemed to close at 11, so we had to sit in the train station.

We both slept well on the train, and slept a bit more when we got to a hotel. KanyaKumari is the most southernly point of India, and it has a massive Statue of a poet, and a memorial for a guy called Vivekananda, I don't know what he did, but you have to take a boat to get to them so it was pretty good. There was also a view point that we went to for sunset, along with loads of indian tourists, but it was too cloudy so everyone looked kind of dissappointed. We had a tv in our room, and it broke. Ernesto told the guy at reception, but he simply responded with "TV is off".

Next we went on the train to Thiruvananthapuram, which is called Trivandrum, for ease I assume. We only stayed there one night. I asked the guy at our hotel if there was a place nearby that did laundry, and he told me I could wash clothes in the bucket in the room, and then hang them on washing lines out in the back, I assumed this meant there wasn't a laundry place and so followed his advice. When we were walking around later we saw a laundry place just around the corner, plus it rained at about 7 in the morning the day after, so my clothes got wet. I put some wet clothes on, then put the rest in a plastic bag, as there wasn't much to do in Trivandrum, so we were heading to Varkala.

Varkala was pretty good, it was very touristy, you could wander around and hear English being spoken everywhere, which was a little strange. It's on the coast and has bars and hotels along a cliff edge, with the beach down below them. We only stayed there for one night, as Ernesto was running out of time before he had to fly out from Trichy. We went to a bar that promised live music, which we later saw comprised a flute and a man with a couple of drums, they were ok, but it got a little tiresome after a while, it wasn't interesting enough to be as loud as it was. The next day we went to the beach for a while, Ernesto befriended a woman that was trying to sell pineapples, the sea had massive waves, the kind that really throw you about, so that was fun.

Next was Alleppey, which is an area that has all the Backwaters, which were used as transport before they had roads, and so have all the villages and farms built along side them. We took a passenger boat from Alleppey to Kottayam, and then a train from Kottayam to Kochi. I kind of missed Kochi, as I spent a lot of the full day that we had there on the toilet or in bed, feeling very dodgy and not wanting to risk going to far from a toilet. I felt fine when I woke up, then it got worse into the early afternoon. Ernesto said I hadn't missed much anyway. The next day it was time for us to part ways, Ernesto was getting a night train to Trichy for his flight, and I got a bus to Kumily, which is close to a wildlife park with over 1000 elephants.

On the bus ride there was one point when a car was over taking a scooter, and the bus was trying to overtake both. I dont know if something came the other way or not, but the bus moved closer to the car, so the car moved closer to the scooter and nudged it. I looked away, but heard the scooter scrape along the floor, the guy on it was just in shorts, t shirt and sandles, so I imagine he was a bit of a mess. Both the car and bus stopped, the bus driver talked to a passenger that was sat close to him, and then carried on driving. I'm not sure if the car carried on driving, but i've heard the mob justice is similar here to what it is in Kenya, you don't want to wait around if you've been in an accident and are the least hurt person, whether it was your fault or not.

When I got to Kumily it was late and a guy approached me trying to take me to a hotel, enjoying being alone again and free to make snap decisions, i lowered his price a little and then followed him. His name was Roy, and he also did guided walks through the jungle. I decided that I would do one with him the following morning at 5:45 am. It was pretty good, although I was dissappointed we didn't see elephants, we did see a few different types of monkey, some bison and some giant squirrels. There were monkey noises from all over the place aswell. At the end I gave Roy a small tip, he took me to his house for coffee, and then he ruined it all by saying he needed money to go to hospital for his jaw. I asked him what was wrong with it and he said he didn't know, but it had been hurting all morning. There was nothing wrong with it... I said bluntly "I'm not giving you money to go to the hospital Roy" and then left.

After Kumily I headed north to Munnar, famous for tea plantations. Part way through the bus journey the driver took a phone call, then told the passengers that there had been a complaint about the bus, and everyone had to get off. I have no idea where we were, but I got another bus to somewhere else, where a man told me I had to get another bus to Pooparra, and then another bus to Munnar. I got on the bus that passed Pooparra, and then promptly forgot where i had to tell the conductor that I wanted to go, remembering only the "Poop" bit. When the conductor asked me where I was going I just said Poop and then mumbled. It worked. In pooptown I had to wait for the next bus, I chatted to the driver and conductor of the previous bus while they had a break and a chai. The driver was called Baby, I laughed and told him what a baby was in English, but he said he already knew, and didn't seem to find it as funny as i or the conductor did.

By the time I'd managed to work my way to Munnar, the tea museum had already closed, so I went the morning after, before continuing to Coimbatore, which was thankfully an uneventful bus ride. The guide says there's nothing to do in Coimbatore, so I only stayed there to break up the trip between Munnar and Mysore, which is where I am now.

Today I went to Mysore palace, the first legitimately impressive palace i've seen in India, then I went to a Train Museum. There are certain places a person shouldn't go alone, a train museum is one of them. I think if you go to a museum alone, you look like you're really into the subject of the museum, so this is fine in say, a Ghandi museum, as India's independance is a legitimately interesting thing to be interested in. But I felt like everyone was looking at me thinking I was a weirdo who's really interested in trains. It wasn't big, and just before I left a guy from North East India who is here to do some research in his phd turned up. I'd met him in the hostel the night before, so I walked around the museum again with him, hopeing that the people I saw again would think that I was meeting him there and had just arrived a little early.

Then I came here...

Next stops are I think Bangalore, then Hampi, and then possibly go and chill out in Goa for a while, see if I can find any more travellers on the same route as me.


18 Oct 2009

Off to India tomorrow!!!!

Hey everyone.

I thought I should put something on this seeing as I dissappear into India tomorrow. I fly into Tiruchirappalli, if anyone wants to know. It's the only place in India that air asia fly to, and as such, it only cost 56 quid for the flight.

Malaysia has been a bit of a quiet one to be honest. Penang was cool although it took me a day and a half to fully recover from my all nighter followed by minibus ride. I stayed in George town for a few days and nothing of note really happened, people in my hostel didn't seem to go out at night, and prefered instead to stay in and watch DVDs. After a couple of days I headed over to the Beach area of Batu Ferringhi (probably spelt wrong, but the place wasn't interesting enough to warrant me looking up the name). It was even worse than George town, just couples everywhere, which being a lone traveller you can meet and get to know, but the situation has to be right, you can't, for example, just walk up to a couple in a candle lit bar, sit down, and start talking about films. Plus it was expensive to stay there, double what i had payed in George town, and no where near as nice. I stayed on the beach for a while and played fetch with a dog that turned up, then at night I watched a Bolton game and gently nursed one very expensive bottle of Carlsberg. The day after I went back to George Town.

I stayed in a different place the second time, the cheapest place yet (and to date the 3rd worst place i've stayed, although at the time it was 2nd worst), at only 7 ringetts a night for a dorm bed. The man at reception said the dorms were full, but he gave me a private room in which the fan didn't work, for the same price. It was dirty, etc, precisely what I expected for 7 ringetts. I only saw 1 other person my whole 2 nights there, so I doubt that there even were any dorms. The good thing about staying somewhere bad is that you can't just stay in and watch films or the results of who gets the olympics with other people in silence. So I went out and started talking to people, the first guy, who's name and home place I wont mention for reasons I will later explain, didn't talk very good English. We got on ok though, although I admit there were times that I just nodded, or said yes, or smiled, or did any combination of those things. After a few beers he went and got some food and offered some to pretty much everyone else in the bar. So we both got talking to a girl from Holland, called Steph and a guy from England, who's name has slipped my mind. Then after a while two more guys turned up, another from England, called Luke, and a guy called Dave, who was 40 something and from Australia. Dave had supposedly told Luke and Steph that he was going to take them to a bar where you get given a little bamboo fishing rod and there's a tank with prawns in it, and any prawns that you catch you get to take home, but he was late, and drunk. We decided that tomorrow, we would all go. The no named guy told stories of his past, one of which involved him living in an airport for 6 months, because he went somewhere, I can't remember where, and when he came back his "country was closed", those are the only details I could get from his slightly drunken babbling. He also told us that every couple of months a friend he has in Dubai sends him a credit card with a new name and a new pin number, and that is how he gets his money from travelling. I don't think mentioning his name and where he's from would land him in any trouble, but best to be safe I guess. After a few more beers people started leaving and I left too, and headed back to my dirty room, and tried to lie on my bed with as little of my body touching the sheets as possible.

I went up Penang hill the day after. It was ok, it's a hill.... Some good views from the top, and the trains that go up and down were kind of good. There's a couple of temples at the top. I went back to have a shower and stuff in time to meet for the prawn fishing at 7. I went there and only Steph was there, then a while later Luke showed up. Dave never came, Luke, having met him a couple of times now, wasn't annoyed or dissappointed, he never expected it to happen. I talked to Luke all night, who was drinking ice lemon tea, or something like that, because he didn't have much money and was leaving Malaysia the day after, so didn't want to withdraw any more Ringetts. I started drinking the tea aswell, I think we looked pretty gay, but we were watching football aswell, so it kind of cancels out I think. I can't remember how long Luke had been travelling for, but he'd set out to spend all his money and was down to his last "couple of hundred quid" so thought he had 3 or 4 weeks left tops. I went to bed at 2 ish, and had to get up to get a minibus at 6, I didn't mind because it meant less time in the dirty room.

I was headed to The Cameron Highlands on the early minibus. The place had a definate look of the lake district about it, little villages surrounded by hills, only here there were jungles on the hills. My hostel was much cleaner here, so I had a nap. When I got up I got some food, and swapped my long finished book about a guy crossing Congo overland for a weird book that was just a transcript of a web forum in which a guy posted about how he'd saved a girl on a train from a drunk man. It wasn't a tough read, but it was different. The next day I set off on a Jungle trek, in my sandles, with my tube of superglue, as a part of one of them was going to break, like the other one had some weeks before. Sadly, when it did break, part way through this trek, I tried to glue it, but my glue had dried up... So I completed the trek in broken sandles. I got back to the hostel at 1:30, somehow an hour earlier than the poster with the route on had said I would complete it. So I carried on reading the weird book. A while later a couple came in with a big hairy dog. I recognised them from the bar in George town, they had gone there on the night before I went to the highlands. I said "Hi, you guys were in George town a couple of days ago weren't you?" the man said yes and I said "I recognise your dog, kind of hard to miss". This is the type of situation when you can approach a couple, you're not interupting anything, and there's a common interest, the hairy dog. I could assume they were interested in it because it was theirs. After chatting for a while, Simon, the man, obviously, invited me to go with them to a tea plantation the next day. Simon and his girlfriend Koong, and their dog Bilbo, live on Koh Samed in Thailand, and were on a road trip in their big blue truck. The tea plantation was huge, we went for a little walk, then went up to a cafe that overhangs part of the plantation. I got a cup of tea, it was good, but didn't taste massively different than a pg tips, or whatever. Simon got a cup of mango tea, and I was angry at myself for not being more adventurous. Lots of Malaysians had their photos taken with bilbo. Bilbo's an old english sheepdog by the way. Not an old sheepdog, a young, old english sheepdog. We went to a bar afterwards, got a bit of food and some beers, then went back to the hostel.

That night we went to a bar that had a fire and had a few beers. Nightlife wasn't huge in the Cameron Highlands, I think there were 3 bars, and one of them only sold cans... So we went to the fire bar both nights we went out.

I stayed in a 4 bed dorm while I was there. Room mates included an asian French girl, and then the last two nights a British guy who coughed all night the first night, and a Canadian guy called Ben, who both me and Simon agreed was very weird, and who I think had something of Napoleon Dynamite about him. Simon hasn't seen that film, so couldn't agree.

On the last day there we drove to the top of a big hill (one of the benefits of meeting people with a car). But it was really foggy on the top, so we couldn't see the views. Some Asians had their photo taken with Bilbo, so at least it wasted trip for them.

My next destination was Ipoh. It's crap, I stayed in my second worst hostel to date there. MASSIVE bed bugs, i didn't think they were ever even visible, but these were the size of big ants. So I wasted no time and headed to Pangkor, another island. I went to an area called Teluk Nipah, which was really beautiful, possibly the most beautiful coastal place I've been to, but it was also extremely quiet. Only person I really met was a philipino guy called Wen, a guy who worked in the hostel, who was obviously gay, and gave me beer on the first night I met him. This was a dilemma, but I chose to accept the beers. One day while I was there I swam to a little island, i'm not sure how far away it was, but it took possibly half an hour to swim there. Other than that not much happened, there was hardly anyone around. I read "The White Tiger", which is a VERY good book. And I also started reading Jaws, pausing for a swim at the end of every chapter (usually just after someone gets eaten)

When I was leaving Pangkor I wanted to get a taxi to the Jetty, but every taxi I passed in Teluk Nipah clapped at me, or shouted "Yes Boss" or something equally shit, so I decided to walk to the next little village bit and try there, same again. In the end I ended up walking the full 6KM to the jetty in 37 degree heat and boarded the ferry a sweaty and smelly mess.

I got the bus to Kuala Lumpur, then got the Monorail to Chow Kit, the area that my hostel is in. It took a while to find it, but I managed eventually. This place also has a common area with tv and dvd collection, and free internet. There are currently 8 people sat around, quietly, they acknowledge each other occasionally, but you can tell that no one is making any lasting bonds. I don't mind too much though, i've been getting ready for India. I've bought a guide book and have been creating a plan of attack. Yesterday I got up early to go and get one of the free tickets for the Sky bridge between the two Petronas towers. It was ok for what it was. I'm my group though there was a woman that just complained from beginning to end. In the lift on the way back down she said "It wasn't as scary as I wanted it to be". Whether she was expecting some kind of rope bridge, or just a big plank or what I don't know. And she kept moaning about "the process" with which the tours were handled. And at the start we were stood waiting for one group to come down in the lift so we could go up, and she was moaning about being too tired to stand up... This thing is free, you just have to get up early and join a queue, no one forced her to do it, if she had just left rather than waiting for the lift she could have gone and sat outside on the kerb and wouldn't have lost anything. If it's free, why stay all the way through and just complain? Stupid.

I've also been to a Lake, which had a good view of the towers in the distance and their reflection in the water. Today was really hot so I wandered around some shopping centres because they all have air conditioning. One of them had a fashion show on, because they were opening up a debenhams. I've never been that excited about debanhams (I think i'll spell it differently every time), but they were very excited about getting a debnams. I watched untill it finished, and then an announcement came over that said thanks to everyone, the models, designers etc, then it said "Remember Debenams is opening soon, in April 2010". That's not soon, 6.5 months in advance is too early to get excited about debenhems. There was also a national geographic shop opening soon, sadly they didn't put a fashion show on. I went to the roof, looked at the views, then went back down. When I got to the bottom a guy was on the stage doing weird dancing and shouting into a microphone, amongst the people copying the dancing were some of the models, it looked as if they might break if they put their full energies into the moves. I went to Mcdonalds.

The guy who works in the hostel went out for dinner a while ago and left me in charge, thankfully nothing has happened. He told me to just tell people to wait for him to return if they want anything. If there's a fire or something people will not be waiting.

Oh, also, the other day I went for a shower. All the proper shower cubicles were in use, but the toilet cubicles had shower heads in them (sometimes the only showers in hostels are like this) so I used one of those. After a while the water stopped, I put a towel on and opened the door and the guy from above was stood there. I said "the water's gone off", "I turned it off" he said.

"Because thats not the shower, the showers are over there."
One of the showers was free now.
"I know, but I thought... these have showers..."
"Sir, that is obviously a toilet." he said, while pointing to the toilet.
"Wel... I know it's obviously got a toilet in it, that is a toilet, but it has a showe...."
"It's obviously a toilet, the showers are over there." He said this quite sternly and was obvoiusly getting annoyed that I was questioning his ideas of what is obviously a toilet.
"But in a lot of hostels the toilets and showers are in the same thing and... Sorry, i'll move over there." I started to listen to what I was saying and realised it was not only pointless, but also completely ridiculous.

I think he realised that he'd been too angry with me over something so trivial, as the next day I watched the end of Transformers on Tv and he asked me if i'd enjoyed it when I walked past him and asked if i'd seen transformers 2. He has put tape over the shower heads in the toilet cubicles now though. I surely can't be the first person thats done that, loads of hostel showers in Thailand and Malaysia have been in the same place as the toilet. Plus i dont know why the shower heads are there in the first place.

Anyway, i'm not sure how often there'll be internet cafes in India, but i'll try to do another post soon.


1 Oct 2009

I'm in my 14th country (if you count Tanzania and Qatar)

Hi everyone.

I'm in Malaysia after a horrible journey yesterday, but more on that later.

Trat picked up a little bit as I found a night market and ate loads of food, then I found a bar that had a westerner in it. He was German and 41 years old, and he had a Thai girlfriend that was 22... She wasn't at the bar, and I didn't question whether she had been purchased or not. I went on to Koh Mak the day after. Koh Mak was very quiet, it's a small island anyway, and being low season there was practically no one there. Some of the beaches were fantastic, with no one on them at all. I did meet a guy who owned one of the resorts there, it was closed because it was low season, and he was also a carpenter so during low season he did work for other people opening resorts on the island, not a bad life. We got talking about what i'm going to do in the future, and his only suggestion was get 5 million pounds and be a philanthropist, conveniently not metioniong any set the wheels in motion for that career path.

I stayed on Koh Mak for 3 nights, but it was too quiet, so I headed back to Bangkok to get my passport back complete with india visa, and then planned to take Jens' advice and head down to Ton Sai. I spent two nights in Bangkok I think, I don't really like Bangkok, I just wandered around temples and parks during the day, and went to bars at night. There was a good bar on Khao San Road that was up a few flights of stairs, so you could look down and watch people get hassled for suits and massages and be glad that you're not one of them. I met a few people, but no one really of any interest, and I think I had the shortest conversation with a fellow traveller that I have initiated so far, with a german girl, she just gave one word answers, I tried three times to make it flow, then gave up and turned to the English people on my other side and started talking to them instead.

The bus was an overnight bus to Krabi, then I had to get a boat to Ton Sai bay. The bus had a television and they put the film "Jumper" on. It was in English, with English subtitles, which didn't say anything like what the people were saying. It was funniest when the actors were just saying single words or phrases, "First Class" was translated from English, to English and writen in the subtitles as "Donkey". There was a point when someone said a drink, it could have been Martini, I can't remember, but it was written in the subtitles as "vegetarian food".

When I got to Ton Sai I was really tired, so I found somewhere to stay, got some food, then had a nap. When I woke up I went and sat by the beach, two guys were playing frisbee, not sure enough in my frisbee skills I didn't ask to play, but I went to speak to them when they went to the bar afterwards. They were Americans, and called Miles and Jordan, they had met on the bus on the way to Krabi, Miles was traveling alone, and Jordan with his girlfriend Lisa, who was having a nap. A while later, Lisa showed up, angry because Jordan had locked her in their hut and she had been shouting for ages for someone to come and let her out but it was just Thai people walking past so they couldn't understand her. After a while we moved from the hostel bar and went to a bar called Small World Bar. I think you'll probably remember it if you went there Jens, really chilled out and a lot of fun, free table tennis. After that we struggled to get home in the dark, at one point Miles suggested that we turn the torch off and we'd adjust to the light, it didn't work.

We spent the next day together on the beach, plus we went over to Railey beach when the tide went out, it had nicer sand, but it didn't have the same atmosphere over there. At night we went to Small World bar again, after getting food from a place I don't know the name of, but was really good.

Miles left the next morning for Koh phi phi, while Jordan, Lisa and I rented Kayaks and set off on an 8Km journey to an island we could see in the distance. It took about an hour and a half, but it was beautiful and it was kind of cool pulling up in a canoe when everyone else there had come on organised tours in big boats. I rested for a while then carried on to another island that took around 30 mins to get to. When we got back we ate lots of food and had an early night.

When I awoke, feeling the ache of the previous days adventure I did nothing and just lounged around on the beach all day, meeting Jordan and Lisa for a few drinks on the porch of their bungalow.

I got up early in the morning and headed to Phuket town. I wanted to see what it was like and then move on and stay at kata beach. There wasn't much there, people hassling you to get into taxis etc, so the next day I packed up my stuff and headed to Kata beach, it's only a short bus ride, and when I got there I couldn't find anywhere cheap to stay, so I lounged on the beach for a while and headed back to Phuket town, where I had found a great hostel. I went out for food with a guy that was in my dorm, I can't remember what his name was or where he was from (I should start writing this stuff down), then we went back to the hostel were a few people were watching dvds.

The next day I rented a scooter, I did wear a helmet and long trousers. It was a fun day, I went to a few of the viewpoints and took some photos, went to a few of the beaches. The only problem was that it rained a couple of times, so I had to quickly find places to pull over and go inside.

I headed to Phi Phi the day after that, and ran into Lisa pretty soon the day I got there. Her and Jordan had met up with one of their friends called Nicky who had been teaching with them in Korea, and they were all heading out for the night along with a girl from Canada called Fiona who was from the same set of bungalows. I joined them and we went first to a bar on the beach with a fire show (doesn't narrow it down much, most of the bars had fire shows, especially if they were on the beach). Lisa won a free bucket for a balloon game, and I got a free beer for doing fire rope skipping, we got some photos but you can't really tell its me doing it. Then we went to the street that the bungalows were on and got some buckets, as it was cheaper than in the bars, while there we met Miles again, along with a welsh guy called Lee and an English guy called Jake. Then we all went to another beach bar untill it closed. I lost my sandles, but managed to claim a pair of flip flops, but the day after Nicky found my sandles again, so I put the flip flops on a concrete blog in the beach bar, they had dissappeared later on, but I'm not sure if they went to their rightful owner. There was lots of lost sandles and flip flops on the beach so I didn't feel too bad, and sure the owner of my borrowed flip flops found some others.

That was kind of the routine for the time on Koh Phi Phi, the same thing happens every day on that island, go to the beach, eat, shower, go out, same music in the bars, you meet the same people, drink the same buckets. There was a bar called Reggae bar, which had a Boxing ring and people could volunteer to fight, which mainly resulted in slightly drunk people flailing their arms about. One night a Scottish guy bust a French guys nose, another night someone who had obviously done a bit of it before was kicking another guy in the head, then in the second round the losing guy finally landed a punch and everyone cheered. I didn't quite have the courage to volunteer although I was tempted by the free bucket that they gave to every volunteer.

We also met a guy called Ali, who had been travelling for 1.5 years and played poker online to get money, I would love to be good at poker and just do that for my life.

Me, Jordan, Lisa, Nicky and Fiona took a boat trip one day to Bamboo island and Maya bay (where the beach was filmed). The sea was really rough, and at times it seemed too rough for our tiny little boat, but it managed it.

On my last night on Phi Phi I decided it would be a good idea to stay awake all night drinking buckets untill I had to get my boat at 9, that way I would sleep in the minibus. This is not a good idea, minibuses and roads in Thailand are in some way and for some reason designed to prevent sleep. We stayed in the club untill it closed then on the way back Ali decided to get a tatoo, he already had one drunken tatoo, "Flavour Country", on one of his ankles, so he got another, "Beach Bum", written in Thai on his other ankle. Then we went back to their bungalows and listened to music until 7 am, when I went back to my hostel to pack my things.

On the bus, if my bum wasn't numb, then the road was bumpy, it was impossible to sleep. Plus I was really dehydrated for a long while until we stopped at a petrol station and I could get some water. I will not be doing that again...

General feelings about thailand are mixed. There are some really irritating places, I am never going to get in a taxi when the driver claps at me and shouts "taxi", I don't want a massage, I have better things to spend my money on, no matter how many a's you put in it("Massaaaaaaaaaaaaaaage?"). But past the annoyances there are some beautiful beaches, and a lot of fun to be had if you can look past a few of the more irritating tourists. I think in general you have to stay out of Bangkok for as long as possible, I was there for far to long because of the visa thing, and just don't go to phuket, it's pointless.

So now I'm in Penang, Malaysia, Just booked a ticket to India from KL on the 19th, so i've got a bit of time to explore a few places and cobble together some sort of route for India before I have to leave.


10 Sep 2009

Trat is boring

Hi eveyone, i'm in Trat now, waiting for a boat that doesn't come until tomorrow, so I thought I'd update this a little bit.

The last few days at the orphanage were cool. They finally got some more windows for the education centre. I don't know if I wrote a while ago that we got a load of glass panes to put in frames, and loads of them were too small. Anyway, that was just being finished as I left.

On the Wednesday of my flight I got matatus to Nairobi with Doug, Simon (English), Kelly (Australian), Meital (Israel), and the Swiss girls, Laura and Cecilia. Then got the bus to the airport. I could have asked for my lift back, but I didn't want to risk Geoffrey taking me and not Zack, it would have made for an uncomfortable journey, even though I left on good terms.

I don't really remember my flight to Doha, it can't have been too interesting. When I was going through the security check at doha airport there was a man going through at the same time as me who had a massive blade hidden in his belt buckle. When questioned he said "What? Is it not allowed?". He must have been pretty stupid. I saw him walking around in the airport later, so I don't think they arrested him or anything, I don't think they gave him his belt back though.

The 12 hour change over time passed quite quickly, I got my free meal, slept for a while on the chairs. I looked a bit of a tramp because I was wearing my grey "Go local sports team and/or college" jumper, which had been washed in a bucket, by me, at the orphanage, so it smelled ok, it just looked dirty. Add to that the fact that i'm sleeping on what are basically benches, and I don't have anything with me (all checked in) apart from a bottle of water. Then add to that the fact that my last shower was a few days ago, also involving a bucket, and you've got a tramp.

The flight from Doha to Bangkok had those things where you can choose what to watch, and it was a really quiet flight so I had 2 seats to myself, it was nice.

I got a taxi to my hostel and then went to the bar, I started talking to a guy from Hungary. I didn't get his name, because if you get someones name you end up facebook friends, and then he'd be able to see this blog. He was really weird, he kept going on about how he was looking for an attractive prostitute. Then we both started talking to some guys from Denmark, and he kept telling these guys of his search. I made sure they knew I had only just met him.

The next day I relaxed a little, did some washing, not much else, in the evening I managed to get some free games of pool with the bar maid in the hostel, she beat me most of the time.

On saturday I looked at a map of Bangkok and decided that I could walk to the chinese embassy. It was a lot further away than I thought, but I managed it even though it took hours. The guy at the embassy said they closed on weekends (yes I should have thought it through) so I took the sky train back to my hostel area again. That night there were two groups of 3 british guys and another lone british guy, I don't remember names or places they were from, one group was ok, the other wasn't really my type of people. We all went out again on the sunday night and were out untill 6:00 in the morning, the group split up and I stayed with the more ok group. We got a Tuk Tuk back to the hostel and the guy was driving like a mad man, he even managed to make it do a wheely after stopping at a traffic light, we gave him a tip.

Sunday day time I met an Israely guy named Dror. "Like a drawer" is what he said. He was 36 hours away from his 9 month travelling trip coming to an end. He said he was looking forward to getting home. We went to the weekend market and he bought some stuff. I didn't, but I did find a Kenya Lonely planet guide from 1997, and it had Ali Hippy in it. Don't know if I explained Ali Hippy last time, he's a man that looks like a Walrus, living in Lamu, and he invites people to his house for dinner.

Monday, back at the chinese visa office, got a form, didn't have a photo, had to wait until the day after to use the photo booth at the visa place. Changed hostel just because I could. Feeling the night before I had a quiet night.

Tuesday, went to the indian visa office. Far better than the Chinese one, the people were way more helpful. So my passport is now at the indian embassy. Met a guy from Finland called Matti and an Italian who's name I can't remeber. I impressed the Finn by saying "Mita Vitua" at relevant moments, the one bit of Finnish that I learnt in Bratislava. The itallian showed us a website on his phone called Badoo, which is like facebook but for people who want to have sex with locals when they travel to other citys. He was weird.

Wednesday. Bored of Bangkok, I decided I wanted to go to Koh Mak, one of the smaller and less touristy islands. I tried to get a bus, but they had finished for the day, so I booked on one at 8am today.

Thursday, today. Got the bus, but it didn't get to Trat in time for the boat to Koh Mak, so I'm now here for a night with nothing to do. I've been to KFC and I saw a cat eating a lizard, and I'm pretty sure that's all Trat has going for it.


24 Aug 2009

Lamu, and the orphanage currently

Ok, so as I said, all the volunteers were leaving, including me, Cassie, German Lara and English Lara, who set off for Lamu. On the 5th August we got a lift from Zack to Nairobi, when we got there we booked our tickets on the night train to Mombasa, then we went to Java House, which I may or may not have mentioned before, for food. It’s pretty good, but tastes really good after Githeri (maize and beans). German Lara (who will from now on be refered to as Lara, with English Lara remaining English Lara) and Cassie went to the city market, which I hate, so English Lara and I went to an internet café. Later on we got some supplies for the train and headed over to catch it.

The train really wasn’t bad at all. We were second class so we had beds. I’d also heard that there were no toilets, just the kenyan style holes in the floor of the train, which would be very difficult to aim for whilst the train is moving. There were toilets, they were fine. The train took around 16 hours, it moved slowly and often stopped for long periods of time, but we slept through a lot of it so it didn’t matter. In the morning we went for our breakfast which we had been told was “compulsory” by the ticket man when we had asked to go cheaper but without breakfast. We waited about an hour and a half and it was rubbish, I don’t even remember what was on it, I think there was one sausage, possibly an egg, I don’t know, it was a waste of time.

So, we got to Mombasa without really knowing what to expect, I didn’t like Mombasa right from the start, as for some reason English Lara had brought a suitcase to Africa and the wheels of course broke off on the crap pavement. So, being the only boy, I had to drag it for a mile or two to our hotel, all the while people are hassling me to buy crap or get on a bus to Nairobi or Malindi. We didn’t do much in Mombasa, Lara didn’t have a bathing suit for Lamu, so went spent some time looking for places that sold them, we went to the fort, but it cost too much to go in, that’s about all I can remember. It’s really humid there, I felt like I was sweating in the cold showers in the hotel. While in Mombasa, English Lara decided that she was going to go to an orphanage there and do some more voluntary work, she had only been at WWB about a week and a half, so I think she felt like she hadn’t done much. So after two nights stay in Mombasa, Cassie, Lara and I got an early bus to Lamu.

The bus ride took around 6 or 7 hours, but was a lot worse than the night train. We took three out of the five seats at the back, and I took the central one thinking that I could stretch my legs down the aisle. I really should have known there’d just be bags in the way, so it was foolish to get my hopes up. On the bus we met another guy called David, who was also 22, but he looked about 30. Once we got off the bus we had to get a little boat to Lamu, it made Cassie feel sea sick. When we got off the original plan was to phone a guy called James who worked at a café called Hapa Hapa, but the only phone we had was English Lara’s, and she’d decided not to come. It was High season in Lamu, so a lot of the hotels were full, and James was supposed to find places for us with room. We met him just at the end of the jetty anyway, he recognised Lara’s basket bought from Makuyu market. He led us to a hotel that had space, so we dumped our stuff and went back to the Hapa Hapa for food. James taught us how to play a game called Bao that involves beads in holes on a piece of wood. I’m not going to try to explain it here, but we played it a lot over the week.

Lamu is my favourite place that I have been to on this trip so far. It doesn’t feel like anywhere else I have been in Kenya, or anywhere else I have ever been. There are a couple of motor vehicles on the island, but not many, the main mode of transport is donkey, and there are loads of them. It’s a very muslim area, and the call to prayer goes out from loud speakers five times a day like in Istanbul. It’s very laid back and people are very eager to befriend each other.

On our first night, the four of us, including David from the bus, met James at a bar called Petleys, one of the only bars on Lamu, with a barman (and possibly the owner, I’m not sure) called Satan. After a few beers and more games of Bao (I’m not sure if it was this night or another night, but eventually bottles of beer and pints of juice from Hapa Hapa were on the line in these games, and Bao suddenly became very important) James managed to talk us all into going to the disco. It was fun and we stayed there until 4 in the morning despite it being full of prostitutes and sleazy men hunting Lara and Cassie. The music was just reggae all night. On the way home a log fell off a building and hit James in the arm, it didn’t hurt him much though, but it was kind of strange.

I woke up at 7:30 the next day and couldn’t get back to sleep, so I sat on the roof until breakfast was being served and then ate with David and two girls we had all met the night before, I think one was Finnish and the other was Belgian, but I could be wrong. Breakfast consisted each day of fruit followed by eggs in some way with toast. When I sat down, David and the girls were already there, so they told me that when the guy asked to take my order, he actually meant how do you want your eggs.

We went to the beach later that day, the beach was huge, and I kind of regret not walking further along it as it’s something like 14km long. There was a little bit of sand that made a kind of island in the sea, David and I went out to it and wrote NO GIRLS on it in big letters. The only thing on the island was a jar of pickles, which we made a mess with. I think we probably went to Hapa Hapa for juice later, we did most days. Then we probably went to Petleys at night, had a few beers and played bao.

That was generally the pattern for the week, but with fewer pickles. We met lots of different people, there were loads of French people for some reason. One night I played Uno with a table full of French people and Cassie, who also speaks fluent French, and amazed them all with my French skills, “ J’habite a Bolton, Bolton est un Grand ville dans le nord ouest de L’Anglatere, cest industrielle” (the spelling in that is probably as bad as my pronunciation was on the night), I was the only person to win at uno twice though, so I think I know who came out on top. We also met a guy who is mentioned in the lonely planet guide (and told us so over and over again), he’s called Ali Hippy, and for 500 ksh he takes you to his house and cooks you dinner, we decided we would give it a try, as did two French people and an Australian called Elliot and an Israeli called Yael. It was really weird, I didn’t like it. The food was good, but the whole atmosphere was very staged and just seemed kind of odd. After dinner he played songs on his keyboard and his kids sing along. We all went to Petleys afterwards, and we taught the new people how to play bao.

We stayed in touch with Elliot and Yael throughout the week and went with them on a dhow trip one day. This is a trip in a boat, you go fishing and then the boat captains cook what you catch. We caught nothing, although one of the captains caught two small fish. Luckily they knew this was going to happen and had conveniently been to the market and bought a massive fish earlier. The fish was really good, I think it was called white snapper, and it was put in some kind of garlic sauce and then barbequed. On days other than this we just went to the beach and drank juice, that’s about it. One day we saw a really fat person on a donkey on the beach, and the donkey had to run because it was in a race, I think if he asked to ride a donkey on Blackpool beach they’d tell him to go on a diet first.

Cassie and I left Lara in Lamu last Sunday, Cassie had to fly back to France and I wanted to book a flight to Thailand and go back to see what was going on at the orphanage. So we got back on the boat early Sunday morning, got back on a bus, took the long bumpy bus ride back to Mombasa, went to get the train back to Nairobi, realized we didn’t have enough money, went to a cash machine, Cassie lost her card in one of the machines, forced to stay a night in Mombasa and get a bus the next day, went to the bank the next morning and they said that they just destroy foreign cards, “it’s procedure”, another fantastic time in Mombasa! I don’t remember how long the bus ride took, but it wasn’t fun, I barely even fitted in the seat. We got to Nairobi pretty late, so we dropped our stuff at the Africana (a cheap hotel) and then went and got pizza. The next morning Cassie left at 6:30 to get a taxi to the airport, and I was left with lonely matatu rides to Thika and then to Makuyu.

I booked a night in a room in Makuyu as soon as I got there, as I didn’t know what to expect at the orphanage, so I dropped my stuff off, went to Kason for Chapatti Mix (best 25 ksh you can spend in Makuyu) and then walked to the orphanage. Geoffrey’s car was there, which I wasn’t too pleased about, I didn’t really want to speak to him. I was eventually forced to, but he was pleasant. I met two new volunteers as soon as I got there, Casey, an American, and Kelly, an Australian. Kelly offered to show me round, which I declined. I went and spoke to Grace, she told me that Doug had got back the day before and was in his room, so I went and chatted to him for a while. He told me that Geoffrey was coming good on his changes, he’s had an accountant here looking at all the books and trying to get them into some kind of order and format. Dona has gone, and is currently replaced by a woman called Margret, who I haven’t spoke to much, but she hasn’t been seen beating the kids yet, so that’s a plus. I’ve been asked by Doug, Geoffrey and Zack not to mention past events to the new volunteers, which I don’t mind, although I think they found it strange that I was staying in Makuyu for my first night. I’m now living back at the orphanage. Geoffrey hasn’t asked me for any money yet, I think mainly to try to keep me sweet and stop me from saying anything to the newbies, Casey, Kelly, Meital (Israel) and Simon (London), and as of this morning, although they are sleeping and I haven’t met them yet, Cecilia and Laura from Sweden. My intention of coming back was never to just stir things up again, and as long as things seem to be going well I’m not going to say anything. I am going to pay the two weeks as I think it would show Geoffrey that I think he is going about things the right way, I am not giving it all to Geoffrey though. I will give Geoffrey his 19% that he takes from each volunteer fee, I don’t mind that, I don’t want the orphanage to fail because Geoffrey has to work more to support his family, however I don’t trust him fully enough yet to give him the rest, so I am going to give it to Doug to spend on things the orphanage needs.

That’s it really, there are 8 volunteers now, Geoffrey keeps promising it will not go above 10. Boniface left for some reason, no one really knows why, so a new fieldworker arrived yesterday, called Eric. Njeroge left with Ann and Devin, and they sent me an email saying that he is enjoying working on the 9 acre farm over at that orphanage, so I’m pleased for him. Ann and Devin have to go back to the States because of financial strains (I’m told that their tenant hasn’t paid rent or something) and they asked me if I wanted to take their place at that orphanage, but I had booked the flight to Thailand two days previously, so I must move on.

We’re having a BBQ on Friday, so that’ll be good.

I think this is the first time the blog has been completely up to date for ages, not sure when the next time I write will be, possibly in Thailand, possibly before.

Bye All.

18 Aug 2009

interesting stuff

This is going to be a more interesting blog post than some of the last ones, it’s kind of difficult to know where to start.

I knew when I signed up for this project that $90 a week was more than it would cost to feed me in Kenya, however it was still one of the cheapest volunteering opportunities that I could find for my time frame, and I felt reassured that all the money was going to the orphanage as I hadn’t booked through a company, such as “a broader view” which charges upwards of $200 a week for people to be here. So I liked the idea of paying $90 a week if it was going to enable good things to happen at the orphanage while I was here. It quickly became evident that this was not the case though.

First of all, I was under the impression that Geoffrey (the director of this organization) lived here at the orphanage. He doesn’t. This didn’t perturb me too much as I reasoned that it’d be easier for him to do work for the orphanage from a city, rather than an orphanage in the middle of rural Kenya. Also I assumed he had other work (he may or may not) that he used to provide for his family, another good reason for him living in a city.

Second, the projects. A guy called Jeurgen (spelling probably wrong) paid for the well, pump, tank etc. He came, volunteered, paid $90 a week, and then paid extra to give the place water, a thoroughly nice guy, unlike Geoffrey. Aaron and Kaitlin were here for 2 years and put a lot of effort into making this place what it is, they also paid for the biogas project, great people, unlike Geoffrey. Danny and John, here not long ago, were here for 3 weeks and bought a swingset for the kids, when they asked Geoffrey if they could stay a couple of days longer to avoid staying in Nairobi, Geoffrey said that’d be fine, they just have to pay for an extra week, another $180 between them. Danny and John pointed out that they had been on 3 trips while here, missing a full week, and had also bought a swingset, Geoffrey relented. Doug just the other week bought a bull and cart for the orphanage so that trips to and from the shamba harvesting will be less frequent.

By now you should be wondering where the $90 at least from each of us each week is going, as are the rest of us here, and from looking at the volunteer feedback on this computer, as have volunteers for a while:

“I think the project is an excellent one, and could truly become a best-practice model for orphaned children in Africa, but unless and until more is done to improve financial accountability, I will not continue to support WWB nor will I recommend you to friends and family. And I must say it’s a terrible shame as well, given how excellent this project is. I imagine that you’ll not have much good fortune with international donors unless you make this a priority.”

“One thing is the money. I would try to organize, together with Geoffrey where, the financial stuff. At some time at my time at WWB I had the feeling, that there is the need to sit down all together and try to find a solution for this problem. I cant understand where, for example the volunteer money (90USD is a lot…) goes.”

Some money does get spent. The food costs nothing, basically. We can go up to the Kason hotel (it means restaurant here, for some reason) three times a day and spend in total 75 Ksh, one American dollar to eat for a day, and the food would be better than what Grace is provided with here. So that makes $83 dollars a day (at least) unaccountable for. There are some projects that are not paid for directly by volunteers, the education centre and animal enclosure for example. Geoffrey also has to pay the staff, who, having spent a lot of time with them now (most of them fantastic people), I know do not get paid a lot. Another thing to bear in mind though is that the volunteers coming here are not Geoffreys only source of income from this organization. There are also people who sponsor the kids to go to school, and other good people who just make donations to the project. Most of the kids here are primary school age, and primary education is free here. Uniforms are not expensive, and most of them appear to be very old and tattered. Not much money being spent there. There are also donations that come in for the kids that have been placed in foster homes (I think there’s around 70 of them). Every 2 months a meeting is supposed to be held where they are given $20 worth of stuff, bought with money from their sponsors. The one I attended was the first for 3 months, and the kids were handed out around $5 worth of stuff, some of which was stuff that had been brought by volunteers.

Now that you have some background of how much of a shit Geoffrey is I’ll start on some specific cases.

Alena paid for a month too much, and asked in countless emails if she would be entitled to a refund. Geoffrey never replied. Geoffrey came to the orphanage one day, and Alena approached him, Geoffrey said that she wasn’t entitled to a refund, but if she could get a friend to come and do the extra month then they could do it for free and pay her the difference. Alena came and found me, I was in bed, knowing that I was planning on staying an extra 4 weeks, I went and told Geoffrey what Alena had told me, followed by “I’m Alena’s friend, and I’d like to do her 4 weeks”. Greedy Geoffrey’s friendly smile dropped into a frown. “That’s a different issue, why is Alena bringing you into problems between me and her, this is a separate issue, you pay me for your 4 weeks and I’ll deal with Alena”. I told him that I’d wait and see what Alena said and what he said to Alena, until yesterday they still hadn’t spoken, so I still haven’t paid Geoffrey for the 4 weeks, thankfully.

Ana was told that because it was high season she had to pay for at least 2 months, she did, even though she could only stay for one, presumably because she thought it was going to a good cause, not Geoffrey.

Jens and Melda got told the same thing, they said they instead would like to donate a really fancy camera to the orphanage so that pictures of the kids could be put up on the website. The camera is at Geoffrey’s house.

Geoffrey charges (or rather was charging) $80 for a ride to and from the airport, he made both Jens and Melda pay the $80 even though they were coming together, the same with Ben and Mila, who also happened to come in the same trip as German Laura. Recently Geoffrey started to refuse trips back to the airport, stating that the $80 was only for one way (on matatus you can get to Nairobi for the equivalent of $2). We looked on his website and he had changed one part of it to say that it was only one way, but another part of it still said 2 ways, fucking idiot.

A few weeks ago, the only bad member of staff, Dona, was caught beating the kids (twice in one day). Everyone wanted her fired, Geoffrey said he would have to think about it and talk to the kids. THERE IS NOTHING TO THINK ABOUT. Dona is still here. Ann and Devin had many meetings with him saying that she needed to go, it never happened.

On Friday everything erupted, Ana had a really angry phone conversation with Geoffrey in which he was denying her a lift to Nairobi on Saturday. Remember that Ana paid $80 for transport AND double the volunteer fee, yet she was refused a lift to Nairobi. Ann and Devin got involved and eventually decided that they were going to leave (they had been thinking about it for a while, mainly due to the Dona thing and not being given the type of power and experience they were promised, also with things getting tenser they wanted to get their kids Naya and Kai out of there). They sent Geoffrey a message saying that they were going to leave on Sunday. Geoffrey then ridiculously sent a message back, one part I can remember from it was “this is total BETRAYAL”, the jist of it was that he was going to try to get them deported. Devin and Ann then planned to leave on Saturday to try to avoid conflict. With Geoffrey’s request they sent him an email (along with cc’ing it into many organizations that had been link with the project, future volunteers, the American embassy, as it had Geoffrey’s text quoted in it) outlining all the reason why he’s a slimy little bastard and they were leaving. Cassie got on facebook, and found all of the volunteers that were planning on coming and contacted them with what was going on. People have sent emails to “a broader view” and “idealist.org” and other organizations that list WWB with information about what Geoffrey’s been doing, trying to hit him where it hurts, his wallet.

Saturday came and Edith (Geoffrey’s greedy wife) arrived before Ann, Devin, Naya and Kai had left. She didn’t say much until Ann and Devin’s ride came and we started loading their stuff, she couldn’t stop them though. After they left, Edith spoke with Sabrina (she’s been here the longest) for a long time. She kept asking for the Microfinance money, which Sabrina stongly denied her. All the volunteers got together after and wrote down some points that we wanted to bring up in a meeting with Geoffrey and Edith, as Edith had said that Geoffrey was on his way. The first attempt at the meeting wasn’t a success because, as you can imagine all the volunteers feel strongly about their money going to the orphans, not being spent on Edith’s hair or Geoffrey’s suits, so at times lots of people were talking at once. Geoffrey shunned the financial questions saying we’d have to speak with the treasurer who is in Nairobi. There isn’t a treasurer, or a board, there’s just Geoffrey and Edith, and of course their lies and greed. We asked for an email address, if we could go and meet him, what his name was, he eventually uttered a Mr. something and Sabrina asked him to write it down, he passed it to Edith to write down, who obviously hadn’t listened, as she wrote down something different. It did get a little silly with people talking over each other, Geoffrey said he wanted to meet with the kids and while he did we should choose some representatives. We chose Alena, who kept calm in the first meeting, and Sabrina as shes been here the longest. I don’t know what Geoffrey said to the Kids, but some of them were upset afterwards, I only hope it wasn’t anything bad against Ann and Devin or any of the other volunteers.

Unsurprisingly nothing much got resolved in the meeting. It’s only Geoffrey and Edith that can solve this and unfortunately I don’t think they will. We all know they have been scamming money that should be going to these kids, but I worry that he will just find replacement development managers (Ann and Devin) get new volunteers and carry on. All of us are leaving during this week, Sabrina and Doug go to Uganda tomorrow, I’m going to Lamu with English and German Laura and Cassie. The rest leave next weekend. Doug comes back and has paid till December. I do not know if he will stay. I am going to come back on 18th Aug, without paying, for up to a week, and see what happens, then I will go back to Lamu until German Laura leaves and then fly to Thailand.

There is of course the other way of looking at all of this. This was still one of the cheapest African based volunteer projects that I found, and if I’d gone with a company it still would have meant that not all the money goes to the cause. Some of the money does get spent for the kids benefit, and they love volunteers coming here (which won’t happen for a while now that we have basically nuked it with the help of Facebook, although I wouldn’t be surprised if the facebook group was gone pretty soon) and the work that I’ve done on the education centre, bio gas, animal enclosure, shamba, etc has all been helpful for the place, staff and kids, and when I applied to come here I wasn’t against paying $90 a week to give that help and have this experience, which has been fantastic on the surface. But the problem is that this place could be so much greater with out Geoffrey’s greed. The kids could be in a better school, there’s a Don Bosco school not far away that charges $10 a month for kids to go there, why isn’t some of the volunteers’ money being spent on that? The staff get paid less per month than each volunteer pays a week. Zack, Geoffrey’s own fucking brother, has a wife and two kids that he sees only once every two months because he can’t afford the commute to get there, let alone the cost of moving them here.

So if we destroy this place as much as we hoped, then it will hurt the kids in the short term, they wont have all the volunteers around to show them the love and support they get now, but in the long term maybe Geoffrey will change his ways, put more of the money into the orphanage and these kids will have a better future.

The only thing left to say is that Geoffrey and Edith took the internet (and blamed the kids when questioned) so I probably can’t post this at least till Wednesday. There’s only me and Sabrina here today, the rest have gone to Nairobi so they’re going to stop at an internet café and send emails far quicker than they could here, so taking the internet didn’t stop anything.


Ok, I wrote this on not the Sunday just gone, not the one before, but the one before that (I can't do dates anymore). Since then Geoffrey has "suspended the volunteer program" and refunded people for time they've paid for but have had to leave early because of this mess. I also got an email stating that he is making these changes:

1. Firing the social worker (Dona) who was found guilty of abusing children.
2. Employing an additional staff to be responsible with all WWB finances (sponsorship, women, sanitary, volunteer) books and financial records. The director will no longer keep the books.
3. To maintain highest financial accountability
4. To review the policy of WWB and implement it strictly – Aaron & Kaitlin to help on this.
5. To make a clear breakdown of the volunteer fees – Aaron & Kaitlin to help on this.
6. To maintain the number of volunteers under 10.
7. To operate WWB with highest values, transparency, accountability, honesty, morality and others for the good of children, volunteers and staff.
8. Review the child sponsorship and make it clear to all the sponsors where money is going.
9. To form an international board – under discussion
10. To keep the children at the forefront of everything. 1. Firing the social worker (Dona) who was found guilty of abusing children.
2. Employing an additional staff to be responsible with all WWB finances (sponsorship, women, sanitary, volunteer) books and financial records. The director will no longer keep the books.
3. To maintain highest financial accountability
4. To review the policy of WWB and implement it strictly – Aaron & Kaitlin to help on this.
5. To make a clear breakdown of the volunteer fees – Aaron & Kaitlin to help on this.
6. To maintain the number of volunteers under 10.
7. To operate WWB with highest values, transparency, accountability, honesty, morality and others for the good of children, volunteers and staff.
8. Review the child sponsorship and make it clear to all the sponsors where money is going.
9. To form an international board – under discussion
10. To keep the children at the forefront of everything.

I've been in Lamu for the past week, one of the weirdest but most interesting places I have ever been, i'll put more about it at another time though, as right now I need to book a flight to Thailand and I am in Thika on my way back to the orphanage to check out what's going on. I'm going to stay in Makuyu and eat my own food, so i'm not costing Geoffrey anything.


27 Jul 2009

Mount Kenya, Safari, other stuff

Hi everyone,

We ended up having to pay $270 (including everything) for the safari, but we didn’t mind because we couldn’t really find it cheaper anywhere else, also he picked us up from the orphanage and dropped us off there again, so that was good.

Current volunteers are: British: Me, Lara
American: Ann, Devin, Alena, Doug, Vishnu and Cassie
Slovakian: Jarka
Spanish: Ana
Canadian: Sabrina
German: Lara

Ben and Mila have gone to Rwanda for 2 weeks.

Last week, Friday 17th, me, Sabrina, Danny and John went to Nanyuki which is a town at the base of mount Kenya. Someone, I think it was Danny or John, had read in a guide that there was a place that did really cheap 4 hour camel rides, 1500 Ksh, about 11-12 Gbp. So that was our sole purpose of going really, Sabrina leaves soon and doesn’t have a lot of money so we tried to do it cheaply. After a really long matatu ride (in which a guy towards the end said he’d show us where the hotel was, I said we had a map, but he put his hand on my shoulder and insisted that he would show us. He pointed to it out of the window and asked for money for his trouble, we didn’t give him any) we arrived there and asked at the hotel desk what the cheapest way to stay in the hotel would be. This turned out to be room 409, a double room, with 2 biggish single beds, for 700 Ksh, 175 Ksh each, about 1.30 Gbp each. We took it, Sabrina and Danny shared a bed (mum and dad) and me and John shared a bed, it wasn’t comfortable. After we had checked in we went to a place recommended by the guide book for food. I got a samosa, fish and chips, and a cheese burger, and shared a pizza with Danny and John. The food was great, but at the end the bill was about 1100 Ksh over what we ordered, so dad (Danny) went and argued and sorted it out. They had added a few extra things to the bill, but then in the end had just made up the total anyway. We went to bed fairly early because we had to be at the camel place for 9am, but it was a Friday night so the street below us was very noisy and I was sharing a bed with John, so I didn’t sleep well.

The next day we got to the camel place slightly late, and two girls were just setting off on some camels, but they hadn’t booked ahead and there weren’t enough camels for all of us, so they had to get off. The camel ride was good, it was uncomfortable towards the end, and there wasn’t too much to see (a dead dog is the most memorable thing I can remember seeing), but it was fun to be on a camel, I called mine Henry. We left the camel place after our 4 hours and got some lunch, it was rubbish, and then we got a matatu back to Thika which was really good, because it only had 11 seats, and it had a TV, even though it only played rubbish music videos. It also didn’t stop until thika, so it was a much shorter journey than the previous day.

On Monday 20th ten of us went on safari in the Masai Mara, me, Ben, Mila, Jens, Melda, Lara (German), Cassie, Alena, Ana and Jarka. It took sooo long to get there, around 8 hours in total, but it was definitely worth it. We had lunch as soon as we got to the camp, and then went to the park. The first day was probably the best, we saw zebras, gazelle, buffalo, lions, then we saw some elephants, but as soon as we got there Stanley (the driver) got a message over the radio that there was a leopard near by, so we sped past the elephants (leopards are supposedly really rare, and we didn’t see any more after the first day) and headed towards where it had been spotted. We saw the leopard from the other side of a big ditch, quite a distance away, it was walking, unluckily for the leopard, into the path of a lioness that was waiting behind a bush. Stanley said in 7 years of safari driving he’d never seen a stand off between a lion and a leopard. Eventually the leopard got too close and the lioness chased it until it ran up a tree, then the lioness and a male lion sat around at the bottom waiting. At this point our safari bus (kind of like a fancy matatu with a roof that opens up and less seats) and around 10 others that were watching from over the river sped round to the tree to watch what would happen, along with vehicles from all over the masai mara, at one point I counted 50 vehicles around this tree, by far the most we saw at any point over the 3 days, I think the next most was probably around 7 or 8 around lions or elephants. I think all the safari drivers wanted to see what would happen just as much if not more than the people they were driving. In the end the leopard sat in the tree until the sun set and the wind changed direction (so the lions couldn’t smell him from where they were sitting) and then ran away.

The next day we set off to the park around 8 ish I think. I forgot to mention that Jens missed the first day safari because he was sick. Unfortunately Melda was feeling unwell on the second day, came along anyway, and started to feel worse and worse as the day went on. At one point we were watching elephants and Melda really needed the bathroom/bush so we had to go through the herd of elephants as fast as possible but there was a big one on the road, Stanley was driving at it really fast and it was running away making loads of noise, then it turned around to face us, looking quite angry as if it might run at the bus, but then it turned around and carried on running, eventually doing the sensible thing and just getting off the road. Melda made it to the bush in time, for anyone wondering. This day we also saw some of the wildebeest migrating, although the river that you see them crossing on TV was dired up, so we didn’t get to see any eaten by crocodiles. We did see crocodiles though, and hippos, and some vultures eating a dead wildebeest, a couple of hyenas, cheetas, giraffes and warthogs. At the picnic site that we stopped at for lunch there were lots of monkeys, they stole food off women, they weren’t afraid of white men, but they didn’t steal food from them. They were afraid of black men. Stanley demonstrated that they were afraid of spears by picking up a small stick and threatening a monkey with it, it ran away. We also crossed the border into the Serengeti plains in Tanzania, so that’s another country that I can tick off. Jens and Melda went back to the camp after lunch as Melda really wasn’t well. The rest of us carried on in the other bus.

On the final day of the safari we left the camp at 7 am, did a couple of hours in the park, saw lion cubs and two lions having sex, a picture of which I have now set as this computers desktop. The only animal of note that we didn’t see on the safari was a rhino. After we left the park we had the option to pay to see a Masai camp, but I didn’t because it all seemed a little bit staged. Some of the others did and they said it was good, so maybe I missed out, I don’t know. We then had food and set off back for the orphanage.

That’s it for trips out that I’ve done over the last couple of weeks. Me, Cassie and Lara (German) are going to Lamu (an island on the coast) in a couple of weeks, and I’m really looking forward to that. It’s meant to have a relaxed atmosphere, good food, nice beaches.

At the orphanage things are moving along “pole pole” (slowly slowly in Kiswahili, even though they speak Kikuyu here, but whatever). Devin told me the other day that the biogas is fixed, I asked him if Francis had been, annoyed that I’d missed a chance to question him on the torch, he said “no, that’s why it’s fixed” so I don’t think I’m going to see Francis again. The animal enclosure is moving along nicely, a week and a bit ago me and Devin spent all morning carrying buckets of concrete and pouring it into trenches, very tiring. Then a few days ago I spent all morning shoveling dirt from one place to another, also very tiring. But it has poles now to hold up the roof, so it’s coming along quickly. Ana and Doug took Grace to Nairobi yesterday (not sure if I’ve mentioned Grace before, but she’s 21, does all the cooking, and hasn’t had a single day off in 4 months) she said she had a really good time.

Oh, on the day we went to Nanyuki John shaved my head (I needed a hair cut before I left for Europe but didn’t have time, now almost 3 months later it’s finally been cut) and I shaved my beard (first time since Berlin I think, it wasn’t a good beard, still very patchy, with that weird bald spot under my chin). So I look vaguely human now. It was funny seeing the kids reactions to how different I looked. I had a conversation with Moses as a new volunteer called Jack, and he kept saying that I sounded like another volunteer called David who had longer hair. Lots of them didn’t recognize me, but I’ve asked them all and they say it looks better short.

My left big toenail has come off because I hit it with a shovel a couple of weeks ago, it became loose so John pulled it off with pliers.

I think I’m loosing weight too, I think I was 195 lbs when I got here, I’m now around 181.

Not last night but the night before a dog ripped open one of the rabbit hutches and we lost 4 rabbits.

I’ve not been sick yet, and I’ve been drinking the water in lots of places, eating sausages from street vendors and showering around twice a week.

Things are going well.