So we made it out of Africa in one piece. My biggest fear of getting horribly sick and having to seek African medical attention didn’t come true (I just hope that my other big fear of getting malaria symptoms once I’m back home and have no health insurance doesn’t come true either). There were no major episodes of food poisoning and I even managed to gain weight in Africa. We weren’t even the victims of “informal wealth redistribution”. If there weren’t pictures to prove we actually went, you may not even believe it.
When Matt and I booked this 21 day camping safari, I have to admit that I was apprehensive about how it would go. Amazingly enough, I was exceedingly happy with the way everything went, so we decided to continue on with the same tour company for another 20 days through East Africa. Keep in mind that when we decided to continue it was despite the fact that there were 18 girls and not a single guy booked. With the addition of the second segment, our grand total came to 41 days of African camping, something I couldn’t have possibly even imagined myself ever doing, seeing that my idea of camping up until 6 weeks ago was setting up a tent in my neighbors’ backyard when I was 10.
All in all, Africa was in some ways exactly what I expected, and in other ways I was completely wrong. There are many African clicking languages, which are still very much used by many different tribes; however a lot of them also learn English. Women (men almost never do) really do carry packages on their heads, which if you have good balance (I don’t) is very practical. Southern Africa (South Africa, Namibia, Botswana and Zambia) really surprised me with the decent and pretty much western infrastructure and facilities (bathrooms, internet, etc.) available. East Africa (Malawi and Tanzania) on the other hand, not so much… If you were brave enough to endure the stench surrounding the rooms they called bathrooms, you were rarely surprised to find a western toilet and not simply a hole in the ground. Better put, stopping on the side of the highway to find and hide in a bush was preferable to stopping at an actual bathroom, and before this trip I would have let my bladder burst before even thinking about doing that. On the first part of the tour, I religiously showered everyday and almost always in a moderately comfortable shower. On the East African leg of the tour, you were hardly ever lucky enough to find a warm shower. I could blame an elephant for dipping his trunk in the above ground water tank and drinking most of the water so that I didn’t shower that night (making a record three day stretch), but quite honestly I wasn’t even planning on attempting an icy shower anyway – baby wipes work almost as well.
Being without creature comforts for a decent amount of time makes you really appreciate the western “technology” of hot showers, proper bathrooms and internet. I wish I could say that I’ve learned to live without them, but I can’t – I simply appreciate their availability now. Once we got to London, we were so deprived of internet time that we spent five hours at Heathrow airport sitting on the floor (by power plugs) trying to catch up on hostel reservations, train schedules, and email.