My Two Month Trip to Kenya

IMG_5801It was supposed to be an epic trip to three different countries. I intended to visit Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda. I never left Kenya. In fact I didn’t even explore all of Kenya. However, it was a fantastic trip.

IMG_5345I rented an apartment in Diani Beach and I slowed down.

IMG_1067I spent an inordinate about of time at the beach.

IMG_4823I sat in restaurants talking to locals and sometimes older European tourist for hours. IMG_4768I lazed around my apartment/pool reading novels.

IMG_1158I went on safaris and visited villages.

IMG_5417I attended a wedding.

IMG_5732I ate fish directly from the ocean (never frozen.)

IMG_1542I took walks on dirt roads.

IMG_1464I touched the earth.

IMG_5611I Drank fresh mango and passion fruit juice almost daily. I ate with my hands.

IMG_1507There were times when I felt like people were waiting to hear about my epic adventure, and not having traversed East Africa as I said I was going to I may have disappointed them. Well there it is; I stayed in Kenya for the entire two months and I had a wonderful time.

My Trip to Kenya – Part 3 of 3

My Trip to Kenya Part 3

Picking up where I left off from part 2.

Today (8 June 2015) is the last day in Kenya for my friend and her daughter. We took a Mombassa City tour and got some shopping in. Had lunch and it was time to head to the airport to drop them off for their return trip to the US of A. It was sad to see them leave. I was now on my own for the next seven days.

The following day I just loughed at the pool and read for the most part. The day after that I went to the supermarket and purchased some groceries. I had lunch while I was out and took advantage of the free wifi at the mall to make a few phone calls on WhatsApp to family and friends. The next few days I borrowed two books from reception and just relaxed at the resort. I had the pool all to myself since it was low season and I think only four of the units were occupied.

IMG_3597on 12 June 2015 I departed for the South Coast of Mombassa and my last four days in Kenya. The resort was beautiful even though I had to run away from monkeys on a few occasions to get to my room. I whiled away my days at the resort sunbathing, eating, drinking, reading etc., and spent my evenings/nights with some locals exploring the local area and nightlife. All in all it was a fantastic trip and I hope to visit again. Hopefully do a lot more site seeing next time.

My Brief Tips – Trip to Havana, Cuba

View from across the water at the ferry port in Regla
IMG_0468 It is perfectly legal for Americans to travel to Cuba without applying for permission in advance as long as your trip falls within one of the 12 allowable reasons. If you are doing a self guided trip it may be more economical to travel through another country. Of all the Lonely Planet guides I have referenced for any of my travels the one on Cuba has been the most valuable. I would recommend obtaining a Cuba edition and reading through it during planning and well in advance of your trip. It outlines everything (visa requirement, money, etc). If however you have questions about my personal experience please feel free to ask.

San Francisco de AsisIMG_4759As of this writing your American phone, iPad etc., will not work in Cuba even if you would be willing to pay roaming charges. It will say “no service” the entire time you are there unless you are connected to wi-fi and wi-fi is not readily available. I was fine other than the one hour of wi-fi time I purchased to let my family and friends know that I was alright I did without internet. I did all of my research prior to arrival and printed out whatever I thought I’d need. If you are someone who absolutely needs to be constantly digitally connected you may have a problem.

IMG_0517Cash is King. Your US credit card/debit card will not work in Cuba and if you exchange USD for Cuban currency you will pay a 10% penalty. At the time I was there the going rate for the USD was .96 cents to one CUC with the additional penalty it worked out to about .87 cents rounded up. I brought GBPs and Euros I had from some of my other travels and a non US debit card for use at the ATM. Plan carefully if you don’t want to run out of money because you’ll have to bring all the cash you think you’ll need with you. Although I did see a Western Union I would not plan on using it. Some people chose to purchase Canadians currency prior to going to Cuba instead of having to exchange US dollars.

IMG_5080There are tourists from all over the world in cuba and they do not have some of the limitations (most importantly access to their money) that US travelers have there.

IMG_5025Most everyone is friendly just be aware that the hustle is real. Cuba is a safe country and though you will probably not get mugged you should definitely look out for smooth talkers who want to separate you from your money (the technique is not as abrasive as I’ve encountered in other countries but it’s there) pay attention, you’ll recognize it. I almost wished I had visited prior to the internet age. I didn’t see any homeless people. Everyone seems to want more material things. In my opinion sometimes more is just more and not always better. (Maybe I think that because I’m working my way towards minimalism). But what do I know? I am just a visitor, I do not live there year round.

IMG_5019Plan wisely (have a plan but be flexible), bring a small folding umbrella (for the sudden showers). Please bring your sunscreen and walking shoes and enjoy your trip. Cuba is a beautiful country.
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My Trip to Kenya – Part 2 of 3

My Trip to Kenya – Part 2

Nairobi is a bustling, vibrant city. Like any other metropolitan city (Seoul, London, Paris) you can find whatever you want if you have the money and you are willing to pay for it. One major difference for me between Nairobi other big cities that I’ve traveled to was feeling like I was part of the majority. Traffic is horrible but the drivers (from what I observed) seem to navigate it without major road rage.

DSCN3964DSCN4007We departed Nairobi on 6 June for Kikambala on the North Coast of Mombasa.
We flew into Mombasa on Kenya Airways. It was a very pleasant ride. The flight from Nairobi to Mombasa International airport was shorter than the ride from the airport to the resort. I choose the lodging for this portion of our trip. The property was beautiful but there was an air of abandonment about the place. I believe we were one of about four units occupied at the resort. We were told it was because “it’s low season.” After checking in we ate dinner at the on-site restaurant because we had to be up early next morning for our two-day safari to Tsavo East.

IMG_3518My friend made the safari arrangement online prior to our arrival in Kenya and we were not disappointed. We had a marvelous time on safari. The guide was wonderful. We used JT safaris. I highly recommend them. We saw almost every animal we expected to see except the lion.

DSCN4004Upon our return from safari at the end of the day (7 June) we again had dinner at the on-site restaurant and made arrangement with the tour guide at the resort for a tour of Mombasa City following day. I would also be the last day with my friend and her daughter. We called it a night because safari can be exhausting whether you realize it at the moment or not.

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My Trip to Kenya – Part 1of 3

My Trip to Kenya Part 1

I’ve wanted to visit the African Continent for as long as I can remember. I finally did earlier this month for two weeks. Right off the bat I have to say two weeks is not enough. I wanted to visit two countries Kenya and Tanzania. I ended up just visiting Kenya. I’ll visit Tanzania some other time. The country is overwhelming there is a lot to see and travel days took a lot out of me. I only made a small dent in the things I wanted to do because I needed rest days in between and that is the reason I know I need a lot more time if I ever go back.

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I purchased a super inexpensive roundtrip airline ticket for $312.00 deparing from Washington DC to Nairobi, Kenya. Since I originally planned to also visit Tanzania I got a yellow fever shot, tetanus booster shot, and typhoid booster shot. I also got malaria prevention medication. My insurance only covered the tetanus shot. These shots and the malaria pills cost more than the airline ticket.

Took an overnight Megabus on 31 May to DC. Arrived 1 June, spent the night and boarded my plane the next day 2 June, at 1730 for my trip to Kenya. The first leg was from DC to Detroit. Second leg Detroit to Amsterdam. Third leg Amsterdam to Nairobi. Met up with my friend and her daughter at the airport in DC. We would spend the first week of the trip together (since they were only there for one week) and I would spend the second week solo.

We arrived in Nairobi the night of 3 June to a downpour. My friend has T-mobile thus she wasn’t roaming and was able to get an Uber to take us to our accommodations. Beautiful accommodations she had secured through AirBnB. We got drenched walking to the taxi. I choose to see it as a welcome shower. After getting out of our wet clothes and settling in for night we were able to laugh about it.

DSCN3931We hit the ground running the next day with a full day’s worth of activities. Again my friend being the great organizer that she is linked up with some other folks who had hired a driver for the day so we joined them and shared the cost. We visited the Nairobi National Park, The Giraffe Center, the Elephant Rescue Center and the Kazuri Bead Factory (the clay beads are individually hand-made by women). At the end of the day it was again Uber to the rescue to get us back to our accommodations.

DSCN3927 DSCN3929The following day Friday 5 June, we went out to breakfast at this trendy restaurant in the city. Later that day a Kenyan friend came over to cook us an authentic Kenyan meal. It was simple, filling, and delicious. We talked right through the night. Good food and great company. It was a wonderful day. 10245517_10206026515575604_4946323654790946136_n

The best laid plans

I’m taking off tomorrow for 31 days to St. Martin and Guadeloupe. Looking forward to spending time at the beach (sun, fun, rum), enjoying the company of extended family, and hopefully making new friends.

We are in the 4th month of 2014 and it’s looking like visiting the African continent which is number ten on my Goals and Aspirations for 2014 list may not happen this year. My mother needs to have back surgery and I want to be around during her recovery.

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White limestone roofs of Bermuda (photo taken by me)

I have fulfilled some of them already (number eleven “take my mom on a vacation to a country she has never been). We went to Bermuda in March for 12 days. Neither of us had been there before. We discovered it together and had a splendid time. Some of them I’ve neglected completely (I have not kept up with my Spanish lessons), and the rest of them are constant requirements.