22.09.2014 - 26.09.2014 26 °C
As all my worldly possessions get dustier, my jandals get more worn and my memory card hits its limit. I am forced to see Africa not for the lost cause that the world media would have you believe. Not wars, famines and arbitrary colonial borders, but individuals just trying to make their way in the world; have a good life and make their existence mean something. The same as everyone else.
We have just crossed into Malawi and already I can feel the 'warm heart' of Africa. The kids are smiling, the people seem industrious and the land is green. This is making me philosophical, so what continues is my cathartic murmurings, don't say I didn't warn you.
I am constantly astounded by my travel companions fear of the land outside the truck. Every gathering of people over 20 people causes them to shut the windows, every suggestion to eat outside of the campsite is questioned with concerns, worries and phoney logistic issues.
NZF laughed at me the other day for waving to the kids out of the window, while he had his earplugs in watching episodes of Breaking Bad.
I know Africa is a big place, and there are hundreds of kilometres on my journey, but I didn't come here to be passive, scared or overly cautious. I don't live my life like that at home, so why would I do that here. I understand as a white female I have additional precautions that I need to keep in mind (yes, mum) but Africa is not for the faint hearted. If you thought it was, you are doing it wrong.
So it will come as no surprise to you all that I am extending my trip. My original destination was Nairobi, I am now jumping off the truck in Arusha, Tanzania to go and climb Mount Kilimanjaro. And if that isn't enough, I am rejoining the truck in Kenya to head up to Uganda to track the Gorillas. I won't be back in London until the 3rd of November (sorry, Ken and Liz). But as I have been saying since Easter, if not now... When?
I have settled into an African routine, and all the chaos associated to London life and the restricting personal quirks I have acquired are falling away. I wake up with the sun, I take time for myself, I (try to) ignore ignorance, I read, I nap, I swim in every pool I find, I passionately snap away on my camera, I even sleep well. Last night there was an adult elephant eating from the tree less than 5 metres from my tent at about 2am, and I didn't hear a thing.
My feet are black with mud and grime, my white shirts are brown, my book count since leaving London is 7 and a half, and for the first time in my life I stopped reading a book because I didn't like it, and didn't think it was worth my time. I needed this adventure.
Don't get me wrong, Africa is not relaxing. It's full of potential death and injury around every corner. Malaria means remembering to take your tablets on time, insect repellant burning your skin and long trousers in the heat. Waterborne illnesses means every tap is questioned to its quality, beer is drunk often in higher quantities than water (well that's normal for me anyway). Bags are carefully monitored, possessions are locked away, roads are treaturous littered with flipped buses and mutilated cars. One guy gave a high five to a kid in Botswana only to find when he looked at his hand that it was covered in blood. Botswana being one of the highest concentrations of AIDS sufferers in Africa.
If it was easy everyone would do it. NZF asked me today if I was excited about climbing Kili and I said, yes, but it was anxious about the effects altitude would have on me. Without being in that situation before it is a complete unknown. He said to me, 'Oh yeah kinda like the first time taking Cocaine'...
I guess there is always a challenging and easy path to everything.