We are a Hurricane
Not a single activity or weekend has gone to plan while we have been in Kenya. This has been one of the most frustrating ordeals while here. Relentlessly, we keep trying, refusing to give up and determined to make the most of our time in Kenya. However, there is always something more the can happen, the surprises never cease, as we learnt this weekend. We had planned for the past two weeks on taking a trip to Kakamega rainforest. We had done our research, booked a cheap, but nice hotel in the rainforest. Read all the reviews on Trip Advisor for the park and the hotel. Planned out the expenses and found a driver from KMET who would take us to the park and pick us up. We were ready, and on Friday morning headed out to the forest, excited for our first major outing in Kenya!
The first hiccup to our weekend came when we got to the gate of the forest and we were told that for non-residents the price was 2,500 Ksh, which is about 26 dollars! All of our research had told us that the cost to enter the forest was 600 Ksh a day, which is about 7 dollars a day. A little over 50 dollars a person is a huge different from 14 dollars. Then we were told that we were at the wrong gate, the gate we wanted to get to our hotel was 22 kilometres away. There were no maps available, and no one knew the way, so we were told to go back into town and ask for directions.
Once in town we tried calling our contact at the hotel to ask for directions. Our driver talked with him a good ten minutes before he handed the phone back saying that we needed to call our supervisor for help. Confused, we asked what the problem was. He said that not only had the man from the hotel been no help and refused to explain direction to the park gate, but he had also told the KMET driver to just leave us in the middle of the city and give up on us! The KMET driver was extremely offended that he would suggest such a thing. Horrified I tried calling the guy back and demanding instruction from him. That turned out to be a mistake because while he did technically give me instruction they were direction such as “go to the Kakamega hospital and then take the bumpy-bumpy road and once you are there turn at the red sign.” Given that maybe 1 out of 5 roads were even paved in Kakamega everyone in the car agreed that we were just become ever more lost if we tried to follow his “bumpy-bumpy” directions. Worst yet, the driver was running out of gas, and the next station wasn’t for another hour. We had to make a decision quickly.
Between the three of us we had enough for one night, so we went for it. Finally, we were in the park! The guest house was well worth the money, completely stocked for full on “glamping” or glamour camping. We had a great time hiking, taking pictures of monkey’s and butterflies. We were amazed at the diversity of ecosystems, from the random evergreen forest in the middle of the jungle, and grass lands that appeared out of nowhere. The literal ants in our pants is even an experience we can now laugh about fondly.
However, our peace of mind was quickly shattered as we got ready to leave to park. We had discussed with the KMET driver that we should be picked up by 4 because we had only paid for 24 hours in the park. However, by 3 o’clock on Saturday a HUGE storm broke overhead. We had no cell phone reception and had no idea if anyone was coming to get us. All we could do was wait for the storm to pass from inside the guest house and hope someone would be coming soon. By 6 o’clock our wonderful KMET driver made it and we made our way out of the park.
However, some more can always happen. The gate keepers were not ready to let us go so easily. The demanded we pay another 26 dollars each because the storm had delayed our driver. We did not have the money to do so. Panicked because we had no idea what we were going to do, we waited as our driver argued with the gate keepers. After what felt like hours (but was really only minutes) the gate keepers let us through. Our amazing driver was able to explain to them that he was delayed by the storm and that we should not be punished because of a natural event we had no control over. I honestly don’t know what we would have done without our driver, he really saved us.
While we wish we could have stayed in the park a second night and enjoyed more of the forest I am grateful for the little time we had there. Honestly, I am really proud of our little band for not giving up despite everything that was thrown at us. Given everything we have experienced here, between the political disturbances in our first month here, frustration with work, competition from the kids from Harvard, and the continuous little things that just don’t work out we are still positive. I know that I will be able to look back at this summer in a week when we fly out and smile because of the wonderful women I have been with. Thank you guys for always making me laugh and turning every ridiculous situation around and into a good time.
Cassie Scheiber ’17