Blog #28 - SAFETY IN AFRICA
It is becoming a bad habit, but I always seems to write my blog at 1am when I lie awake with my mind full of “stuff” I need to pen down. And being confined to ones mattress in a tent you can’t really get up and make a cup of tea and sit on your couch when the mind is full at this time of night!
A while ago I asked if there was anything specific people wanted to hear about and someone mentioned “our safety” whilst travelling through East Africa.
When you are preparing for such a trip your mind does, of course, go to the “dangers of deepest darkest Africa” but to be honest we have probably only felt nervous once or twice in the entire 7 months. Firstly I should stipulate that Devlin and I are not fearful people. We don’t live in a security estate back home and we have lived on a farm with no gates or even fences. So we are just not nervous people.
Obviously we are very aware of “danger zones” and thus on this trip have avoided northern Mozambique, north western kenya and north eastern kenya. We flew to Lamu island instead of driving due to security issues on the road up north. And we omitted Ethiopia entirely due to our safety. We read up and talk to people on the ground about areas and then go from there.
Over the past 7 plus months there have been 2 nights that stand out when I was nervous. The first was in Ishasha the southern region of Queen Elizabeth park in Uganda right on the Congo border. As part of the parks regulations you have to have an armed guard and ranger with you during the night. (There had been a kidnapping of a tourist 2 years before). Sitting around your campfire with 2 blokes armed with AK47s and in full army kit sitting a mere 5m away from you is rather disconcerting….We never knew if they were protecting us from wild animals or wild neighbours (Congo)!!! The snorting hippos from the border river a mere 30m from our tent all night long did not help the nerves! The guards took some getting used to as all national parks in Uganda insist on armed guards /rangers. Thankfully in certain areas we could negotiate this as it really is freaky having someone armed to the tilt sitting so close to you. It makes one more terrified than safe!!! Josh on the other hand was in his element learning about which gun was which. Boys!!!!
The other time I felt nervous was our first night of wild camping in Kenya. We were en route up to lake Turkana and pretty far up north and wild camped in a stunning flower filled valley. My fear was doubled folded, as we hadn’t wild camped before on the trip, so my first concern was the “are we allowed to even do this” factor and the second was that we had gone past some armed herdsmen before turning off the road to find our spot. Coming from South Africa you are acutely aware of your surroundings. Let’s just say I didn’t get much slept that night (and probably wrote a blog then too when I was terrified and wide awake at 1am!!!)
Besides these incidents we have felt more safe than in SA. I cannot explain the goodness off these East African people. Maybe this description below will highlight this point. People in Tanzania and most of east Africa will send large orders for their far out lodges ON THE BUS. With no specific person escorting the items. Ie our friends from Lake Shore Lodge on lake Tanganika (very western Tanzania) will send a few boxes of wine on the bus from Dar Es Salaam to them. This is a minimum 12 hour bus trip !!!!!!! And it arrives with not one bottle stolen. And this is the norm. Meat, veggies, solar panels etc are sent on the bus and arrive at their destination. This would not be possible in SA. It is hard for us to even contemplate it. It would probably not even make it to the bus!!! And another friend in Makushi Zambia gets their Amazon orders delivered to a tiny little cellphone box on the side of the road in some tiny village near their remote farm. And never before has anything been amiss. There is an inant goodness about the people in east Africa. An inbred trust in those individuals around you. It is so sad that this is not the case in SA.
So we have felt safe. We use common sense. We don’t walk around certain towns at night, we avoid taking cameras and bags to certain places. We don’t carry lots of cash with us.
For those who are sitting at home dreaming of a trip like this but fearful of their safety I cannot stress this enough. This is NOT deepest darkest Africa. You will feel more safe than SA. I promise you.
On a side note for those thinking of doing a trip like this …… as for medicines. Don’t pack a massive medical box as honestly you can walk into ANY pharmacy and get any antibiotic or equivalent medicine as back home for an 1/8 of the price.
In saying all the above I know that many people are praying for us daily, for our protection both on the roads and at each place we visit. Of this we are very grateful and conscious of our daily protection in our travels. Thank you.
Now I must get back to sleep and listen to the hyenas whooping outside our tent. (Good place to be!)
Ps. This blog was written whilst in the bush but has been tweaked over the weeks. We are now on Zanzibar!