Brrrraaaap Brrrraaaap brrrraaaaaapp!! Once again Lisa, my Australian tentmate, and I woke to the sound of my iPhone’s alarm function, and only to realize that it was still dark outside the two-man tent provided to us by Nomad Adventure Tours. I laid there in the darkness dreading getting up. It was going to be another tedious transit day – where the only objective was to get us crossing the border back into Kenya and closer to Nairobi – the ending point for the 14-day Masai Mara and Gorillas Tour with Nomad Adventure Tours.
With the same swift efficiency we had demonstrated on previous mornings, all of the members of the Nomad Adventure Tours family brought their belongings, camping mattresses and tents to our fierce chariot – Junior, the overlanding truck. Nyika and Noah, the Nomad Adventure Tours guides, had prepared another delicious breakfast of French toast for us – which of course we couldn’t help but devour as we sopped up puddles of syrup with the eggy bread. Once everyone had finished eating, dishes were washed and everything was put away, we all hopped on board once again. At 6:30am we finally pulled out of the Nile River Explorers campsite – the place where we had the opportunity to swim in the Nile and learn how to cook traditional Ugandan food the previous day.
And as with most early starts, I found myself curled up in my seat, earbuds firmly in place, wrapped up in my fleece blanket, nodding off as Sandile, my Nomad Adventure Tours driver, navigated Junior down the dusty and bumpy roads.
“Melissa…wake up.” Lisa nudged me. “We need to collect the passports.”
I opened my eyes and out the window and found myself in familiar surroundings. We were at the Ugandan border. I reached for my bag, pulled out my passport and handed it over. I looked at my phone – still playing the music from my ‘Sleepytime’ playlist – and noted that it was about 9:30am at this point. Much like our entry into Uganda on the fourth day of the tour, our exit from the country was just as quick.
The next border – getting back into Kenya – wasn’t so quick. Every time you cross the border in an overland truck, a folder of papers need to be shown to officials– Sandile and Nyika referred to it as Junior’s passport. So while all 18 of us humans had no problem passing back into Kenya, Junior held us up.
After more than an hour-long wait – the whole while we had to fend off vendors trying to sell us everything from greasy samosas to cold cans of Coca-Cola – we finally hit the road again.
And it was smooth sailing.
That is… until we made our way into the Eldoret city centre. We sat in standstill traffic for ages and ages, until finally a Sandile pulled over to the side of the road and we were allowed a 20-minute stop at the Nakumatt (grocery store). This gave us all the opportunity to get money out of the bank and pick up a few snacks and alcoholic beverages for our last night on tour together.
Once we were all aboard Junior, new snacks in hand, it was back to sitting in Eldoret’s ridiculous traffic once again for an hour or so more. That was until we were lucky enough to finally pull off the main road and down a bumpy dirt road. We continued along that road until we finally reached our ‘home’ for the night – Naiberi River Campsite- who’s claim to fame besides having an amazing ‘cave’ bar is that once upon a time Bill Gates honoured them with an overnight stay.
One last time, the campers on this combined accommodated and camping tour put up our little village of tents. We then enjoyed a late pasta salad lunch before going off and exploring the maze-like property and eventually hanging out in the cave bar until dinnertime.
Dinner was a delicious feast. Nyika and Noah went above and beyond and we were treated to the most delicious steak I have had while on tour. Accompanying the meat we had garlic roasted potatoes and coleslaw. We took the opportunity to reminisce about the past 13 days together – the good, the bad, the funny and the unfortunate times.
The alarm went off early and a basic breakfast was eaten after the truck was packed one final time. We set off just as the sky was turning pink – at 6:00am. Lisa and I chatted with one another and shared our music. The drive was going smoothly and we watched as the Kenyan countryside zipped by us. We were making excellent time.
And as soon as that thought went through our head… Sandile was pulling Junior over to the side of the road.
A police officer stood at the window and demanded for Sandile to get out. We couldn’t quite hear what was going on – but we exchanged nervous looks as the conversation appeared to be getting quite heated. Noah, a native Kenyan, stood alongside Sandile. Nyika leaned through the opening to try to give us the scoop.
Basically the police officer was claiming they had clocked our truck going at 120km/h.
Impossible, as I don’t even think it’s capable of going faster than 100km/h.
The police officer was demanding that we pay the fine of $200USD on the spot. Sandile was standing his ground and demanding that he be allowed to see a judge. Once that comment was made the police officer got into the passenger seat of Junior and together we were going to be driving to Nakuru’s police headquarters.
Along the way the police officer insisted that he would let us go for a $400USD bribe. Absolutely insane.
Now I’ve heard all about corrupt police – but this was the first time I’d experienced it firsthand. And now- here we were being dragged to the police headquarters despite the fact we hadn’t done anything wrong.
Sandile, Noah and the police officer walked into the headquarters, while Nyika and the rest of our group sat there in absolute shock.
Time ticked by as if in slow motion. We were very much out of place on the busy road in Nakuru – Kenya’s 4th largest city. Our first visit to Nakuru had been on the third day of our tour and while we happened to get rained out of camp, we didn’t expect our return would be so unlucky.
“Nyika… it seems we’re going to be stuck here a while… ummm… do you think there’s any chance we could find a toilet somewhere?” I asked suddenly realizing that I was in dire need to pee.
“Uhhh…. Let me see what I can do.” He said as he exited the vehicle, in search of any place that may be ‘clean’ enough for us. About ten minutes later, he returned stating that there didn’t seem to be any bathrooms except for the one just inside the gates of the police headquarters – and that one was “very bad”.
I should have taken it at that. I should have accepted my fate. I should have not insisted on using the “very bad” bathroom and just accepted what would have surely resulted in a bladder infection. But no, I rounded up a few other brave girls and together we were so desperate for a toilet that we figured “how bad can it be?”
How bad? Think of the most vomit-inducing smell you’ve ever experienced and times it by 50. A dank windowless ‘room’ in wretched heat with the toilet being nothing more than a hole in the floor – if you could even call it a floor. I’m not too sure as there was too much shit, garbage and maggots on top of whatever floor may have been there. As I squatted there, eyes squeezed tight, peeing as fast as I possibly could and trying not to breathe – I realized I was definitely using the WORST toilet on the African continent.
As I walked back to Nyika – who was waiting for us, to walk us back to the truck – my bladder was feeling relieved but a bit of my soul had died in that awful bathroom.
“So… how bad was it?” someone asked me as I stepped back on the truck. And not to sound dramatic – all I wanted to do was cry.
And so there we waited. And waited. And waited. Hours slipped by. Three of them to be exact, when finally Sandile emerged.
He had been thrown into a jail cell until the judge could see him. And unless they paid the fine for speeding, that’s where he would have to stay. But unlike the $200 or $400USD the corrupt officer was demanding, all they had to pay was the equivalent of $75USD. Still unfair, since we hadn’t broken the law. But we all breathed a collective sigh of relief when we realized the ordeal was over and we could continue on towards Nairobi.
As we got closer to the city, the notorious traffic started backing up- like in Kampala, and like the previous day in Eldoret – but worse! A few more hours passed by… but eventually we did make it to the Hotel Boulevard.
We piled off the truck and took a final group photo before everyone went their separate ways. We all gave each other hugs and said our goodbyes to those not continuing to stay at the Hotel Boulevard. Lisa, Jess, John, and myself checked into the hotel – along with a few others, while other members of my Nomad Adventure Tours family took a taxi to the Jakarta Hotel across town.
That night, after a final dinner in the hotel restaurant with whomever was still hanging around, Lisa, John, Jess and myself all sat in my room reminiscing about the last 14 days. We laughed at memories like the van breakdown on the way to the Masai Mara, or at how Jess was so nervous for John during his bike ride through Hell’s Gate National Park, or how we were planning on squishing 10 people into a very small caravan at the Nakuru campsite that had been rained out. We fawned over our photos of our sponsored children from the Hope Uganda Orphanage Project, and the lion kill in the Masai Mara, and the gorillas in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park.
The one thing we could all agree upon as we said our goodnights, was that those 14 days were some of the best days ever – and these people, whom two weeks previous were mere strangers – had become like family. Once again Nomad Adventure Tours delivered a spectacular tour and I know that I will continue to cherish the memories and friendships made during that 14 day Masai Mara & Gorillas Tour.
Start reading about my experience on the Masai Mara & Gorillas tour from the beginning! Click HERE for Day 1
**DISCLAIMER: While Nomad Adventure Tours asked me to partake in this tour and did provide me with a discounted tour price, all expressed thoughts, opinions and experiences remain my own.**
**If you would like more information about Nomad Adventure Tours and their products – contact me!**
**A very special thank you to my fellow Nomad Adventure Tours group members: Emilie, Jessica Henderson of Miracle of Birth Photography and John Henderson of Travel Gorilla for sharing your photos in this post!**