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Okay now, technically I live in South Africa (which is in Africa) and evidently, against world opinion, Africa is a continent, not a country. But for the sake of the blog and to be a little cheeky, when I speak of “Africa” (in this blog), I am actually referring to Northern Africa and more specifically referring to my travels from OR Tambo Airport to Mombasa, Kenya (via Kigali, Rwanda). Well, place your seat in the upward position, fold away your tray-table, fasten your seatbelts and prepare for take-off… here are the 8 Things I Learnt Travelling to “Africa”…
#1 Oh, Delays
Perhaps it was the time of the year or just a bad season, but all the planes and all the airlines seemed to be delayed. On the way there… delayed. Every stopover… delayed. Every switch over… delayed. Return flights…delayed. So naturally, you just have to gear up for adventure when travelling.
Lesson learnt: make the trip part of the holiday; budget for the stopovers; the “comfy” lounges at the airport (where you get the “free Wi-Fi”, drinks, smoking rooms, TV’s and couches etc.) range between $5 to $30 for entrance. Also, take crossword puzzle type magazines, books and various forms of entertainment. And just roll with it!
#2 Mozzie Stuff On You
Most South Africans that don’t live in malaria areas are pretty nonchalant about mozzies. I was sitting in Kigali Airport waiting for my delayed flight when I casually blew away a mosquito trying to bite me. A fellow South African asked, “Did you just blow away a mosquito dear?”. And then only did I click, that I was in a Malaria area and started smearing lashings of Tabard over my jeans, on my ankles and every inch of my body. I don’t know what I was thinking? “It’s an airport – I must be safe!” OR “Airport mozzies couldn’t possibly carry malaria or Zika…”
Besides the airport, there were mozzies on the plane on the way back too.
Lesson learnt: always carry mozzie spray or wipes with you. And apply this whether you are in an airport, taxi, tuk-tuk, lounge or plane. Just remember to make sure the mozzie stuff is under 100ml when carrying it in hand luggage.
#3 Germs on the Plane
An aeroplane is the popular meeting ground for germs. I swear to you, every child under and over the age of five had some dreaded coughing disease (on all my flights). And often would cough so that their saliva would hit me (even if they were five rows behind me). Fortunately, from previous travels, I was aware of the germ infestation on planes. So, I had my waterless handwash ready, wipes (which I used to sterilise my tray table, armrests, safety belts, seats, fellow passengers etc.), Zinc lozenges, and Linctagon spray. Every cough or sneeze that I heard I shoved waterless handwash in my nostrils and when I landed, I enjoyed a Corenza C for good measure. And hey presto! I enjoyed my holiday disease free.
However… on my way back I got a little lax and consequently contracted three chickenpox, a measles-type rash, and quick working tummy within a few days of my return.
Lesson learnt: sterilise everything on the plane and your hands continuously; don’t assume that everything is sterilised during cleaning (especially when flights are delayed). Get Zinc tablets and drink vitamin enriched fizzies. Smearing Bactroban inside your nose also helps.
Most international travellers may be aware of the liquid restrictions when travelling. So, having a bottle of H2O with you will probably mean it will be taken from you at some point. But sometimes the wait on aeroplanes or to board can take a while and not all areas have kiosks where you can purchase water.
Lesson learnt: go to the duty-free shops and purchase water; ask them to seal it for you in the duty-free bags. Voila – you are allowed to take it through to the plane and waiting areas.
#5 No Shoes, No Jokes But Strict Lines
Most people are aware that you don’t make jokes at the airport (or do it and you will regret it when you are strip-searched and detained). But just don’t even try to have a friendly conversation or smile; just be polite have your Yellow Fever Certificate, Passport and Boarding docs etc. handy and try have a pen with you too. Also, be prepared to take your shoes (evens slops) off and belt too. And, whatever you do – never cross the yellow/red lines when queuing at desks, scanner tunnel things or searches – even if you are travelling as a group.
Lessons learnt: wear shoes that are easy to take off, no belts, keep travel docs handy and always stay behind a line until you are called forward.
#6 Tips and Toilets
I didn’t bother to draw dollars because I knew I was going to a Resort and would be swiping my credit card. But I didn’t think of all the people that would ask for or that I wanted to give a tip along the way. All the bathrooms in “Africa” were immaculate and the proud cleaners often asked for something and I felt pretty bad that I couldn’t give anything other than rands. The same with the shuttle service driver and the porters. I had no cash to show the slightest gratitude.
Lesson learnt: have some dollars or relevant moola handy.
#7 Lime Ain’t No Cordial
In South Africa, if you order a gin-lime-and-soda, Soco-and-lime or margarita – you understand it to mean a tot of lime or some type of lime cordial to be in it. Don’t assume this in “Africa”. I was busy sitting with the beautiful Kilifi Creek in front of me when I took my first sip of gin-lime-and-soda. It tasted like straight-up gin – nee sies. I looked in the glass and right at the bottom was the tiniest sliver of lime. Apparently, lime is just lime in “Africa”.
Lesson learnt: specify you want lime cordial and not just a slice of lime in your drink; or like the taste of straight-up alcohol (turpentine).
#8 Hakuna Matata
In “Africa” everything is “Hakuna Matata” (it means no worries according to Pumba), which is a great philosophy but takes some getting used to – especially if you are from Gauteng. This relaxed attitude and happy vibes can initially be very irritating if you are very thirsty, hungry or in desperate need of a mocktail/cocktail. Irritating why? Because chances are you going to wait and wait and wait and wait and wait and wait some more for whatever you ordered. But fortunately, when you finally receive your heart’s desires, it at least comes with a happy smile and warm greeting of “Jambo, Jambo”.
Lesson learnt: just relax and stop rushing. Everything is “Akuna Matata”.
No matter the lessons learnt or hiccups along the way… “Africa” and in particular Kenya (near the Kilifi Creek etc.) is beautiful, amazing and should definitely be a bucket list item for any person whether from South Africa, “Africa” or the rest of the world.
Many of the lessons learnt above are true of all travels; no matter where you travelling to in the world. Do you have anything you would add that you learnt during travels? Please drop a comment below or on Social Media.
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